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Wednesday, February 4, 2009

[roeoz] How to control a herd of humans

Posted by AccGURU

How to control a herd of humans


HITLER and Mussolini both had the ability to bend millions of people
to their fascist will. Now evidence from psychology and neurology is
emerging to explain how tactics like organised marching and propaganda
can work to exert mass mind control.

Scott Wiltermuth of Stanford University in California and colleagues
have found that activities performed in unison, such as marching or
dancing, increase loyalty to the group. "It makes us feel as though
we're part of a larger entity, so we see the group's welfare as being
as important as our own," he says.

Wiltermuth's team separated 96 people into four groups who performed
these tasks together: listening to a song while silently mouthing the
words, singing along, singing and dancing, or listening to different
versions of the song so that they sang and danced out of sync. In a
later game, when asked to decide whether to stick with the group or
strive for personal gain, those in the non-synchronised group behaved
less loyally than the rest (Psychological Science, vol 20, p 1).

Psychologist Jonathan Haidt at the University of Virginia in
Charlottesville thinks this research helps explain why fascist
leaders, amongst others, use organised marching and chanting to whip
crowds into a frenzy of devotion to their cause, though these tactics
can be used just as well for peace, he stresses. Community dances and
group singing can ease local tension, for example - a theory he plans
to test experimentally (Journal of Legal Studies, DOI: 10.1086/529447).

Meanwhile, the powerful unifying effects of propaganda images are
being explored by Charles Seger at Indiana University at Bloomington.
His team primed students with pictures of their university - college
sweatshirts or the buildings themselves - then asked how highly they
scored on different emotions, such as pride or happiness. The primed
students gave a strikingly similar emotional profile, in contrast with
non-primed students (Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, DOI:

Interest in the idea of a herd mentality has been renewed by work into
mirror neurons - cells that fire when we perform an action or watch
someone perform a similar action. It suggests that our brains are
geared to mimic our peers. "We are set up for 'auto-copy'," says Haidt.
Interest in the idea of a herd mentality has been renewed by research
into mirror neurons

Neurological evidence seems to back this idea. Vasily Klucharev, at
the Donders Centre for Cognitive Neuroimaging in Nijmegen, the
Netherlands, found that the brain releases more of the reward chemical
dopamine when we fall in line with the group consensus (Neuron, vol
61, p 140). His team asked 24 women to rate more than 200 women for
attractiveness. If a participant discovered their ratings did not
tally with that of the others, they tended to readjust their scores.
When a woman realised her differing opinion, fMRI scans revealed that
her brain generated what the team dubbed an "error signal". This has a
conditioning effect, says Klucharev: it's how we learn to follow the

Insulation scheme won't reduce emissions: Australia Institute


The Australia Institute policy research centre says the Government's
initiative to fund insulation for more than 2 million homes will not
reduce Australia's carbon emissions.

The Government says the scheme will help households save energy and
cut carbon emissions by up to 49 million tonnes by 2020.

But the Australia Institute's executive director Richard Denniss says
the Government's carbon pollution reduction scheme will just
reallocate those emissions.

"The way the Emissions Trading Scheme is designed, every kilogram of
emissions saved by a household frees up an extra permit for a big
polluter," he said.

"So while it's true this scheme will help reduce households' use of
energy, it won't reduce Australia's emissions at all.

"What they do is take those permits freed up by what the individuals
have done and sell those permits to the aluminium industry or the
steel industry or anyone else who wants them.

"So effectively the carbon pollution reduction scheme is really just a
carbon pollution reallocation scheme."

Climate Change Minister Penny Wong says that is a misleading argument.

"What energy efficiency measures do is enable the Government to set
lower and more ambitious targets in years to come, what they do is
ensure is that Australian households can contribute to meeting these
ambitious targets," she said.

Opposition environment spokesman Greg Hunt says the Government needs
to prove the scheme will help the environment.

"The Government has to come clean today, if it turns out all the
Government is doing is shifting emissions from one source to another,
then there are real questions about the integrity of the Government's
insulation package," he said.