Looking back to the time the United States decided to invade Iraq we seemed to come together as a nation. France, Germany, and Russia pleaded with us to not do it. We, as a result, stopped eating at French restaurants and started calling French fries American fries. Most of us will now agree that that invasion of Iraq was an expensive mistake.
If we are Red Sox fans we dislike anything Yankees, same with Dodgers and Giants. We either like Fords or we like Chevys. We don’t need facts to make these decisions.
It seems that it is human instinct to become emotionally attached and we don’t need reasons to do so, we will make those up as we go or accept what we hear that is in line with our emotionally based decisions. This causes us to be susceptible to group think.
Group think requires individuals to avoid raising controversial issues or alternative solutions, and there is loss of individual creativity, uniqueness and independent thinking.
Sharon Begley’s Science Journal that appeared over a period of time in the Wall Street Journal, a conservative publication, told us that social psychologists have shown it is the group with which we identify, not individual personality that often determines behavior. We begin to see what the group sees and stop seeing some of the things that we were seeing.
But, pull us out of a group and we will have more nuance, flexibility, and doubt. We are not so sure anymore as individuals outside of our group, whereas in a group we are convinced of what we are saying and doing. The group we join is very important. That group could be friends, it could be our employer, it could be our church, it could be a political party, or it could be the mental prison more and more of us seem to be finding ourselves in. In either case, it doesn’t change with age—young or old, we are influenced by our group.
Psychology experiments show how disturbingly easy it is to manipulate people into committing atrocities. Groups inculcate a sense of belonging and hence obligation to a group.
Has our spouse, friend, relative ever said to us that we seem different, that we have changed, and that there is an aspect of us they don’t like that they didn’t realize was there? Has clinging to a political party caused us to ignore friends and relatives that cling elsewhere? Are we becoming more assertive or bossier? Are we becoming more tolerant or judgmental? Are we becoming more patient and calm or more restless and rude? Are we becoming conforming or less conforming? Do we see more of the big picture or just our own perspective? Are we becoming more humble or is ego sprouting its wings.
Right now everybody is worried about which Party will be the majority Party. Everything we hear is all about manipulating us and not about being honest with us. We can’t change facts but everybody is willing to twist them hoping that group think will override individual thinking. Group think makes us latch onto the silliest thing we hear without questioning it regardless of how shallow it is to begin with.
News shows and politicians never clearly define a problem and instead jump in with Republican or Democratic strategist positions and posturing. That’s not how change happens. Problems have to be identified, clearly identified, sized up, and have consensus that the problem is real and solutions are needed. Then and only then are alternative solutions shared and evaluated, and then finally once agreement is made on the right solution, do we go forward, all of us, together.