The Ben Carson Effect

Photo by Robina Weermeijer on Unsplash

There are some people that I hear on videos or otherwise read about, and think Why the hell did they get so dumb? What happened?. These aren’t the traditional morons, no — these are the people who made sweeping, revolutionary changes in their industry or are otherwise considered geniuses of their craft, who have gone on to a different venture only to sod the whole thing up. This event is what I’d like to call the Ben Carson effect.

The Ben Carson effect is named after perhaps the greatest example of such a thing; Ben Carson, the famed neurosurgeon who went on to completely embarrass himself in the domain of politics. There’s plenty of other examples as well, such as Jordan B. Peterson, or Bill Nye, or Neil DeGrasse Tyson — all people who started out with great enough reputations, only to soil them. Now, the interesting things about these cases, and the Ben Carson effect in general, is that the things these individuals pivoted to aren’t too different from what they’ve been doing. For example, Ben Carson was well known for becoming one of the lead speakers for the anti-vaccine movement… yet, being one of the leaders in the medical industry, really should’ve known better. Same with Jordan B. Peterson, whose background is in psychology and yet decided to speak out on the psychology of gender. 

I think a lot of this effect boils down to the negative effects of fame. This might be controversial to say, but I don’t think Ben Carson or Jordan B. Peterson really believe what they say; or, at least, didn’t believe what they said at the beginning. Each of their downfalls started with a small comment or event that drove people to attention… I believe that, once they noticed people were giving them attention for saying such things, they sought to exploit that attention, and eventually things got to such a point that they were consumed by this community so much that they started genuinely believing it.

Now, is there a way to reverse the Ben Carson effect? Probably. However, like most things discussed on this blog,  this can solely be influenced by the individual themselves. If Ben Carson believes he has gone astray, then he can rectify it; however, he needs to believe it first, which takes quite a lot of trouble in itself. There could also be a sort of sunk cost effect to all this, where people might think they’re in too deep to turn back now. I think overall this concept would be interesting to explore more into the future.

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