How Susceptible Are You To Peer Pressure?


Peer pressure! It’s something we’ve all faced in our lives and it can come in two basic forms. First you have explicit peer pressure, which is when somebody else intentionally pressures you, or makes fun of you for not doing something, and as a result, you decide to change what you’re doing. But there’s also implicit peer pressure, which focuses more on your desire to fit in and do things that make you feel accepted. So even if nobody made a comment about drinking, you may feel pressure to always have a drink in your hand, or risk looking lame or boring, as alcoholic drinks act as a form of status in many social environments.

But it turns out that some people are much more susceptible to peer pressure. For example, people with small social circles are more likely to do what their friends say to do, because they want to protect their limited friendships. On the other hand if you have lots of friends, you’re are less likely to be pressured. Although, pne interesting finding suggests that the most popular kids are also highly susceptible to influence, because they may worry about protecting their status. So the popular and not so popular kids have the hardest time.

The Proceedings of the National Academy of Science — or PNAS for short (don’t tell me nobody else thinks this name is funny) — also found that your brain gets a bigger reward when you take risks around friends than when you take the same risk alone. Why? Well, from an evolutionary perspective, if you take a risk while alone, it could be life-threatening. Without social support around you, a bad choice or gamble could end pretty badly. On top of everything else, because social status is so important to animals, especially humans, impressing those around you helps to bump your stock, so to speak. When you fit in, or stand out as more impressive in a group, you’re likely to have better access to resources like food and mates. So chugging back drinks in front of Jessica at the party is really just a version of making sure you fit in, so we don’t lose out on the important stuff.

So how can you avoid peer pressure? There’s no one easy solution, but studies have found that if you take time away, you’re more likely to make a decision based on your own true opinions. Obviously this isn’t always possible — most of the time you're likely pressured into doing something in the moment. But if it's a choice you can take some time with, studies show that around three days later, you’ll be back to trusting your own gut, instead of relying on what others think.

So next time you’re feeling peer pressured, just know it’s your natural evolutionary compulsion to want to fit in for the sake of your social status and security, but that sometimes, it might be worth taking a moment to think about whether you actually want to do the thing, or if it’s just instinct taking over.

Listen to our hilarious, new podcast episode where talk about the peer pressure we experienced at an all inclusive resort here.

Mitch Moffit