The Need to Belong: and Why It (Among Other Factors) Might Skew Polling Accuracy

I am soooooo sorry to delve into the presidential political scene here. Even though you can undoubtedly discern my political leanings even without consulting the tarot cards, it is one of my goals to try to stay non-partisan on this blog as much as possible. That said, it doesn’t hurt to try to investigate the science and psychology behind some of the media circus, the candidates, and supposed public reaction or support of particular candidates.

 

If, for instance, it seems INSANE to you that certain political contenders are doing as well as they are doing in the “polls,” then perhaps we ought to investigate what exactly the “polls” are. News media sources throw these percentages and figures around all the time without really delving into what “polls” represent, outside of a very contrite “support” or “favorability” rate for a specific candidate. And those media reports, in and of themselves, influence how people feel about the candidates to which the polls refer through an associative influence. It’s a little bit like peer pressure, and it has a sociological basis. The scientifically and case-studied hypothesis is that human animals have an innate desire to “belong” to other groups. It is part of our social make-up, our pack-mentality, that induces us to claim membership in a collective grouping. For instance, if you were asked to speed-write a list of 20 things that define who you are, your answers would indicate a general human trend whereby participants tend first to indicate roles that physiologically define one’s self: especially “male” or “female”; then familial or career things such as “son” or “daughter,” “mother” or “father,” “machinist” or “secretary” or “lawyer” or “cook,” etc.; but then would list things that associate themselves with other social groups: “Catholic” or “Episcopalian” or “Methodist,” or “Jewish” or “Black,” or “American” or “Canadian” or “Hispanic” or “Latino.” These are associative groups that not only define ourselves in our self evaluation, but which try to help others interpret who it is that we want to project.

 

Even Maslow’s hierarchy of needs indicates that humans have an innate and necessary programmed need to “belong”:

 

“After physiological and safety needs are fulfilled, the third level of human needs is interpersonal and involves feelings of belongingness. This need is especially strong in childhood and can override the need for safety as witnessed in children who cling to abusive parents. Deficiencies within this level of Maslow’s hierarchy – due to hospitalism, neglect, shunning, ostracism, etc. – can impact the individual’s ability to form and maintain emotionally significant relationships in general, such as: friendship, intimacy, and family.

“According to Maslow, humans need to feel a sense of belonging and acceptance among their social groups, regardless whether these groups are large or small. For example, some large social groups may include clubs, co-workers, religious groups, professional organizations, sports teams, and gangs. Some examples of small social connections include family members, intimate partners, mentors, colleagues, and confidants….This need for belonging may overcome the physiological and security needs, depending on the strength of the peer pressure.” [1]

 

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, represented as a pyramid with the more basic needs at the bottom.

 

Importantly, a sense of “belonging” to a group, knowing that others have similar feelings as one’s self, can be a highly beneficial experience, particularly in combatting feelings of loneliness, hopelessness, and stress.

 

But it can be a two-edged sword. All this is to say that, people are easily swayed when it comes to things like political party affiliation, which in a two-party system often feels like a sporting game: “Whose team are you rooting for? Red or Blue?” It’s not uncommon for people to fall into rooting for the team that their family and friends are rooting for, because if you consider yourself already a pack or group member, with equitable social standards in league with your associates, then it only follows that a person supports the values and “team” of their chosen pack herd. This associative support also holds true with polling data: when a person hears that their family and friends are supporting a specific candidate, it is a sociological trend that people will hear that their pack herd is supporting a specific candidate, and subsequently follow suit in order to maintain affiliation with the group. A lot of the time, people don’t even have to think about it [for themselves]; it just naturally follows or makes logical sense to follow the herd in many instances. I might go so far as to say that it often might seem sacrilegious to sway from the group choice (because it would involve ostracism and potentially exclusion from the group—a sociologically undesirable outcome). So when the media flatly states that such-and-such candidate is receiving a majority percentage of support for his or her candidacy to the presidency “in the polls,” there is a contingent of the American public that hears the party affiliation of which the candidate is a member, hears that the majority of his “pack herd” is supporting that particular candidate, and ultimately (or even sub-consciously) is influenced to throw his or her support towards the same candidate, without so much as bothering to investigate the candidate’s platform or positions on specific issues. Both sides of the political spectrum are guilty of this type of sociological associative political support. (And, of course, not everyone is automatically consigned to the trope.)

 

But what is behind these “polls?” How are they conducted? Who is polled? Why doesn’t the media include data about the demographics of the people who were polled?

 

The Discovery Channel (and its affiliate channel programming) website has an interesting and informative video that probes into the truth about polls and the ever changing landscape that they represent, in part because of technological advances which increasingly exclude certain social classes and groups of people. (Gasp! Maybe your pack herd isn’t even represented in these so-called “polls!”) Take a look:

 

 

What do you really need to know about all of this—and how, by the way, does it relate to tarot and reading tarot for clients? Well, first and foremost, knowledge is power. The more you understand human psychology and social predilections, the less likely you are to fall into such predilections without first contemplating and thinking through them. Secondly, knowledge is power. In other words, you aren’t the only one who realizes the truth about the human need to belong, and how easily human beings are swayed by this highly emotional need—all the smart candidates and the media know it, too. And if you didn’t know it, politicians and the media can be awfully good at manipulating your emotions. So it’s important to be vigilant, and to be an investigative warrior, and to try to realize when one is being manipulated—like when polls and political analysts flippantly deem who was the winner of a particular political debate. If you really have any sense of self-esteem, you should know that you are entirely capable of weighing the issues and the points made during the debate, and of being able to come to rational conclusions on your own. Sometimes that means diving farther into research to see if you can find empirical data to support your conclusions. Sometimes researching that information further means that you’ll find something that contradicts your gut feeling or your opinion, and admitting that things are not what they seem.

 

Let’s look at this information in the realm of tarot… Simply knowing that the human urge to belong is such a strong psychological influence in people’s lives… merely knowing that fact should help you understand that sometimes clients can have a really hard time letting go of things, of letting go of their affiliations and attachments to groupings. That “grouping” might be as intimate as a marital or coupling arrangement. The imagined security that it offers is often a huge emotional deterent to people who sometimes are unable to recognize that the arrangement, the relationship, is unhealthy from several other viewpoints and in the light of other factors. The “grouping” can, in fact, be of any gradient size: from the size of a nuclear family, to a workplace environment, to a backwater town, to even the size of a national political party. In all of these variously-sized associative groups there may be things by which the individual involved with them feels supported and affirmed, and there may be things by which the individual involved with them is being abused and psychological damaged…

 

In a nuclear family a parent can be supportive of a child’s interests and provide a loving environment, understanding that even a small child is an independent, thinking individual -or- a parent can be physical, sexually, and/or psychologically abusive, and domineering in order to maintain excessive control, and leaving scars that can have a lingering impression on a child for the rest of their lives…

 

In a workplace environment a supervisor can give employees a certain amount of leeway for creative and independent thinking, boosting self-esteem among employees and potentially allowing for innovations that management might not have come up with on their own, -or- a supervisor can be a micromanager, never congratulate employees for work successfully completed, and create a hostile environment where employees feel belittled, embittered, and used…

 

In a small rural town a community can hold regular festivals or block parties where neighbors have the chance to meet neighbors, exchanging ideas, and create opportunities for collective team-building, environmental beautification projects, and a sense of community, -or- the town’s council members can miserly tax constituents and ineptly fund projects that consistently have cost overruns, disenfranchise those interested in public service, and ignore and alienate the less resilient and poor for initiatives that only benefit the “good side of the tracks” area of town…

 

A national political party can gather support from a constituency that is invested in positive change for the country, engender alliances and peace with other world nations, and seek to create a long-ranging equitable social and economic landscape that benefits everyone and future generations, -or– a national political party can gather momentum out of their constituents’ fears of change, and instigate saber-rattling against an ever-pervasive “enemy” bent on curbing the freedom and independence of the nation…

 

Notice how all the polarities exemplified in each of these arenas touch on aspects up-and-down the Maslow Heirarchy of Needs pyramid above…

 

Everything has it’s good and its bad. There is no black and white. There are always pros and cons. Sometimes the subtleties of life need investigating. A tarot reader must realize these same principles… No issue that a client brings to you is cut-and-dry, or worth a “yes”-or-“no” answer. If a client has a problem that bare and simple, he or she might as well flip a coin. The work of the tarot reader is to help the client delve deeper and to inspire the client to investigate further into the issue at hand. Sometimes emotional attachments to the pack herd can be a healthy thing for a client if it induces stability, self-esteem for the individual within the group, and fosters positive shared emotional connections. Likewise, sometimes the client needs an outside eye—you, the tarot reader—to help them see the abusiveness, the unhealthy aspects, the manipulated emotions that a group affiliation is inflicting.

 

You, as a tarot professional, are not responsible for extracting a client out of their purportedly bad or abusive situation, but you can provide guidance to other public resources or towards professional service providers (like socialwork organizations, medical or psychological practitioners, or licensed legal consultants) that may be able to help if the client is truly in danger or doesn’t seem able to innitiate the process him- or herself.

 

 

 

[1]   https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maslow%27s_hierarchy_of_needs. (Last accessed 11/9/2015)

 

 

 

 

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Posted in Psychology of Tarot, Reading for Virtue, Tarot Business, Tarot Philosophy, Tarot Reading and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , .

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