Group Polarization and Groupthink – Group Decision-making Processes (PSY, SOC)

by Tarry Ahuja, PhD

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    00:00 Okay so let’s talk about how you think.

    00:04 Are you an individual thinker or are you a group thinker? We’re going to broach a topic of how groups made decisions.

    00:11 and how it sometimes can actually be inappropriate.

    00:15 What is Group Polarization? In this image that we have here, we have a whole bunch people sitting around a table.

    00:22 and we have a different color bubbles.

    00:25 Now what does this most reflect is that when you’re at the table with the whole bunch of people and you’re discussing a topic you’re going to have your own views.

    00:31 each person around that table has their own views.

    00:34 And generally if there’s one primary goal or one primary view you’re either sort of against that view or you’re for that view.

    00:41 But what ends up happening is overtime in that discussion will start to see a polarization.

    00:48 So one of the views will become the more dominant view.

    00:50 And so people kind of start shifting towards that side So it gets more polarize and that ends up changing the overall view of the table.

    00:58 So it’s been defined as the tendency for a group to make decisions out of more extreme than the initial views of its members.

    01:05 and the entire group shifts toward the more extreme views.

    01:07 So let’s come up with the example.

    01:10 Let’s say, this is a huge debate of what color pants you’re going to wear to go write your MCAT exam.

    01:17 and you’ve assembled a board of people and one side is saying, “Tarry, has to wear blue pants.” And the other side is saying, “No, he has to wear red pants 'cause red are his lucky pants.” And this big debate happens.

    01:29 Now some people might be on the red side, some might be on the blue by the end of that 3-hour discussion the group has clearly established that’s it’s going to have to be the blue pants.

    01:39 But people that originally for the blue pants are adamant of the blue pants and those were for the red pants before have now shifted towards the blue and collectively as a group, they’ve unanimously decide that’s it’s going to have to be blue pants, okay.

    01:54 So it’s an odd example but I think you kind of get the point.

    01:57 But what I wanted to highlight there is that in the beginning you had differentiating views by the end you have this extreme views that everybody thinks that it should be blue pants.

    02:05 Now, why does this happen? We’re going to look at two factors that influence this Group Polarization.

    02:13 The first is Informational influence.

    02:16 So individuals become more convinced of their views after hearing noble points to support their position.

    02:21 So say for example, we’re talking about a situation where we have a bunch of lawmakers.

    02:28 And this is something significant on the table.

    02:30 And they’re trying to decide whether they should or shouldn’t instill this law.

    02:34 And while sitting there some people who are for the law might state their points.

    02:39 And you might be on the same page as them but when you hear their views, you’re like that as completely “I didn’t think of it like that, that does make even more sense now.” And so you’re sort of adding more fuel to the fire.

    02:51 and they become more, more convinced of their own views after hearing this different points of other people are bringing to the table and support of their same view, okay.

    02:59 Now another option is Normative influences.

    03:02 This is the influence of others that lead us to conform in order to be liked and accepted and they end up taking a stronger stance.

    03:08 So in English again here, we’re saying is you want to go with the norms.

    03:13 So your influence about what others are thinking.

    03:16 So if everybody at the table is pretty strongly against or for particular stance you might say, "Well, maybe I should probably just do the same because that’s what everybody else is doing." So now, you are not really focusing your stance on information, you’re focusing more on following the rest of the group.

    03:37 Now, group think is another term.

    03:39 So this refers to the state of harmony within a group which really leads to conformity.

    03:45 It’s not always a good thing and results in irrational dysfunctional decision-making.

    03:49 So the analogy that we have is “You don’t want to rock the boat.” So if you’re at the table, and you actually have your own personal views about something but the bulk of the group is thinking opposite to you.

    04:01 Are you going to put up your hand and it will against everybody else to say, “Well wait a second, I don’t agree with that. I really think that this how we should do this.” You’re afraid that they’re will going to look at you and judge you and disagree with you and in turns into this big debate. So instead you say, “Well, I’m just not going to rock the boat and I’ll just conform, okay.” So that is really quite common especially in larger groups And think of yourself in a classroom, and in a classroom of say four people.

    04:33 You’re having a discussion and there's a debate around let’s say criminalizing or decriminalizing marijuana.

    04:41 And the bulk of the class is totally for decriminalizing marijuana.

    04:45 But you think that you should keep it illegal but there's a class of 4 people, 3 or 4 you’re against, are you going to say something most likely you will but all of a sudden if that classroom is an amphitheater with 200 students and your one and the only one who thinks that it should be continue to be an illegal substance, are you going to say something or you just going to say, “Well I don’t want to rock the boat if everybody is for it we'll leave it like that”, that’s probably what’s going to happen. This is an example of group think.

    05:16 Now what are some indicator of group think.

    05:19 One, the group is overly optimistic of its capabilities.

    05:22 So as a group to think – you know what we’re totally making the right decision here.

    05:26 When have they really valued all the different options, maybe not.

    05:31 And they become over confident or optimistic of what they’re going to do an what their view is.

    05:37 The second is they might actually demonize the views of the oppositions.

    05:40 We see this all the time in politics.

    05:42 So one party believes that their stance on social reform or on healthcare cost is completely accurate.

    05:48 And all the other parties were against or are going in a different opposition of what they’re saying are idiots, “Oh my God those guys don’t know what they’re talking about.” We see this all the time in politics especially when they are on the news having debates they demonize the views of the opposition.

    06:04 Another thing that happens is members may actually filter of views of dissenting members.

    06:09 So say there's a larger group and one person in the group does actually vocalizes and say, “Well, you know what, I don’t know about that. Yeah, yeah that’s fine and will consider it.” But do they actually consider it? Not always.

    06:21 Sometimes when they’re actually asking for feedback from a larger group and its being brought to say an executive table were that’s smaller group think is trying to make a decision, they’ll just conveniently kind of focus out of their face out the views of dissenting member and they’ll just focus more on those who were aligning of what they want the group to do.

    06:42 And finally individuals censor their own opinions and favor of consensus.

    06:46 So they might have something to say but because the group, the larger think tank here is agreeing on a certain motion they’re going to just say “Yeah, let’s just go at that that makes sense to me.” When really when you uncover all the smoke and mirrors they actually aren’t for that thought.

    07:01 So collectively we can see how a group can really influence what the final decision are being made as opposed to an individual making their own decisions.

    About the Lecture

    The lecture Group Polarization and Groupthink – Group Decision-making Processes (PSY, SOC) by Tarry Ahuja, PhD is from the course Social Processes That Influence Human Behavior.

    Included Quiz Questions

    1. The tendency for a group to make more extreme decisions than the initial views of its members.
    2. A group or individual who encourages others to change their attitudes, values, or behavior to conform.
    3. Anonymous data collection about a particular topic.
    4. The decreased likelihood of helping others in need when others are present.
    5. A behavior that is against the norms of society.
    1. Normative and informative influences
    2. Informative and peer influences
    3. Conformity and external control
    4. Sanctions and collective behavior
    5. Facilitation and deindividuation
    1. Overconfidence about one's views and capabilities
    2. The influence of alcohol in revealing an underlying opinion
    3. Agreeing with differing viewpoints
    4. Thoughtful consideration of alternative opinions
    5. Having individual members search out alternative ideas and bring them for discussion

    Author of lecture Group Polarization and Groupthink – Group Decision-making Processes (PSY, SOC)

     Tarry Ahuja, PhD

    Tarry Ahuja, PhD

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