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“Whoso would be a man must be a nonconformist.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. was in private practice for more than thirty years. He is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in the states ...Read More

3. They had a strong need to feel accepted by the others.

Another way of stating the results of this study is to say that human beings have a powerful need to conform and are therefore, deeply influenced by the norms and values of the society in which they live.

I am reminded of a powerful movie done during the 1960s called "Twelve Angry Men." It starred Henry Fonda, among other great actors and portrayed a jury of twelve men who had the task of deciding the innocence or guilt of an Hispanic young man on trial for murder. At first, the jury was almost unanimous in believing the subject was guilty except for the lone stand out, Henry Fonda. There was enormous group pressure towards a guilty verdict based on such factors as the accused person’s ethnicity, age, the wish to find him guilty, end the proceeding and go home. The character of Henry Fonda was able to stand up to the enormous pressure against his wish to explore the facts of the case much more carefully. Gradually, he urges the jury, one by one, towards changing their verdict based on "reasonable doubt."

That movie and this issue strikes at our sense of ethical thinking, moral judgement, human decency.

Are you able to withstand group pressure even in the face of the group being wrong when you know you are correct and they are wrong?

There are many real life situations in which the lines between right and wrong are not clealy marked and decisions are, therefore, more difficult to make. What do you do then?

There will be more on this topic in the form of how we decide the groups that are or are not stigmatized.

Your comments and questions are encouraged.

Allan N. Schwartz, LCSW, PhD

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