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The Psychology Behind the Dark Side

23/01/2011
The Death Star in A New Hope
Image via Wikipedia

Anybody who reads my blog on a regular basis or who has talked to me for more than a few minutes knows that I’m sort of into reading, watching, and discussing things that are quite basically mindf**ks. Don your mind condoms, then, and join me for today’s dose of counterintuition: Cracked.com: 5 Scientific Reasons The Dark Side Will Always Win Long story short, here are the five reasons that Paul and Trevor Pickett list to explain why, as they put it, “the Rebels got lucky”:

  • The Color Black Is Scientifically Proven to Intimidate People
  • Thinking Evil Thoughts and Clenching Your Fist Makes You Stronger
  • Arrogance Inspires Confidence
  • Doom and Gloom Makes You Smarter
  • Speaking With a Deep Voice

As with most articles on Cracked that aren’t admittedly complete fabrication (which they also do quite well), the Picketts support their list with several examples and humorous pictures. After about thirty seconds of thought and some Web surfing, I’m completely inclined to back them up.

The color black. Who hasn’t heard of the “power suit”? In most media scenes involving a power play, there is usually one character dressed in a sharp black suit, which instantly gives him +10 to his cajones level, whether or not he actually deserves it. Women also wear black to give themselves the aura of strength and ability — see the Little Black Dress or of course the woman’s version of the black suit. The color black also implies distance or aloofness, and in order to run a galaxy (or, let’s face it, the Death Star) you have to be willing to remove yourself from any sort of colorful camaraderie. Infoplease’s page on color psychology gives a pretty basic explanation, and there are countless other sites (though mostly leaning toward the metaphysical) that make this a given.

Fake it to make it. That is one of my favorite mantras, and it works because of reason #3 — if you carry yourself as someone who has the answers and who gets things done, not only will you feel like you really are that person but other people will get the vibe that you know what the hell you’re doing. When I’m working with my Model U.N. kids I notice this in action: if one delegate speaks with conviction and acts like a leader, other delegates will go along with the most ludicrous suggestions imaginable — even courses of action that directly violate their own country’s policy. Not really a truculent individual? That’s fine; if you want the masses to follow you, though, you’d better act like one.

Chaos is a strong motivator. Well, duh. When everything is sunshine and rainbows it’s difficult to concentrate in something as calm and completely boring as a college algebra class, so how could we possibly bring ourselves to consider real problems or their solutions? Most people do their cleaning or other mundane chores on dreary, gloomy days; students in the dead of winter are more depressed but are also more likely to pay attention in class, do their homework, and generally just function better. If you aren’t under the impression that everything is going to be okay, your brain switches to DefCon-1 and looks at everything more analytically — there’s likely a wealth of neurological and psychological evidence to back this up, but instead of that I’ll just tell you to think back to particularly harrowing or upsetting situations. I’m guessing you went into problem-solving mode, considering alternatives and most logical courses of action between wringing your hands and sobbing into the nearest available tissue. It’s just how we’re wired.

Take it down an octave. I’ve heard this through most of my formative years: in order to be taken more seriously, speak slower and in a lower tone of voice. Nobody gives any real thought to a gaggle of (stereotypical) sorority girls who are jumping around and screaming in ear-splitting tones that even rouse your beloved beagle from his afternoon nap (said with all due respect to screaming sorority girls, my sisters or otherwise), but when President Obama speaks you’d best believe that people listen (whether they agree with him or not is an entirely different post). Higher tones speak of youth, innocence and inexperience, while deeper tones indicate a more educated and mature position…accurate or not. In fact, I started pitching my voice slightly lower in professional settings and though I don’t have quantifiable evidence yet (polls to follow), I think it makes me seem like a controlled and capable person.

All that said, if you haven’t already I strongly suggest you take a peek at the Picketts’ article on Cracked — I won’t presume to say how long they spent writing their piece, but it’s a great read and considerably more polished than my unsubstantiated reflections on it.

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One comment

  1. […] The Psychology Behind the Dark Side (shanshantastic.wordpress.com) […]



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