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Mikhail Khoury

Part 1

Interaction 1

As I stand in line at Bryggan waiting to order lunch, I look up at the blackboard beside
me and do my best to decipher the Swedish menu. There are two options (well, three, but
Im not really a soup guy) the meat dish and the vegetarian dish. The decision is often
tough.

As the line quickly moves forward, I grab a tray, cup, napkin, fork and knife. Just as the
person in front of me did. And then I peer over at the dishes being served to those ahead
of me in line. The three people ahead of me order the potato cake-like vegetarian dish.
And then its my turn. As if without hesitation, I ask may I please have the same thing?
The person behind me seems to peer at my dish, and repeats the same thing (in Swedish).
And it occurs to me how long does this pattern go on for? And if the person before me
had ordered the beef dish, what would I have gotten? And how about the person behind
me?

There are many ways to describe and rationalize my decision. Seeing the dish certainly
had an impact on my decision. That being said, had I seen both dishes ordered before me,
perhaps my decision would have been different. But that have could just as easily been
said about the person three spots ahead of me in line. And perhaps the one three spots
ahead of him. Maybe it so happened that those in front of me and behind me were
vegetarian. Maybe one didnt like beef, and the other loved potato. The scenarios seem
endless. But speaking for myself I can assume that I followed the person before me
because, knowing myself, I dont like to make decisions. It was easier for me to follow
his choice that to make my own decision. Obviously, this is not a critical decision to be
made by the subject (who is in this case, ordering a meal). But it would very interesting to
see if this pattern emerges in different situations. For example a subject is participating
in large study with many other participants, who all stand in a line, but can only see the
decision of the person before him in line. The decision to be made is: the red pill or the
blue pill. (As I write this, I can only assume a similar, or identical study must have been
undertaken. I just dont quite know how to search for it.) How many would follow in the
footsteps of their predecessor? And how long would the pattern persist?

In the end, however, Ive learned there is no wrong choice to make at Bryggan. All their
food is amazing. So really, its a 50/50 gamble. And instead of flipping a coin, I think I
tend to just have the person in front of me flip the coin for me.

Mikhail Khoury
Interaction 2

A classmate of mine has asked for my help with his project. The project is to design a
luminaire a lamp, for a specific context and user. His project involves fairly complicated
mechanical parts which allow for the color of the light to be changed by having different
color filters move above the LED source.

As we discuss the different ideas of using bevel gears or planetary gears for this
mechanism to work, I notice something that seems to happen in our conversation. As my
friend presents his ideas to me, I listen up until a certain point, and then an idea comes to
mind. As he continues to elaborate on his idea, I am busy developing mine, and preparing
how I will introduce it as soon as he is finished speaking. He finishes his sentence, and I
immediately begin mine. And then I notice the same phenomenon seems to happen with
him as Im speaking. In the end, we only ever hear the first half of what were saying.
Our ideas are influenced and built upon each others ideas, at the cost of half of our
speech time.

Looking back on this conversation, as I write this paper, I am reminded of a very


interesting TED talk I watched a while ago. The talk is called Walk the earth my 17year vow of silence by John Francis. Francis spent 17 years of his life without speaking
(by choice). In his talk, he says that he learned to listen to really listen to people. He
says that people in fact rarely really listen to each other entirely. They are busy preparing
what theyre going to say next. (Its a fascinating talk, and I absolutely recommend
watching it) This is exactly what seemed to be happening with my classmate and I.

So I wonder how would our ideas have developed if we had completely listened to one
another? (How this could be accomplished is another question and problem entirely)

Mikhail Khoury
Part 2

Deliberate influence

Social influence is the change in behavior that one person causes in another,
intentionally or unintentionally, as a result of the way the changed person perceives
themselves in relationship to the influencer, other people and society in general.
(Straker)

The three kinds of social influence are conformity, compliance, and obedience. In this
paper I will focus on conformity, as it relates to deliberate influence.

Conformity is changing how you behave to be more like others. This plays
to belonging and esteem needs as we seek the approval and friendship of others.
Conformity can run very deep, as we will even change our beliefs and values to be like
those of our peers and admired superiors. (Straker)

Solomon Asch famously conducted a conformity experiment in 1951 where a subject was
asked to participate in a line judgment task. In this experiment, Asch showed how the
individual subject often conformed to the group, by choosing the (staged) unanimous
incorrect answers. The experiment was modified in several ways to see how the subjects
behavior would change in different circumstances when they were not alone in
opposing the group, for example.

It was surprising to find that the experience of having had a partner and of having
braved the majority opposition with him had failed to strengthen the individuals
independence... As long as the subject had anyone on his side, he was almost invariably
independent, but as soon as he found himself alone, the tendency to conform to the
majority rose abruptly. (Asch)

This conclusion in Aschs paper struck me as the most interesting behavior how people
seem to be dependent on company to be independent. When the subject was supported by
another in opposing the group, he was invariably more likely to stand up for his own
opinions. Yet, when alone, had a far greater tendency to conform to the group (even after
the experience of having the support of a partner).

In many ways, my first interaction in Part 1 can be used as an example of conformity. It


seemed to be less work to follow in the footsteps of the person ahead of me in line, than

Mikhail Khoury
to make my own decision. I conformed to his, and ultimately the groups, decision. And
on a larger scale, advertising often plays the role of the person in front of me in line. The
role of the ad, and of the designer behind the ad, is to attract users whether it be for a
campaign, a product, or an event. Some products appeal to the masses, and advertise by
showing the masses using the product in an effort to sway the customer to conform. Other
products appeal to smaller crowds, and often rebel the masses. You rarely see ads of entire
groups of people wearing the same brand cologne its always the individual man or
woman (or couple) who seem to reject conformity, and stand out. Yet ironically, this
inspires a form of conformity, by playing the role of the partner in Aschs experiment. In
rejecting the big group, a smaller group is formed. Many niche products use this
rebellious technique to gather users. It is however still a kind of conforming conforming
to nonconformist ways.

The designer by definition works for the people, whether it be for small of large groups.
His job is often to sell but on a deeper level, his job is to serve and benefit the user. But
the two are often intertwined. To serve the users, he has to sell to them. And advertising
facilitates that relationship. Furthermore, social psychology plays a powerful role in
explaining the mechanics of advertising. The social science behind shopping spans many
interesting kinds of psychological phenomena. If Im buying a tool, for example (for
woodworking, lets say), I want to know that (many) other people have bought the same
tool and been satisfied with it. I want to know if the company who manufactures this tool
has been around for a long time. If Im buying a laptop case, however (to choose an
accessory as an example), Im more interested in the novelty of the design, and often its
rarity on the market. If I can be the only person with that case, and get people can ask me
where did you get that? then I have succeeded. When buying the tool, I look for support
from the group. Yet when buying the case, I act in a more rebellious nature, and seek
individuality. Of course, this presumable works with many others as well (or that product
wouldnt sell, and wouldnt exist).

References

Asch, Solomon. "Opinions and Social Pressure." Scientific American (1955).


Straker, David. Changing Minds. Syque Press, 2010.