Research has shown that people tend to go along with the majority view, even if that view is incorrect. A study targeting neurons in the brain shows that when people hold an opinion differing from others in their immediate group, their brains produce an error signal. The “group” could be a jury, a classroom, a board meeting, any meeting, or a party. In other words, in any human gathering a person with a “different” idea or perception will feel “wrong” or “too different.”
This study that I just read about on CNN brings to mind how amazing it is when someone like Harvey Milk – the movie is a must see – consistently goes against the flow of opinion. We can thank Harvey, Martin Luther King whose birthday we celebrate, Barney Frank and all the thousands of people historic and among us who change our lives everyday because they are able to override their feelings of needing to be with the pack.
Those independent thinkers and doers among us who blow the whistle, who stop an act of aggression, who see a need and step in are our most valued citizens.
There are independent thinkers, entrepreneurs, some we know in our lives and some we read about. People who make a difference, who have a focus of adding to the good in the world, who override their need to be quiet when they see injustice make a lasting impression. You can do that anywhere. No job or task is too insignificant to be a platform for just action. We can all participate.
I got a video e-mail from Michelle Obama this week asking all of us to participate in volunteering next Monday, doing something of benefit to others. Today is Martin’s actual birthday, January 15, but we celebrate the holiday next Monday.
For me to know that president-elect Obama and Michelle will be reaching out and focusing on problems other than their own is a long-dreamed of hope to have such effective role models in leadership.
May the Force be with each one of us as we step into our lives, our roles, our hopes and dreams. We can all be role models, we can start by looking up to ourselves.