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Influential Factors


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Influential Factors
Have you ever heard of the phrase, "there's a method to the madness?” Each and every day, people are faced with different life choices that need to be made, some more important than others. Some of these decisions can range from what we will wear or eat, to whether or not we will attend class that day. Regardless of their importance, humans have free will to make choices in our everyday lives. But are there underlying factors that influence our decision making? Although humans have "free will", there are social, environmental, and biological factors that can influence our decision making and actions in everyday life. Humans at times may find themselves influenced by factors around them. In general, people have a desire to sport the latest fashions that are up to date with today’s latest trends. While watching TV, reading magazines or surfing the net, it is possible to see what famous celebrities wear, and be influenced by their style. For example, some believe that there would not be as many young men wearing tight jeans as opposed to baggier, more loose-fitting jeans if it were not for the influence of rapper Lil Wayne, who began wearing them a few years ago. Even my brother, who swore that he would never wear skinny jeans because they are "girly” confessed to me that he bought a pair of these jeans after watching them become more popular and accepted in today’s society. But why would he want these jeans after he swore he would never wear them? My brother has the free will to wear whatever jeans he wants, but because of an outside influence, his decision making process changed. Additionally, the people around us are sources of influence as well. If you associate with people who are goal-oriented and successful, you may strive for this as well. But if you associate with people who have no drive or motivation you may fall into this type of behavior.
William Shakespeare demonstrated the power of influence in the tragedy Othello. In The Garden of the Castle, Othello allows the influence of Iago to make him believe that his Lieutenant Cassio is having an affair with his wife. Iago plants seeds of doubt in Othello's mind about his wife's fidelity and uses Othello's jealousy to earn his position as Lieutenant in the end. Iago (1604) states that "That cuckold lives in bliss Who, certain of his fate, loves not his wronger, But, oh, what damned minutes tell he o'er Who dotes, yet doubts--suspect, yet soundly loves!"(1604, p.285). I feel that Iago is saying that a man is in a worse situation when he does not know his partner is being unfaithful, versus knowing what he is dealing with completely. Iago (1604) also stated, "In Venice they do let God see the pranks, they date not show their husbands. Their best conscience is not to leave 't undone, but keep't unknown." (1604, p.286). This statement in my opinion was used to plant more doubt in the mind of Othello by basically saying that women keep secrets from their husbands. But why would Othello let another man put doubts in his mind about his wife? This is an example of the power of influence because even though Othello had the free will to trust and believe his wife, he chose to allow the influence of another individual to sway his view and cause him to be suspicious. Other factors that can influence decisions can be linked to environmental and biological causes. If we are in school we may act differently than we would act if we were in the comfort of our own home with our friends. Biologically, some of our actions may be influenced because of genetics. Laura Kicklighter (2013) stated in her lecture at Lynchburg College that race and gender are two biologically deterministic factors which may influence what we choose to do with our free will. Kicklighter (2013) also states that these forces are out of our control. In W.E.B Dubois the Souls of Black Folks, Dubois allows biological and environmental factors to make him feel unrest about his newborn child. Dubois demonstrates in this reading that he is wary about the life his child will live because he is black and in the south. Dubois (1903) stated that he, "held him, and glanced at the hot red soil of Georgia and the breathless city of a hundred hills, and felt a vague unrest."(1903, p.160). Dubois feels so strongly about this that he even seemed to deny his race, but only out of love for his son. He asks (1903) sarcastically, "Why had not the brown of his eyes crushed out and killed the blue?" (1903, p.160). Almost as if he wishes his son were white so that he would have a better life and not have to endure the oppression that his father went through. Dubois allowed these environmental and biological factors to make him feel weary about bringing a child into the world. Humans are given free will to do as we please but are these decisions always made solely on what we want to do? There are social, biological, and environmental factors that can influence us along with our actions. It is up to us to decide how much we let these factors influence our free will.

DuBois, W.E.B. (2006). Of the passing of the first born. In The souls of black folk (pp. 159 - 164). The Pennsylvania State University Electronic Classic Series Publication. (Original work published 1903). Retrieved from
Kicklighter, L. (2013, July). Biology and Destiny: Genetics and moral responsibility. Lecture at Lynchburg College, Lynchburg, VA.
Shakespeare, W. (2005). Othello. Excerpted in B. Rothermel (Ed.), Lynchburg College Symposium Readings (3rd ed.) Volume III: Shaping Truth: Culture, Expression and Creativity (pp. 278-294). Philadelphia: XLibris. (Original work published in 1604)

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