Mind Matters: Being easily influenced

It is a good thing that my high school buddies were not drug users. No one ever encouraged me to use drugs. Being highly influenceable, I might have gone along.

Much later, a friend vigorously encouraged me to use cannabis at a party. Persuaded by peer pressure, I put in a half-hearted effort, even though I had no interest in the drug.

I have remained highly influenceable as an adult. I have been watching an online show titled Outlander, based on a series of novels with the same name.

In the show a modern woman in Scotland magically goes back in time to the 1700s. She marries a Scot, who becomes a laird (a bit like a lord).

The show has so much sex and violence that many people binge-watch it.

After watching the first season of the show, I started asking friends to call me laird of the manor. The responses so far have ranged from being stunned to "no".

Watching Outlander led me to think about another Scottish yarn presented in the movie Braveheart.

Mel Gibson plays a Scottish warrior who stands up to the English and pays a heavy price for his rebellion. Just before being executed, he shouts: FREEDOM!

That memorable movie ending contributed to a comment I made to a union member about labour-management disagreements: If unionism is to die in Australia, let it go out with a war cry, not a plea for mercy.

Do you consider me simple-minded for being influenced by others? I toss back to you this response: You have not seen me buying huge amounts of toilet paper.

We all can be influenced by the behaviour of others.

Psychologists call the effect observation learning. I may be unusual in how easily I am influenced by fictional characters, but I am not alone.

I salute the writers who create these characters and plots. I also salute the actors and directors who make the characters seem real.

Naturally, copying the actions of fictional characters does not always work out well.

Recently I almost went to a work meeting wearing a Lone Ranger mask that I had received as a Christmas present. Boy am I glad that I did not. The meeting turned out to be serious in tone, like in the chambers of a judge.

I still have that mask. It might be fun to wear it while riding a white horse. Hi-Yo Silver! Away!

John Malouff is an Associate Professor at the School of Psychology, University of New England.

This story It's so easy to be influenced by other people first appeared on The Canberra Times.