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5.0 out of 5 starsHoping #BlackLivesMatter will prevail as a global “social cure”
Reviewed in the United States on July 4, 2020
As the last few years of seemingly endless bad news intensified with Covid-19, economic devastation and worries about the upcoming election, a book about good outcomes was a marvelous elixir. I downloaded it just 8 days before yet more tragic news of the killing of George Floyd, ensuing chaos at Lafayette Park, and the protests reportedly spanning every demographic and region of the world. Examples of the “social cure” driven through “identification” with others sharing a solution, rather than by learning “information,” begin with inspiring but rather circumscribed successes, such as initiatives for teen smoking prevention and engaging members of a congregation to share values and enhance religious meaning in their lives – along with others of increasing complexity and scope. However, the vast political changes Rosenberg chronicled in Serbia appeared to share some parallels with #BlackLivesMatter, reinforcing hope that it just might be a movement, instead of a moment, as many have postulated. I would highly recommend the book for anyone seeking insights and solace from a remarkable array of societal solutions to seemingly insurmountable challenges. It was empowering, enlightening, hopeful and newly relevant.
Humans are social animals descended from a long line of hunter gathers who lived in small social groupings of extended families (i.e. tribes). We are programmed to care about what other people think of us. Rugged individualism is probably an imaginary facade in most cases. This book explores ways in which peer pressure can be adjusted to create positive behavioral changes.
The book provides examples of how efforts to motivate people with information or by using fear simply don’t work and sometimes have the opposite of the intended effect. Advertisers have known for many years one way to sell a product is to associate it with the “in crowd.”
We’ve heard about how peer pressure can cause people to behave badly (or stupidly). This book suggests that it can also cause good behavior and then proceeds to provide examples related to controlling AIDS, quitting smoking, improving grades, fighting terrorism, overthrowing oppressive governments, and improving infant mortality. This book refers to it as the "social cure."
This book has convinced me that the social cure is real. The problem is that it's difficult to create the required peer group to exert the required social pressure to cause the desired behavior.
Some quotes that caught my eye:
Quoting from “The Nurture Assumption” by Judith Rich Harris:
“She argued that once parents have passed along the genes, they have very little influence over their children--except to choose their child’s peer group.”
Referencing a study published in JAMA:
“Among children aged three to six, more knew Joe Camel than they did Mickey Mouse.” (prior to 1997 when Joe Camel ads ceased)
Other miscellaneous quotes:
“... joining a group that meets once a month will increase your happiness as much as doubling your income.” “The short answer to the question of what makes people happy is this: other people.”
Referencing the results of study of body weight issues:
“...weight is socially contagious. If your friends are overweight, your are also likely to be overweight, even controlling for other factors. The contagion also works in the other direction; people with thin friends are more likely to be thin. Oddly, the connection also skipped a link--in the study, participants were significantly more likely to gain weight if a friend of a friend did, even if the friend who connected them gained no weight at all.”
"join the Club" provides some much needed thinking for Social Workers and others interested in making a difference - especially in such difficult economic and anti-social policy times.
Ms. Rosenburg has explored a number of social problems, both domestic and international and explored how the "social cure," peer pressure as she defines it, can make positive changes. Domestically, the exploration of both teen smoking prevention and study groups for Calculus provide brilliant reporting. The use of professional thinking in marketing to engage teens is particularly helpful, and similar ideas to engage youth in political opposition to corporate manipulation in consumerism, worker exploitation, etc. spring easily to mind.
The international examples are also strong, with powerful stories in Indian, grass-roots health care, the empowerment of women and political action. She also examines the probable peer pressure factors in the success of micro-loans.
While for this reader the overly-long section on the use of groups in a protestant, suburban, mega-church doesn't measure up to the other stories - this book is good food for thought for advocates everywhere.
3.0 out of 5 starsEqually fascinating and irritating
Reviewed in the United States on March 27, 2015
As many reviewers have mentioned, the thesis of this book is truly remarkable: effective change comes not from information, but identity transformation, namely the "social cure" made by exploiting the positive potentials of the notorious "peer pressure". The examples are well selected, well researched, and cover a wide range of social and political issues. The writing of this book, however, is rather disappointing, especially given that it is authored by a Pulitzer Prize winner: all the cases are presented in an unnecessarily lengthy way loaded with trivial details that distract me from the central argument; the storytelling sometimes has a strange chronological order or logical sequence as if it were some unedited research notes; compared to the overwhelmingly detailed account of the facts, the analytical and theoretical reasoning is very thin. It's irritating how a brilliant idea is butchered by poor presentation, but thankfully it's brilliant enough for me to patiently read from cover to cover.
5.0 out of 5 starsIf you're a change-agent this is the book for you!
Reviewed in the United States on June 1, 2013
I've always known that we as humans are compelled to do what is great by the encouragement we get and pressure from our peers to aspire to greater things. Tina Rosenberg captures the experiences of some of the greatest examples of real change and documents it in such a ways as to inspire any organization. I can't wait to use the ideas she's shared here within my own sphere of influence.
5.0 out of 5 starsThought provoking, well-researched book
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on August 12, 2018
This book was an eye-opener for me. Partly because of the many disparate political and social areas that the author used as the supporting material for her thesis - about which I had nary a clue. But also because the thesis (loosely, 'peer pressure can transform the world') was - is - such a powerful one.
On the surface, the idea that peer pressure (or the power of the group) can be very influential in guiding people's behaviour seems simple enough. However, what the author has done, in exploring a variety of examples where that idea has been put into practice, brings the idea to life. In particular, she examines what works, and perhaps even more importantly, what doesn't work, when you are trying to cause change. For instance, one thing that doesn't work alarmingly often is just providing people with the facts .... Read more to find out what does work.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on September 19, 2011
A look at how peer pressure can be used for positive outcomes. Using AA and other 'clubs' which mould peoples behaviour in useful ways.Shows how socially suggestible we are,which through the internet could have many implications.