I just finished Part I of "Quiet" by Susan Cain and read a section that really grabbed my attention.
As a little background, Susan cites an experiment conducted by Gregory S. Berns at Emory University which determined that the desire to fit in alters our perception, not our judgement. When presented with a group that agrees on a single thing, you and I are biologically predisposed to seeing the same thing as correct, rather than deciding to fit in or not fit in.
Susan goes on to describe the implications of this on page 92 of "Quiet".
Many of our most important civic institutions, from elections to jury trials to the very idea of majority rule, depend on dissenting voices. But when the group is literally capable of changing our perceptions, and when to stand alone is to activate primitive, powerful, and unconscious feelings of rejection, then the health of these institutions seems far more vulnerable than we think.
Susan mentions this experiment to prove how group-thinking can have negative effects on productivity and creativity, but I can't help but think of how this impacts the world I live in today.
I'm more likely to read articles that have views and comments than articles that don't.
I'm more likely to believe assertions based on social proof instead of scientific proof.
I'm more likely to trust individuals and companies that come with more believable customer testimonials.
And the weird thing is that this is just how we're wired. It's the strangest thing to encounter this fact because I'm also totally powerless to control it. How do I know that some of my opinions aren't formed by some group I'm a part of? Is it even a bad thing if they are?
Whether for good or for evil, the internet amplifies the effect of this biological feature we have, and it's probably best that we know what we're getting ourselves into by using it.