We like to think that we left the dangers of peer pressure behind with adolescents. But science shows that anyone is susceptible to social pressure no matter their age. Even among academics and professionals, it’s a powerful force. It can drive you to tell white lies to patients, cut corners financially, or skip out on due diligence. As a law firm that defends professionals who find their license in danger, we often see clients who made poor decisions based almost entirely on peer pressure.
Licensed professionals work in close-knit groups. Moreover, they regularly meet with each other to talk shop, whether at conferences or associations, or in less formal gatherings. Whether you’re a teacher, doctor, attorney or accountant, you’re going to hear how your colleagues do things. Their ways might strike you as ethically suspect, until another voice in the group says they do it, too. Before too long, you’re wondering why you don’t do it that way as well.
This is how peer pressure works, and there’s science behind it. In 2005, psychiatrist and neuroscientist, Gregory Berns, updated a famous study that showed how people in small groups fall victim to peer pressure. Participants in the study were asked whether several objects were the same or different. However, some of the subjects were instructed to give incorrect answers. When presented with their peers’ (intentionally) incorrect answers, 40 percent of the subjects also gave incorrect answers. Furthermore, Berns monitored the subject’s brains and found that when subjects went against the group and gave the right answer, they were conflicted. In other words, giving the right answer felt wrong. Imagine that.
Another study from 2003 also emphasizes the influential power of “clustered networks” – think of a community of licensed professionals. By mapping subjects’ social networks, the researchers discovered just how powerful contact with another’s behavior could be on your own. For example, if a person became obese, the likelihood his friend would also become obese was 171%. Summarizing the results, the Scientific American said, “[Peer pressure] can convince you to do things you might not otherwise consider because you're afraid or it goes against what you think or believe.”
No matter what drove you into the corner, there should be a way out. Our experienced team of Texas license defense attorneys can help. Call us for compassionate, strategic insight.