16 Christmas compliance


How we change what others think, feel, believe and do

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ChangingMinds Blog! > Blog Archive > 19-Dec-05


Monday 19-Dec-05

Christmas compliance

Christmas is partly about changing minds, but much is about keeping minds just as they are, thank you.

For Christians, it is about the hope and the promise of salvation, born in events over 2000 years ago. The Church knows well that reminders and rituals sustain commitment.

Parents also use present-giving rituals, in an echo of gold, frankincense and myrrh, to encourage family cohesion and compliance. How many parents over the years have threatened 'If you're not good, Father Christmas won't bring you any presents'. Santa, in a curiously pagan way, is imbued with mystical powers of omniscience, let alone fitting down millions of chimneys in one night.

And how many of us drag ourselves along to the office Christmas bash when we'd actually rather be curled up in front of the fire with a good book. Pluralistic ignorance leads whole swathes of people to conform just because they think that others want something to happen.

Nevertheless, we can still enjoy ourselves. The consistency principle leads us to change our beliefs and feelings to match our actions. We give presents and go to parties against our better judgment and then feel good about it after all.

So perhaps Christmas is good for us after all. If you follow the rituals and comply with the rules, then there's a good chance you will be happy.

Your comments

 Yes, I do like this article, living here in Istanbul (Non Christian society) as a person who celebrates Christmas but bears in mind its true significance that being the worship of the winter season and nothing Christian. Therefore, a necessary thing to celebrate. So hereby the paradox lies: celebrating in a place where you are told no to celebrate...

-- David Eldred

 Isn't the celebration of winter solstice Yule, not Christmas? Not trying to start a debate, but that's how it is in the west.
As for your paradox, it's not much of one if you're celebrating Yule, but if Christmas is when your celebration is and you are told directly not to celebrate the holiday that's a bit odd, but I, personally wouldn't put it past people to do such things. If it's by suggestion of conforming, I would say fight the norm. I find myself setting my own norms, conforming when I must, and only when I must in the areas that I must. I still maintain my own norms and I also find that I do not set norms for others which intrigues me.
I've been called unprofessional at times, but retained my employment and have received wage raises because of it. I am more comfortable with my own norms, being my own person than conforming. There is always pretending to accept norms without guilt if I have motives to do such, but this is uncommon.
I have the psychological leadership to lead socially but when I am in social situations I back off and act passive to see how others act. I do not change my norms, but I accept theirs as their own and the only norm that I would expect of my peers is that they do the same for me.
Not sure how to classify that as I haven't read anything about it yet, but I sure am curious.

-- Matt

Dave replies:
Hi Matt. Perhaps you're a little eccentric. Eccentrics are not driven by social rules of conformance.



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