This will come as a surprise to very few people, but millions of Brits admit they are ‘easily led’, according to research.
What? You weren’t completely sold a big fat one by Bojo, his curated buffoonery and the big red bus with the Grade A codswallop written down the side of it? Good for you. Fancy a pint? So what if you’ve got work in the morning. Yeah, you know you want to.
A study of 2,000 adults found one in three have been encouraged to do things they didn’t want to by friends, relatives and work colleagues.
And while many have been led to take part in relatively harmless acts such as staying out later than intended on a night out, a worrying 18 per cent admitted they’ve done something which wasn’t entirely above board.
Of these adults, taking drugs, committing an act of vandalism, or exceeding the speed limit are among the illegal things they’ve done without really wanting to.
Overall 23 per cent of those polled wish they weren’t quite so impressionable – with one fifth concluding they are ‘gullible’.
Emma Kenny, psychologist and expert for TV channel Crime + Investigation, which conducted the research for Twisted Faith, a week of shows focusing on cults in the UK and around the world starting on November 18, 2018, explained why we can sometimes be so weak.
We know human beings like to be noticed – and flattery is a powerful thing, so if you are made to feel special for doing something bad, you’re more likely to do that thing again.
It is natural for people to want to belong to a group – this is as important as eating and drinking for human survival – and by committing certain acts which are approved by others, you can feel more connected to a group or a community.
Researchers also found one third of adults are sometimes persuaded to drink more on a night out than they planned to, while 44 per cent have been encouraged to reluctantly join in with an activity.
One in six respondents has gone as far as changing something about their appearance – such as having their hair cut or dyed, had piercings or tattoos – due to peer pressure.
And one in 10 have been egged on by friends to take drugs, while the same percentage have been pressured to exceed the speed limit when driving.
A further nine per cent of respondents blame others for ‘making them’ commit an act of vandalism such as graffiti or littering.
While 12 per cent have been deliberately nasty, or even bullied someone due to their friends’ influence.
The survey, conducted via OnePoll, also found friends are most likely to persuade someone to do something they didn’t want to do (28 per cent) followed by parents and work colleagues (10 per cent respectively).
But the research shows for 28 per cent, the idea of fitting into a group is really important and as such, they may bow to peer pressure as a result.
Four in 10 admitted they’re eager to please others and a whopping 63 per cent said they can’t help but feel flattered if other people show approval or respect for something they are doing.
And it can be the traits of the persuader which makes someone want to ‘follow’ them and act out of character – as one third said they want to imitate people who are wiser than them.
Emma Kenny added:
When we’re offered a strong leader, one who offers guidance on how to live and how to behave, it can make you feel worth more.
Similarly, a person’s identity really matters, and also who you identify with. It you find yourself feeling part of a club, a community – or in extreme cases even a cult – you can feel safe and secure because this can define your identity.
This does go a long way to explain why many people do things they don’t really want to; they are rewarded with encouragement, approval and respect from others.
Twisted Faith Week Starts Sunday November 18, 2018 at 7.00pm on Crime+Investigation
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Tim Horner is a sub-editor at UNILAD. He graduated with a BA Journalism from University College Falmouth before most his colleagues were born. A previous editor of adult mags, he now enjoys bringing the tone down in the viral news sector.