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The Science of Succumbing to Peer Pressure


Positive Peer Pressure

Common opinion suggests that peer pressure is a negative influence, primarily among young people being pressured into antisocial behavior. However, recent studies are proving otherwise. It appears that peer pressure can also contribute to very positive changes among groups of people.

Brain Activity Response

Scientific research has shown that the brain has a different reaction to w inning with a team and winning alone. The studies proved that the medial prefrontal cortex and striatum areas of the brain both showed increased activity along with wining as a peer group compared to individual winning. As the medial prefrontal cortex and striatum are the areas of the brain that are wired to recognize rewards, it would seem that we value winning as a team more than we value winning alone.

Positive Peer Pressure Results

There are many proven positive results of peer pressure. For example, a study showed that people who received mild electric shocks reported less pain form them while they stared at a calm, peaceful person who they were told was receiving the same shocks. Also, peer pressure appears to be extremely beneficial to people who are trying to lose weight. One survey showed that people with group support lost significantly more weight and were able to sustain the weight loss better than those with no support. Also, research of children has shown that they are more generous when they have a generous model to follow. Studies have also shown that math students at UC Berkeley had higher math scores when working in a group than they did when working individually. Surprisingly, peer pressure also has been shown to have a positive result on radicalizing Muslim youth in a peer group in Muslim which stresses non-violence.

One of the other positive outcomes associated with peer behavior is participation in green and eco-friendly lifestyle choices. One example involved research on farmers in China, in which it was shown that the farmers were more likely to choose environmentally sound business practices when they were told their neighbors did, rather than when they were told it would save them money. Hotels have seen similar results in the signs above the towel racks urging guests to reuse towels. The sign that was worded in a way to ask the guests to join the others in reusing towels had a better result than a simple request to save the environment.

A similar study in California showed that homeowners who received a door tag urging them to follow their neighbors’ lead by switching to fans instead of air conditioning were more likely to do so than those who received door tags citing financial or environmental benefits of the change. Solar power is a similarly peer driven market, with increases in installations happening exponentially as others in the neighborhood get solar.

As more and more research shows the efficacy of positive peer pressure, many advertisers have begun to use these techniques over fear tactics and other outdated modes of campaigning.

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