Conditioning, Manipulation & Coercion

How about a little conversation? As I said I’ve had some things rattling around in my head and they must get out. Maybe unblocking my brain will free the creative side.

As I’ve been sitting on my couch, I hear it’s coming back in to vogue, I often wonder about stuff. I’ve always been an observer. I tend to be invisible when in a crowd. It isn’t really a superpower since I do nothing to make it happen. I’m just not flashy and tend to be more quiet in a group setting. When I view what’s going on it makes me think and often I start with why.

Human beings have a need to be social. For the most part it’s in all of us to be part of a pack or part of a tribe. We want to fit in and be accepted. Sure there is a continuum of how social we are. Some like to sit on the edge. Others like to be right in the center. Maybe some only need to view the group from a distance to feel involved. Then there are the ones who seem to have their own spotlight so no one can miss them.

From the time we are small we are given clues to follow. Some of the clues are subtle and others are a brick to the head. I remember being in elementary school and being required to line up to walk to the cafeteria. We were lined up by height, smallest in the front. I was number 2 in line and the nun would walk along beside the line keeping us to the right and moving at the same pace. Just the other day I saw the local preschool walking a group of kids all wearing orange vests and holding on to a rope from the church to the playground across the street. It gave me flashbacks.

In 6th grade I had a really fantastic team of teachers. I don’t know if it was standard practice for upper elementary schools but we had teams of 3 teachers and we “changed” classes much like junior high and high school. Granted we did just have the entire class get up and walk the prescribed route as a group. One of these teachers I really admired. She was fun and very cool. She rode a motorcycle to school in the good weather and wore a leather jacket. It was the 70’s. All week long she’d tell us if we were good and got our work done on Friday afternoon she’d play music while we worked on the last of our work. All week long when anyone stepped out of line a peer was there to call them out and get them back on the straight and narrow.

I used to volunteer in H’s elementary school. I’d go in once a month or so and help in the classroom. I remember the first grade teacher, who I wasn’t much of a fan of though other parents loved her, having the children follow an intricate set of steps when doing their work. It involved plastic colored bread closures and little cups used to denote that you’d finished the particular assignment. Every time I was there one or more children were scolded for not placing their bread tab in the correct cup when they’d completed their assignment. Often I’d have heard one child tell another in a whisper to do their bread tab.

In each of these situations conditioning was being practiced. People were being trained to be part of the group and do “the right thing.” If they didn’t do as was expected they were called out by both the person in charge and often by the other children.

Requiring people to walk on the right side of the hallway is innocuous enough. It’s for safety as much as don’t run in the hallway is. But at what point does conditioning become manipulation? Is it manipulation when the peers are encouraged to call out those who don’t go along? How many steps is it from manipulation to coercion?


About nothingbutknit2

I'm a wife, mother and knitter. Watch out for my pointy sticks.
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12 Responses to Conditioning, Manipulation & Coercion

  1. Alissa Head says:

    I think that last question is a great question. We do a lot of conditioning, manipulating, and coercion of our children to try to make them fit in to societal norms. However, when you remove that, you find out many our societal norms are outdated constructs. Yes there’s safety, which is important. But there are a lot of other things that don’t matter in the big scheme of things. Just my thoughts today.

    Liked by 3 people

    • What’s truly sad is it continues. TV, advertising, movies all condition us to ways of thinking and behaving that may or may not be what we would chose on our own. An example that is really common is the midlife crisis sports car. It’s pushed in ads when they show us middle aged guys driving fast on the open road enjoying their “freedom” and reliving (or maybe just living) the idea of carefree youth. It’s depicted in movies and TV but I wonder if it’s something most middle age men would aspire to if not influenced.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. tinaor says:

    Sometimes I think the art of real conversation is dying out, particularly in younger generations (thinking of my 24 year old son and his friends where a quick text/like on social media is a common substitute). How stimulating it actually is to sit and chat, to mull life over, or as I say when I have spent time with good friends, ‘to put the world to rights’. It helps to park your worries and to share stresses too. Good friends will listen and likewise you will listen to theirs. Discussing serious stuff, fun stuff, day to day stuff and to chat about nothing in particular is so good for the soul.

    Ooh and interesting how your teacher rewarded your class for being good. I had an Art teacher when I was 11 or 12 and her reward was to let you roller skate in class if you behaved yourself. Oh how we yearned to be those chosen to whizz around the classroom!

    Liked by 3 people

    • Roller skating in class would be a huge reward! The teacher I had spent much of the school year while teaching us about Ancient Greece talking about a special field trip if we all worked hard. Our field trip was a trip to a fancy Greek restaurant. It is one of the best meals I’ve eaten. I’m sure the food was great but the earned reward made it extra special.

      Liked by 3 people

      • tinaor says:

        What a great trip to a Greek Restaurant – lovely teacher. I have no idea how my Art Teacher got away with letting us roller skate in class – it was a first floor room so there may have even been others underneath us – not sure how she explained the noise and the whooping from us !

        Liked by 2 people

  3. I was the kid who got in trouble in school for questioning what I saw as “stupid rules that made no sense.” (Apparently I never grew out of that!) So much of TV and now the internet is conditioning – I have granddaughters and I’ve spent hours talking to them about this, telling them to think about things – “Do you really like that coffee or are you buying it because everyone else does?” – that sort of thing. I think we’ve all seen people who are upset about people “not following the rules!” lately, and being told to just comply. Nope, tell me why and I’ll think about it.
    When I was in college, I had a professor take us out drinking because we were the best class he ever had. 🙂 I buy my kids pizza, one of the few things I miss about being in person on campus.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. dolphinwrite says:

    I see manipulation is when you motivate or control through dishonest purposes.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Ah, mid-life crisis cars! Both my father and godfather bought sports cars in their 50’s; neither was influenced by TV or ads, as neither watched much or often. And then they had to get campers, and travel. Were they competing with each other? Who knows! It’s at least as likely that they respected the choices made by the other, and thought a good idea deserved to be copied! They are both gone now, but I still remember the fun of driving Dad’s TR7, and the many family camping trips.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. Moke says:

    This sooo resonated with me when I think about the workplace. You wrote it and I read it at just the right time. Thank you. Moke x

    Liked by 1 person

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