by Dr. Michael Sprague
Published on March 28, 2023
Categories: Spiritual Growth


by Dr. Michael Sprague

I share this illustration with leaders all the time. I love how it inspires people to stand alone, if necessary. The need of the hour is COURAGE … men and women of faith who honor God above all else.

A few years back psychologist Ruth W. Berenda designed an insightful experiment designed to discover how people handle peer pressure. The design was simple. Ten adolescents are escorted into a room for a test. Each group was instructed to raise their hands when the leader pointed to the longest line on a chart. However, one person did not know that nine of the others had been secretly pre-instructed to vote for the second longest line. Do you get the twist? Regardless of the instructions given in the room, the nine were to raise their hands, voting for the second longest line as the longest line when asked. The test would be to see how people would react when surrounded by peers who obviously were voting for something that was not true.


The test began with nine people voting for the wrong line. Guess what happened? The Guinea Pig would glance from side to side at all the hands up in the air, frown, look confused and then slip his hand up in the air with the others. Time after time as charts were raised in the air the perplexed person would raise a hand communicating a short line is longer than a longer line. This conformity occurred in about 75% of the 1000’s of cases done over the years and for all ages. The conclusions are that most people will not stand-alone. Most do not have the courage to stand against the crowd. Most will not buck the herd. This is true and a warning for all of us. Peer pressure is real. This explains a lot of what goes on in our world.

Many years later a psychologist put a new twist on the original experiment and the results are instructive. Groups came together in the same way as before to judge the longest line. Likewise, all the people but one are “in” on the test and instructed to vote for the second longest line as the longest line. However, this time one of the students was instructed to pick the correct line. All eyes were now on the experiment’s unbeknownst Guinea Pig to see how he/she voted. Amazingly, if one person stood against the herd, it led over and over to the Guinea Pig being willing to stand in the minority against the majority. The conformity rate plummets if one person speaks up.

Think of the implications of this! If one person is willing to stand on conviction it can turn the majority in a new direction sometimes immediately. Simply, voicing truth or another perspective can make a difference. It makes people think outside the box or politically correct circles. It gives others the courage to move in a new direction—often a better direction. Some ideas may take a lot longer to turn hearts and minds, perhaps years or even a lifetime. This is the need of the day among leaders and people. It works.

Let’s vote for COURAGE!

Dr. Michael Sprague is the Louisiana State Chaplain with the Capitol Commission and President of Grace Adventures. Michael does life with his wonderful wife Donna and resides in Mandeville, LA. His motto is “Bet the Farm on God.” You can find more information about Michael here.  

Feature Image by BC Care Providers Association


  1. Jeanne

    Very interesting post. I recently read a post from an Australian blogger, Murray Campbell, who told about people who are no longer willing to speak up against the “woke” culture for fear of reprisals. (https://murraycampbell.net/2023/03/26/melbourne-is-filled-with-rage-and-it-should-grieve-us/) It’s a problem in our times, not just in the US, but in many countries. It’s hard to stand up against a crowd, but maybe others will join us if we do. Thank you for posting.


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