Is Your Intelligence Influenced?

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It was one of those days that my dad was left alone to fend off us children for the day, mom was at work. Good luck to anyone who has children to watch alone, much less my dad with three kids, and myself leading the charge as the influence. Maybe I was 9 or 10? Which would make my brother 6 or 7 and my sister 5 or 6. They were prime real estate for manipulation, especially if you were an older brother as I was. 

Dad was preparing for his usual mid afternoon nap on some weekend during the summer. I was old enough to keep my brother and sister under control but also old enough to influence them not too. Dad gave us one rule, above all the other obvious ones (don't die, go to jail or burn the house down) but this rule was simply not to eat the Reese's peanut butter cup out of the refrigerator. It sounded simple enough, but following directions has never been my strong point. Dad knew that I wanted that Reese's so he took his nap on the couch right beside the fridge. So just opening the door of the refrigerator was going to be a difficult task, much less silently removing that noisy wrapper. Convincing my brother and sister not to wake dad up or tell him that it was me was the easy part. What I didn’t realize was that we were the only three suspects in this case, and I was the obvious leader….

Soon enough I had both my brother and sister engaging in a mission to sneak into the house and steal the Reese's. I think I agreed to take one Reese's for myself and they could split the other one between themselves. Sounded like a pretty sweet deal once I convinced them of how easily we could sneak in the house, steal the candy, eat the candy, and then leave no trail of evidence so we would get away with it! Except not.

For some crazy reason it never worked out that way. Oh I ate the Reese's, and so did my brother and sister but when my dad woke up, he didn't buy whatever I was selling for an excuse. We all ended up getting equally punished, and to this day neither of them will go trick or treating because they are so torn from the memory of that Reese's candy. Ok not really, but to this day if you tell me that I can't do something, my first instinct is to do exactly that. 

It seems so obvious now but at the time I didn't know why my brother and sister were punished the same for my wrongdoing. We all stood in the same room and heard the same one rule that my dad gave us, and that was why. See we all knew the same, correct information which was not to eat the Reese's in the refrigerator. But my dad underestimated the power of my influence. My brother and sister knew the right answer, but their intelligence was overpowered by my influence. So it begs the question, what is more important in society, the power of the correct information, or the power of persuasion? How valuable is the correct information if you are influenced to do something differently anyway?

Recently I watched the “OJ Simpson: Made in America” ESPN series about the OJ Simpson trial back in 1995. Beyond what anyone thinks is true or not about the case, one thing I know is this; the persecuting team seemed to have all of the correct information including DNA evidence, no alibi from OJ, and the list goes on and on. But the defense team including Barry Scheck and Johnnie Cochran had all the influence. When those two spoke on the stand they were loud, powerful, motivating, and they spoke with passion which ultimately led to the jury being influenced… in their favor. There were a lot of factors that came into play here but when I watched it that was my overwhelming take-a-way. Scheck and Cochran won that case with persuasion whether OJ was innocent or not. 

Influence can be a very powerfully good and also a very powerfully bad thing. To help translate this trial to our society today, I like to think of the jury as a classroom full of kids. You have your classroom full of students (the jury), the teacher who teaches all of the correct factual information (The Persecuting Team), and you have a highly influential student in the class (The Defense Team). The question is:  At the end of the day who is more impactful to the classroom full of kids; the teacher with the correct information or the influential student? The teacher can teach all the correct information all day but when class is over and if that whole classroom is influenced to do something else by the influential student than who is really more impactful? At the end of the day, the students DID what they were influenced to do, even though they KNEW better. The influence overcame the intelligence. It all seems eerily similar to something else that recently occurred... the presidential debate. 

Before I dive into this let me start by saying that I am purposely trying to be completely objective about both parties and candidates, I'm simply trying to explain what I see on the surface from an objective perspective. Unfortunately, too many people who were involved in this election are too stuck on one side of the fence to be able to ever intelligently discuss a topic or candidate. That's a whole other article "Why I Won't Discuss Politics; People Never Change Their Opinions So What Is the Point?" But I digress. Hilary Clinton versus Donald Trump; Information versus Influence. 

After watching the debates (shortly after watching the OJ Made in America series) I came to the conclusion that Hilary won the information battle while Trump won the influence battle. The basis of Hilary’s approach seemed to be factual information, mentioning her prior experience in politics and discussing in detail her plans of action going forward, presuming that she won the presidency. Trump’s approach was very much different.

The way that he speaks is powerful, persuasive and can easily give you a sense of security if you believe. But he lacked factual information to help validate his points (similar to the defense team in the OJ trial) and even at one point suggested that we should begin a new section of government… that already exists.

In conclusion, Hilary brought information to the table while Trump brought his influence. The prosecutor’s team in the OJ trial brought all the facts, while the defense team brought influence. In BOTH of these examples the influence was more important to society than the information. So the question begs, is your intelligence being influenced?