Influence and Coercion in Learning

Updated: Aug 16, 2020

The influence of people, places, and objects of interest will always be at the core of our experiences in learning. The social acceptance of what and how we choose to learn will always be at the core of our social and emotional development, coercing our decisions through subtle social or familial pressure to behave in certain ways. There will always be some degree of influence and coercion in our lives.

The key to this conversation is in the degree to which influence and coercion is applied to new learning for individuals who have been raised with a variety of different experiences.

A Range of Influence and Coercion in Learning

The image shown highlights nine example scenarios which by no means is exhaustive but illustrates a particular range of beliefs toward how a person might be allowed to learn.

The up-down (y-axis) range of influence on interests represents degrees of passive influence on learning. The left-right (x-axis) range of power or force to persuade represents active coercion on learning. Both are described below.

The Influence on Interests aspect of this image considers the passive influence a person may experience with regards to what and how they learn. To have no influence is not to say a you wouldn't be influenced by what you see and hear around you but will not be influenced by the demands of another person with regards to what and how you learn. To experience minor influence is to have suggestions for what and how you learn but ultimately make your own decision about whether you want to learn what was suggested, and/or whether you want to learn how a person may have suggested you learn something. To have major influence is to have your world shaped around you in ways that suggest skills and concepts be not only learned but also valued by you.

The Power or Force to Persuade aspect of this image considers a more active coercion a person may experience with regards to learning. To have no coercion is to have full agency of your decision to learn what and how you wish. To experience minor coercion is to be exposed to dilemmas which introduce learning as a task to be bargained with emotions as bargaining chips - modest use of guilt and shame are emotions most commonly manipulated to coerce learning. In rare cases, major coercion is used to get you to learn in a specific manner through the use of threats e.g. confiscation, limitation, or public ridicule.

There is an important distinction I feel is important to note here. The context of learning is far different than specific scenarios in which you might be kept from hurting yourself. Learning how ho