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Peer Pressure Vs. Personal Preference

December 2, 2010

After reading, analyzing and debating Mill’s theories for the past few weeks, I believe much can be learned.  While working on mini group projects during discussion sections one day last week, I began to wonder about the correlation between realizations found due to personal belief as opposed to those brought on by multiple people’s beliefs.  The mini project was composed of forming into small groups (2-4 people) and coming up with an idea of a themed restaurant, Ipod app. Student group, etc that would force people to experience their freedoms (Mill’s theory) by providing them with options.  For example, in my group we designed a themed restaurant that would encompass a “fear factor” type of facet in which the diners would be given the option to confront their personal fears in order to reach a better understanding of its “importance” within their life.  We created this restaurant in hopes of illustrating Mill’s theory that speaking our minds (even if our opinion is valid yet not necessarily “right”) can lead to a better idea of the truth.  Another group created a restaurant that offered two different rooms; one of the rooms was a relaxed mingling cocktail hour while the other was the typical “college frat house” type of party with liquor shots and beer kegs available to all.  This restaurant was meant to offer the “best of both worlds” by offering people choices to attend the type of parties they would most enjoy; people not so fond of the drinking environment could attend the “low-key” mingle and the partiers could attend the party of the year and get as wasted as they desired (they could express themselves however they wished – Mill’s freedom of expression).  However, although this type of restaurant does relate to Mill in the sense that people possess the freedom to choose which party to attend, I believe people wouldn’t truly learn from this because in this case they would be compelled to attend the same parties as their friends.  They wouldn’t really learn the affects of (their personal) freedom of “speech” (choice).


Mill stresses his strong belief in freedom of expression.  He makes clear that by expressing yourself to “society” or within elections, you offer those around you more theories in which to analyze in hopes of reaching a better conclusion.  Debate, Mill believed, as long as valid points were being discussed, could only benefit the society as a whole.  With this taken into account, I believe people would not voice their own PERSONAL opinions or make their own PERSONAL decisions when dining at this restaurant, they would “follow the crowd” which would not be beneficial to society.  When people voice their opinions they offer advice and a different angle at which to look at a certain concept; however, if a diner attended the frat party just because their friends wanted to attend it, they would be providing a false allusion to the restaurant’s purpose which was to reach a better understanding of others personal preferences (putting their friends preferences aside).

  1. Meredith Ambinder permalink
    December 2, 2010 10:37 PM

    Although I agree with you in the sense that in this type of scenario that this fictional restaurant creates most would follow their friends, I’m not sure I agree with you that it would provide a false allusion to the restaurant’s purpose. In fact, I think because people would most likely do this, they would be doing just what the restaurant wanted. If someone follows their friends out of their comfort zone and into an environment that they are not accustomed to/don’t prefer, they are experiencing the opinions of others. As Mill believes, one can only obtain total knowledge of a subject by taking under consideration other opinions as well. Thus, if I were more of a cocktail party kind of girl and I followed my friends into the frat party section, I would be experiencing the “other side”, further proving my preference or perhaps disproving it. As far as your definition of this sort of experience, I disagree with the belief that people have to voice this opinion. I think if I went to that frat party section and just observed and experienced the environment, that is enough consideration of the opposing opinion. I don’t see why I’d have to stand on a table and start to protest frat parties in order to grasp a true experience. In fact, I think voicing your own opinion while “considering” the opposing opinion goes against Mill’s ideas, as you are not truly taking the different opinion under consideration if you are simultaneously trying to promote your own.

  2. adamarcher permalink
    December 3, 2010 10:33 AM

    I thought the poll was a little off because when I go to a party, pretty much the entire reason I do so is to hang out with my friends, it is in the first place just a location to facilitate a pre-existing relationship – and maybe meeting new people just happens naturally after the fact.

  3. Andrew Clark permalink
    December 4, 2010 12:56 AM

    Every decision you make is based on your own personal preferences and fulfilling your own desired needs. If I choose to go to a party on my own, its because I thought that the positive impact of me attending the party is greater than the positive impact of hanging with friends. If I choose to go with my friends, its because of the positive impact of me being with friends is greater than the positive impact of going to the party. By following the crowd, you are announcing that you like following the crowd. Basically, every decision you make is your decision.

    I don’t think that’s bad for society. For the people involved, their decision making will always involve the different factors of happiness and their choice will be a measure of what they think will make them most happy. I’m cool with that. And as for the restaurant – they are just trying to make money – it doesn’t matter why people come, it just matters that they do. Anyway, a very interesting post. Thank you!

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