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To what extent did the authority affect our knowledge gaining process?


August 24, 2016 by maggiepan

Recently I saw a story from a TV program that talked about a housewife who was highly educated easily believed in the rumor about that have shower would actually be bad to the health. According to that, she wouldn’t let her daughter took shower daily. The rumor was started in the wechat, the housewife’s friend reposted this article in the moment and the people who wrote this claimed that he was the doctor graduated from a famous university. The whole story seemed quite odd and unbelievable that a person who was highly educated would believed in such low technique lies.


How could this article fool her and made her fully believed in the content is definitely true? After I look at the original article, I find out that the whole article was written in a very academic way. Science terms with lots of charts and data. The writer’s background information and accomplishments. Everything all shows that the the writer was a person of authority in this field. Since we will receive lots of information and knowledge from the authorities during our daily life, it is naturally that people tend to believe authorities in the area they do not understand.


Human as social animal, most of us will do what majority thinking and doing, it is very a few of us could come up with their own voices since we afraid to be kicked out by the group. Authorities are the people who had been confirmed to be authorities by other people. Some of the ideas or knowledge would be showed up in the text books and been learned by the students. As we learn and based on our memory, we always found that authorities could give us right information or suggestion. Maybe we firstly just found one article were giving the right and helpful suggestions. The next time we saw similar style articles, our memory tells us that the last time was good. So gradually we would start to trust specific one and eventually will develop to trust most of the people or organization who had this kind of authority. The trust builds up between them. However, authorities could be wrong, and as the advance of technology, most of the opinions or theory that used to be confirmed as right become a wrong theory or an incomplete theory.


Similarly, some company for selling their product, they will make up some authority figures and lied to the consumers. It was very common that a foreigner professor or doctor shows up in a health care products advertisements, and the foreigner will always be Caucasian. That is not a coincident. Chinese people had an impression that Anglophone country had advanced technologies few years ago. Just like everything is better in Anglophone countries. So some people said “Foreign moon would be rounder.” for satirizing. Those companies saw this in the society, so they will use this to fool consumers in the early years. The foreign professor represents a figure of authority.


So as we can see here, the authority is a figure that have its social meanings, and earns people’s trust by this identity. The article I mentioned at the beginning was using people’s trust of authority and use the pattern that learned from the academic articles, which makes it looks like more trustful. So if the idea was giving by an authority figure will influence the extent of trust.


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