It is not surprising that Mubarak’s administration “overlooked” the social explosion. Indeed, statistical data righteously claimed that the country was developing very successfully. Economic growth rates were high (even in the crisis years). Poverty and inequality levels were among the lowest in the Third World. Global food prices were rising, but the government was taking serious measures to mitigate their effect on the poorest layers of the population. Unemployment level (in per cent) was less than in many developed countries of the world and, moreover, was declining, and so were population growth rates. What would be the grounds to expect a full-scale social explosion? Of course, the administration had a sort of reliable information on the presence of certain groups of dissident “bloggers”, but how could one expect that they would be able to inspire to go to the Tahrir any great masses of people? It was even more difficult to figure out that Mubarak’s regime would be painfully struck by its own modernization successes of the 1980s, which led to the sharp decline of crude death rate and especially of infant and child mortality in 1975–1990. Without these successes many young Egyptians vehemently demanding Mubarak’s resignation (or even death) would have been destined to die in early childhood and simply would not have survived to come out to the Tahrir Square.
Humans often change their beliefs or behavior due to the behavior or opinions of others. This study explored, with the use of human event-related potentials (ERPs), whether social conformity is based on a general performance-monitoring mechanism. We tested the hypothesis that conflicts with a normative group opinion evoke a feedback-related negativity (FRN) often associated with performance monitoring and subsequent adjustment of behavior. The experimental results show that individual judgments of facial attractiveness were adjusted in line with a normative group opinion. A mismatch between individual and group opinions triggered a frontocentral negative deflection with the maximum at 200 ms, similar to FRN. Overall, a conflict with a normative group opinion triggered a cascade of neuronal responses: from an earlier FRN response reflecting a conflict with the normative opinion to a later ERP component (peaking at 380 ms) reflecting a conforming behavioral adjustment. These results add to the growing literature on neuronal mechanisms of social influence by disentangling the conflict-monitoring signal in response to the perceived violation of social norms and the neural signal of a conforming behavioral adjustment.