Please allow me to introduce the context of the situation first before asking my questions.

This week I was taking part in a non-violent occupation of a public place (in Paris) within the context of an international movement (you may have heard of it or not).

Part of this occupation was blocking a bridge for car traffic, still allowing bicycles and pedestrians to pass.

At one point in time, the authorities decided to completely close one side of the bridge by using thick and high metal fences, no one could pass through any longer - and they were patrolling on the other side of the fence.

The event organizers decided to deploy "peace-keepers" on the other side of the bridge (the open one) so that people would be informed that it is really blocked - it was not really visible before almost traversing the bridge completely - and they were given a deviation-possibility and other help - friendly and non-violent!

What did I observe with individuals and couples (very biased of course):

Tourists (non-french) were very open and happy to be there, asked what all this is about and so on - no problem for using the deviation, some even participated in the event for some time.

Young, "native" people were partially very open, partially they did not want to listen (up to ignoring) to the help and had to learn it the hard way (when facing the fence).

The ratio of those strongly ignoring any help seem to raise with age and status. From "Don't worry, I'm a lawyer, I will pass" up to getting a hysterical crisis of one individual when realizing that one cannot get through.

I wasn't observing a female/male variance.

It was quite disturbing to us to see so many people ignoring our advice as it was well meant and the situation was not caused by us.

Is there any study concerning this kind of behavior? Does it have a name?

Ideally I would like to know what makes people behave in this way. Why are some open, why are some so stubborn?

How much is it depending on the culture of the society?

Is there a method which could help to improve our impact?


1 Answer 1


Different personalities at play can partly explain this.

An old joke goes:

"There are two kinds of people in this world. If there is an electrical fence, and you tell them about it, one will believe you. The other will insist on peeing on the fence to find out the truth."

Individuals prone to anxiety may indeed be less trusting.

Trusting someone's word, especially a stranger's, carries uncertainty and uncertainty to an anxious mind causes a lot of mental distress. So anxious people often try to cope with this by trying to regain the feeling of being in control by "doing their own research".

A narcissist personality type may have an unrealistic view of their status in society and thus expect to be treated differently than "normal" folks. Due to their exaggerated sense of importance of their own self, they may feel that regular rules don't apply to them.

A paranoid personality type would be less trusting of a stranger too, as they sometimes tend to be overly suspicious and distrustful of people.

(These are the few personality types that immediately came to my mind and their underlying way of thinking could explain why these kind of people may have opted to not listen to your group of "peace-keepers").


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