Social Psychology


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How groups
Intensify Decisions

Ψ  Risky Shift Phenomenon: When people are in groups, they are likely to make riskier decisions. Perhaps the shared risk (diffusion of responsibility) makes the individual risk seem less. Theory discounted by later research.

•  Group polarization effects have been demonstrated to exaggerate the inclinations of group members after a discussion. A military term for group polarization is "incestuous amplification".

Ψ  Mechanisms of Polarization

•  Normative influence:  a.k.a. Social comparison: Power exerted on an individual by a reference group to conform to the group's (or generally accepted) norms of behavior.
•  Informational influence:  a.k.a. Persuasive Argument Theory, or PAT. PAT holds that individual choices are determined by individuals weighing remembered pro & con arguments. These arguments are then applied to possible choices, & the most positive is selected. As a mechanism for polarization, group discussion shifts the weight of evidence as each individual exposes their pro & con arguments, giving each other new arguments & increasing the stock of pro arguments in favor of the group tendency, & con arguments against the group tendency. The persuasiveness of an argument depends on two factors – originality & its validity. According to PAT, a valid argument would hold more persuasive weight than a non-valid one. Originality has come to be understood in terms of the novelty of an argument. A more novel argument would increase the likelihood that it is an addition to the other group members’ pool of pro & con arguments, rather than a simple repetition. Informational influence is the best supported explanation! Simply put: group discussion elicits a pooling of ideas, most of which favor the dominant viewpoint.

Ψ  Groupthink

Eight Main Symptoms of Group Think

   1. Illusion of Invulnerability: Members ignore obvious danger, take extreme risk, and are overly optimistic.

   2. Collective Rationalization: Members discredit and explain away warning contrary to group thinking.

   3. Illusion of Morality: Members believe their decisions are morally correct, ignoring the ethical consequences of their decisions.

   4. Excessive Stereotyping: The group constructs negative sterotypes of rivals outside the group.

   5. Pressure for Conformity: Members pressure any in the group who express arguments against the group's stereotypes, illusions, or commitments, viewing such opposition as disloyalty.

   6. Self-Censorship: Members withhold their dissenting views and counter-arguments.

   7. llusion of Unanimity: Members perceive falsely that everyone agrees with the group's decision; silence is seen as consent.

   8. Mindguards: Some members appoint themselves to the role of protecting the group from adverse information that might threaten group complacency.

Avoiding Group Think

     The group should be made aware of the causes and consequences of group think.

     The leader should be neutral when assigning a decision-making task to a group, initially withholding all preferences and expectations. This practice will be especially effective if the leaders consistently encourages an atmosphere of open inquiry.

     The leader should give high priority to airing objections & doubts, and be accepting of criticism.

     Groups should always consider unpopular alternatives. Assign the role of devil's advocate to several strong members of the group!

     Sometimes it is useful to divide the group into two separate deliberative bodies as feasibilities are evaluated.

     Spend a sizable amount of time surveying all warning signals from rival group & organizations.

     After reaching a preliminary consensus on a decision, all residual doubts should be expressed & the matter reconsidered.

     Outside experts should be included in vital decision making.

     Tentative decisions should be discussed with trusted colleagues not in the decision-making group.

     The organization should routinely follow the administrative practice of establishing several independent decision-making groups to work on the same critical issue or policy.

Social Psychology
  Robert C. Gates