Hello, my name is Eric Mercer. I am an industrial and organizational psychology practitioner in the southwestern Kansas area.
In News of the World, by Paulette Jiles, Johanna is a 10 year old girl who has spent the last four years of her life with the Kiowa tribe and who fully identifies with them and shares the general values ââand beliefs of the tribe.
Concepts of identity, social norms, values ââand conformity are present throughout history. We will look at some of them together in a larger context.
The influence of institutions on individual behavior can have an effect on the way people select, organize and interpret information. Formal and informal behavioral institutions and socially shared mental models regarding individual development can have a profound influence on how reality is interpreted and behaviors applied. Mental models can be understood as a system of thought rules combined with images of desired situations, such as ideologies. Therefore, shared mental models are themselves a type of institution.
Conventions are socially shared systems of rules of thought or behavior (i.e. institutions) involving, among other aspects, compliance with conformity. The meaning of conformity to conformity is simply the alignment of an individual’s values ââand beliefs with the actual or expected shared values ââand beliefs of other group members. Therefore, the expectation of individuals to adopt a particular convention plays a central role in getting other members of a group to adopt it as well.
We can see some aspects of these conventions in the following quote on Johanna. âShe never learned to value those things that white people valued. The Kiowa’s greatest pride was to do without it, to use everything it had on hand; they were almost conceited of their ability to do without water, food and shelter. We see that all the conventions that Johanna was able to learn in the first six years of her life were, out of necessity of living with the Kiowas, replaced by new conventions.
There are many social forces capable of pushing individuals towards what has previously been described as conformity with conformity. Some examples include inevitability and self-fulfilling prophecy.
The fatality is such that the individuals in the current development convention do not perceive any possible alternative to their situation. For example, some aspects of a dominant convention may be quite common from any other point of view and could then be seen as inevitable. In some situations, people may find it difficult to imagine alternatives outside of a very limited set of options.
There are times when it may be beneficial for a person to choose to work with other people. When the choice depends on expectations, there is the potential for a self-fulfilling prophecy. Shared mental models may be too generic to produce precise expectations, but would likely still be able to create expectations about the direction of change in the type of structural transformations that may (or may not) occur. In other words, if people believe that the shared majority opinion will take place, or is likely to take place (i.e. it will become a self-fulfilling prophecy), then they can embrace the same system of development rules that others have apparently accepted, or are likely to accept.
Social conventions and norms, as detailed types of socially shared systems of behavioral or mental rules, can have a profound impact when linked to development. I hope everyone will take the time to read Paulette Jiles’ book, News of the World, and in doing so, keep in mind some of the concepts explored here and perhaps relate them to the story that unfolds. .