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74 – Critical Thinking and Just a Little Courage

Hi there. This is the Perio Patient Podcast, a podcast for my patients and anyone else who cares to listen. My name is Dr. Ben Young and I am a periodontist living and working in the beautiful city of San Antonio, in the great state of Texas.  

Today’s podcast is entitled: Critical Thinking and Just a Little Courage 

There is a lot of bad news out there. We are swimming in it. And if you just step back a little and study it, I think you will agree with me that some of it is gaslighting. And for anyone not familiar with the term gaslighting, it is the effort to manipulate information in a way that causes us to behave differently to what we would normally. It is trickery through illusions that are repeated over and over to the point where the can actually become plausible explanations to reality – that is until someone comes along and points out the real truth of the matter. It is the story of the Emperor’s new clothes. He was gaslight into believing that the clothes being made for him reflected on his great intellect because only those with a healthy mind could actually see and appreciate them. You know the story. So the king trots out in his birthday suit and everyone admires his new cloths because they don’t want to look foolish to the king and others, until a child looking at the king blurts out the obvious fact that the king is stark naked. After this, the spell was broken.  

We, as a society are being fed a lot of information that is misleading with some of it having to do with viral diseases as well as how our body’s fight them. I will share with you a link to a video at the end of this podcast by an insider within the pharmaceutical industry who will be able to explain this to you very clearly. The question, should you watch his presentation, is whether or not he is credible, and if he is, what you should do about it.  

You see, our problem within society, when it comes to figuring out what is going on and what to do about it, isn’t just one of ignorance, that we don’t know the facts well enough to make clear decisions – because, sadly there are many who already know and understand the facts and yet are failing to act or speak out – so far at least. But all is not lost and the purpose of today’s podcast is to provide you with some understanding or normal human behavior and how it sometimes works against the majority of good people who simply want to go about their lives and be left alone.  So permit me to share with you three famous psychology experiments conducted in the 1950’s, 60’s and 70’s respectively that I hope will help all of us wake up and understand the critical nature of not accepting things we know are not true in order to just get along. I hope you will come to understand that the gaslighting will only stop when individuals stop permitting it to continue, by speaking out and declaring with the child that the emperor has no clothes.  

The first experiment took place in the 1950’s and was conducted by a psychology professor Solomon Asch (spelled A-s-c-h) and are generally known as the Asch Conformity Experiments.  

Here is how they went. I’m reading this next section from verywellmind.com (the link will be in the show notes below) 

https://www.verywellmind.com/the-asch-conformity-experiments-2794996

Imagine yourself in this situation: You’ve signed up to participate in a psychology experiment in which you are asked to complete a vision test. 

Seated in a room with the other participants, you are shown a line segment and then asked to choose the matching line from a group of three segments of different lengths. 

The experimenter asks each participant individually to select the matching line segment. On some occasions, everyone in the group chooses the correct line, but occasionally, the other participants unanimously declare that a different line is actually the correct match. 

So what do you do when the experimenter asks you which line is the right match? Do you go with your initial response, or do you choose to conform to the rest of the group? 

There were 18 different trials in the experimental condition, and the confederates gave incorrect responses in 12 of them. The purpose of these critical trials was to see if the participants would change their answer in order to conform to how the others in the group responded. 

During the first part of the procedure, the confederates answered the questions correctly. However, they eventually began providing incorrect answers based on how they had been instructed by the experimenters. 

The study also included 37 participants in a control condition. In order to ensure that the average person could accurately gauge the length of the lines, the control group was asked to individually write down the correct match. According to these results, participants were very accurate in their line judgments, choosing the correct answer 99% of the time. 

So, what happened? 

Nearly 75% of the participants in the conformity experiments went along with the rest of the group at least one time. 

After combining the trials, the results indicated that participants conformed to the incorrect group answer approximately one-third of the time. 

At the conclusion of the experiments, participants were asked why they had gone along with the rest of the group. In most cases, the students stated that while they knew the rest of the group was wrong, they did not want to risk facing ridicule. A few of the participants suggested that they actually believed the other members of the group were correct in their answers. 

These results suggest that conformity can be influenced both by a need to fit in and a belief that other people are smarter or better informed. 

Given the level of conformity seen in Asch’s experiments, conformity can be even stronger in real-life situations where stimuli are more ambiguous or more difficult to judge. 

When I see a worker wearing a mask, but the mask is riding below his nose, then I understand that I am seeing a conformist, someone who is doing what is necessary to just get along. Because, the argument for wearing a mask falls apart when the mask isn’t covering the entire breathing apparatus.   

Should you wear a mask? If you apply critical thinking and courage, you should come to the conclusion right for you. For example, what if you are coming down with symptom? A mask is a very good idea to protect those around you from catching what you have. Even better, however, you should self-quarantine – that is stay away from crowds.  

But do we know about the effectiveness of masks and viruses? Before 2020, this information was clear. Masks, especially cloth ones, do not work. If you want to know what you need to do to protect yourself from catching a virus, then look at what people in high-risk virology labs wear. Again, more about this if you watch the video I have linked to. Everything else about wearing masks to protect against catching a virus is gaslighting.  

True mask conformists, are the ones who are wearing masks while driving alone in their cars. My hunch is they a our truest believers in authority figures. Which brings me to our next study. This one was conducted by Dr. Stanley Milgram, a psychologist educated at Harvard University and someone who Dr. Asch both influenced and supervised during his training. 

Rather than look at conformity to peers or peer-pressure as Asch did, Milr gram studied the pressure of an authority figure.  

https://www.verywellmind.com/the-milgram-obedience-experiment-2795243

This study was conducted I believe at Yale in the 1960’s. Reading again from verywell mind: 

Forty men were recruited using newspaper ads and were paid a small amount to participate in what they knew was an experiment.  

Milgram developed an intimidating shock generator, with shock levels starting at 15 volts and increasing in 15-volt increments all the way up to 450 volts. The many switches were labeled with terms including “slight shock,” “moderate shock,” and “danger: severe shock.” The final three switches were labeled simply with an ominous “XXX.” 

Each participant took the role of a “teacher” who would then deliver a shock to the “student” [seated behind a wall and in another room not visible to the subject] whenever an incorrect answer was given. While the participant believed that he was delivering real shocks to the student, the “student” was a confederate in the experiment who was simply pretending to be shocked. 

As the experiment progressed, the participant would hear the learner plead to be released or even complain about a heart condition. Once they reached the 300-volt level, the learner would bang on the wall and demand to be released. Beyond this point, the learner became completely silent and refused to answer any more questions. The experimenter then instructed the participant to treat this silence as an incorrect response and deliver a further shock.2 

Most participants asked the experimenter whether they should continue. The experimenter issued a series of commands to prod the participant along:1 

  1. “Please continue.” 
  1. “The experiment requires that you continue.” 
  1. “It is absolutely essential that you continue.” 
  1. “You have no other choice; you must go on.” 

The measure of obedience was the level of shock that the participant was willing to deliver. How far do you think most participants were willing to go? 

In his 1963 report on his research, Milgram posed this question to a group of Yale University students. The average prediction was that around 1% of participants would deliver the maximum shock.3 In reality, 65% of the participants in Milgram’s study delivered the maximum shocks.4 

Of the 40 participants in the study, 26 delivered the maximum shocks, while 14 stopped before reaching the highest levels. It is important to note that many of the subjects became extremely agitated, distraught, and angry at the experimenter, but they continued to follow orders all the way to the end. 

Why did so many of the participants in this experiment perform a seemingly sadistic act when instructed by an authority figure? According to Milgram, there are some situational factors that can explain such high levels of obedience: 

  • The physical presence of an authority figure dramatically increased compliance
  • The fact that Yale (a trusted and authoritative academic institution) sponsored the study led many participants to believe that the experiment must be safe. 
  • The selection of teacher and learner status seemed random. 
  • Participants assumed that the experimenter was a competent expert. 
  • The shocks were said to be painful, not dangerous. 

Later experiments conducted by Milgram indicated that the presence of rebellious peers dramatically reduced obedience levels. When other people refused to go along with the experimenter’s orders, 36 out of 40 participants refused to deliver the maximum shocks.6 

“Ordinary people, simply doing their jobs, and without any particular hostility on their part, can become agents in a terrible destructive process. Moreover, even when the destructive effects of their work become patently clear, and they are asked to carry out actions incompatible with fundamental standards of morality, relatively few people have the resources needed to resist authority,” Milgram explained in “Obedience to Authority.” 

Milgram’s experiment has become a classic in psychology, demonstrating the dangers of obedience. The research suggests that situational variables have a stronger sway than personality factors in determining obedience. However, other psychologists argue that both external and internal factors heavily influence obedience, such as personal beliefs and overall temperament.  

There is certainly a lot we can unpack here but I want to simply point out that when others in the room did not go along with the order – the rebellious ones, that it strengthened the behavior of those who were instructed to pull the shock switch. To me this speaks to the important of community and being psychologically prepared to resist any gaslighting by authority figures.  

And as a brief aside back into healthcare – make sure you understand procedures you are asked to give your consent to, to that level the allows you to feel both comfortable and confident that you are on a good path.  

Back again to the study.  

To change the direction of an entire society simply requires a few to stand up and refuse to go along with the crowd and the authority figures who are giving instructions that make no common sense. This small group, however, has to be steeled against peer pressure and that is easier said than done.  

And one last study. This one at Stanford University. The psychologist is Philip Zimbardo and the year is 1971. This one is known as the Stanford Prison Experiment. It’s a popular one in psychology text books today.  

Zimbardo was a former classmate of Stanley Milgram and he wanted to expand upon Milgram’s research. He wanted to know if physically and psychologically healthy people who knew they were participating in an experiment would change their behavior in a prison-like setting.  

So a mock prison was set up in the basement of Stanford University’s psychology building. 

 They selected 24 undergraduate students to play the roles of both prisoners and guards. 

The participants were chosen from a larger group of 70 volunteers because they had no criminal background, lacked psychological issues, and had no significant medical conditions. The volunteers agreed to participate during a one to two-week period in exchange for $15 a day.3 

The simulated prison included three six-by-nine-foot prison cells. Each cell held three prisoners and included three cots. 

Other rooms across from the cells were utilized for the jail guards and warden. One tiny space was designated as the solitary confinement room, and yet another small room served as the prison yard. 

The 24 volunteers were then randomly assigned to either the prisoner group or the guard group. Prisoners were to remain in the mock prison 24 hours a day during the study. 

Guards were assigned to work in three-man teams for eight-hour shifts. After each shift, guards were allowed to return to their homes until their next shift. 

Researchers were able to observe the behavior of the prisoners and guards using hidden cameras and microphones.2 

Results 

While the Stanford Prison Experiment was originally slated to last 14 days, it had to be stopped after just six due to what was happening to the student participants.3 The guards became abusive, and the prisoners began to show signs of extreme stress and anxiety. 

Some of these included: 

  • While the prisoners and guards were allowed to interact in any way they wanted, the interactions were hostile or even dehumanizing. 
  • The guards began to behave in ways that were aggressive and abusive toward the prisoners while the prisoners became passive and depressed. 
  • Five of the prisoners began to experience severe negative emotions, including crying and acute anxiety, and had to be released from the study early. 

Even the researchers themselves began to lose sight of the reality of the situation. Zimbardo, who acted as the prison warden, overlooked the abusive behavior of the jail guards until graduate student Christina Maslach voiced objections to the conditions in the simulated prison and the morality of continuing the experiment. 

Impact 

The experiment became famous and was widely cited in textbooks and other publications. According to Zimbardo and his colleagues, the Stanford Prison Experiment demonstrated the powerful role that the situation can play in human behavior.4 

Because the guards were placed in a position of power, they began to behave in ways they would not usually act in their everyday lives or other situations. The prisoners, placed in a situation where they had no real control, became submissive and depressed. 

Back to my words now: I think this experiment demonstrates what happens when there is an unchecked arbitrary assignment of power over others or the arbitrary loss of power. It is what it looks like when freedoms are removed, when civil rights are violated. It means that normal people can be corrupted if placed into environments that project the idea that external controls like great wealth or position are more important than internal ones – like conscience.  

Loss of freedom or liberty always leads to the creation of two classes and a more brutal society. We already know what this looks like. Look at any communist country that exists or has ever existed. And as I have said in an earlier podcast, when society divides into two classes, healthcare splits as well and the masses always get the short end of the stick. 

Finally, let me end by giving you a few more details about the video I recently watched on YouTube. It was a one-hour talk by a former vice president/researcher for Pfizer, one of the vaccine manufactures we hear about daily.  

His name is Dr. Michael Yeadon and he has become famous or infamous depending on whether or not someone agrees with what he has to say. I found him credible and his information lines up with the courses I have taken in the area of virology that have to do with how viruses are spread and what people need to do to reduce the risks of epidemics.   

Well, let’s stop here. That’s a lot to critically think about. Go have a great day and do something courageous. We all need the practice. This has been The Perio Patient Podcast and I am still Dr. Ben Young. Thanks for listening. Bye for now.