profound influence on me

I was a child of about, hmm, 6 or 7 I believe. I was up early on a Saturday morning, eating cereal and watching “kid’s shows”. Of course, the earliest part of those mornings the shows I watched were cartoons, but around noon, cartoons inevitably ended and “regular” TV would come on. On one channel, they were piloting a kid’s gameshow called “RunAround”. I rather liked this show and watched for probably every episode. The basic rules were simple: a question was asked of a large group of kids. Several answers were offered up and assigned to posts on the stage. The kids had to choose an answer and run to it, filling up the space around the post. They were given about 10 seconds to choose a post/answer. At that time, the announcer would reveal how many kids were standing on each post/answer and give everyone a chance to change their answer. Kids would often jump from one post area to another seeing how many kids were standing in the area/answer. Based on how many kids were in the area of the correct answer, they received points, given out as rubber balls. So there was an advantage to being with other kids, but only a small advantage. If you chose the wrong answer, you’d get nothing. If you weren’t sure, you could always gamble by going with the majority. OFtentimes, the majority were correct. Usually, if the majority wasn’t correct, there would be a sizeable amount of kids on the correct answer anyway. Sometimes, not being sure of the answer, kids would hop over to another answer while other kids were hopping to the answer they left behind. It was easy to see who wasn’t sure of their answer.
One morning, I was watching “RunAround” and the question came up: Who was Pinnochio’s father?
Shoot, I knew the answer to that easy: Gepetto.
How many kids do you think knew the answer to that one? I’ll tell you, about half the kids chose the wrong answer on first runaround. WHen the announcer tallied up the numbers,every kid but one jumped to the wrong answer. AS sometimes happened on RunAround when there was a noticeable difference in numbers-to-answers, the announcer asked the remaining kid if he wanted to change his answer. Many kids who had jumped off the correct answer onto the wrong answer gestured for their friend to join them. He grinned and refused. The announcer then asked the majority if any of them wanted to change their answer again and join their lone friend. Every one of them firmly shook their heads. They weren’t going to lose so noticeably. You could see the conviction in their eyes; they had changed their answer to go with the majority and now they were completely convinced it was correct. Even though they only joined the majority in the first place to keep company with their friends! They were NOT sure of the answer at all until they joined the majority. Once they were there, they gathered conviction for something they were ignorant of. I could plainly see kids laughing at the lone stander. They were mocking him for not changing his answer, so sure by now that they were right.
When the bell rung and the post lit up, the lone kid raised his fists in the air and danced around hooting. All the majority kids were stunned. Some of them looked to be protesting, after all, they were so sure. They had completely forgotten that they had never been sure. Some of them, I’d guess, had been completely ignorant the entire time. Yet, because they stood with the majority and convinced themselves of its rightness, they couldn’t accept that they had been wrong.


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