Groupthink and Conformity

Groupthink and Conformity

By Crystal Tsui

Have you ever been in a group and did not agree with the group’s decision, but had to agree because they would reject your idea?  Irving Janis, a social psychologist, first coined the term groupthink to describe this situation. His main aim was to understand how a group of individuals collectively come up with excellent decisions one time and fail at other times. Groupthink happens when a group of people with good intentions, but they make irrational decisions that are spurred by the urge to conform. Group members value harmony and coherence above rational thinking and refrain from expressing doubts and judgements or disagreeing with the consensus.

Irving Janis observed the following eight patterns of groupthink:

  1. Illusions of Invulnerability: when the group displays excessive optimism and takes big risks, the members of the group feel that anything they do will turn out to be successful.
  2. Collective Rationalization: when the group rationalizes thoughts or suggestions that challenge what the majority is thinking
  3. Belief in Inherent Morality of the Group: the belief that whatever the group does will be right. This causes the group members to overlook the consequences of what they decide.
  4. Out Group stereotypes: is the belief that those who disagree are opposing just to oppose the group
  5. Direct Pressure on Dissenters: the majority directly threatens the opposing group member by telling them that they can always leave the group if they don’t agree.
  6. Self-Censorship: the opposing individual believes that if they are the only odd one out then they must be the one who is wrong.
  7. Illusions of Unanimity: Silence from some is considered acceptance of the majority’s decision
  8. Self-Appointed Mind Guards: Members of the group who take it upon themselves to discourage alternative ideas from being expressed in the group.

There are numerous studies supporting the fundamentals of groupthink and conformity. One famous study was the Asch Conformity experiment. Solomon Asch gathered his participants to take a vision test where three lines at varied lengths were compared to one other; which was longer. The participants were asked to identify the lines with matching lengths. Ninety-five percent of participants answered every question correctly. Then Asch placed actors in the groups, who confidently volunteered the same incorrect answer. The accuracy dropped to 25 percent, indicating that 75 percent of the participants went along with the group’s incorrect answer for at least one question.

An Emory University neuroscientist, Gregory Berns, found that when we take a stance different from the group, we activate the amygdala, a small region in the brain associated with the fear. We don’t like to be rejected so we refrain from speaking up against the group, which supports Janis’ pattern of groupthink: Direct Pressure on Dissenters. Professor Berns defined this situation as “the pain of independence.” Many government decisions are cited as a result of groupthink, such as the Vietnam War or the invasion of Iraq.

Groupthink also fosters a strong “us vs. them” mentality that prompts members to accept group perspectives in the heat of the moment, where there is also a strong pressure from the outside to make a good decision. An example in literature is George Orwell’s Animal Farm, where the animals make a nonunanimous decision to rid the farm of humans. There were animals there that quite adored being loved and owned by a human, however, those animals had to agree because the leader of the animals would punish them otherwise.

After periodically experiencing groupthink, an individual may become shy and become more introverted. They may be afraid to speak and include their own ideas in fear of the group rejecting their idea.

If you or someone you know have social anxiety and fear of speaking up, please contact our psychotherapy offices in New York or New Jersey to talk to one of our licensed professional psychologists, psychiatrists, psychiatric nurse practitioners, or psychotherapists at Arista Counseling & Psychotherapy. Contact our Paramus, NJ or Manhattan, NY offices respectively, at (201) 368-3700 or (212) 722-1920 to set up an appointment. For more information, please visit http://www.counselingpsychotherapynjny.com/ .

Sources:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/groupthink

https://www.communicationtheory.org/groupthink/

https://www.capitalideasonline.com/wordpress/the-pain-of-independence/

https://counselingrx.files.wordpress.com/2019/07/f74c8-1d9gxs1dxyteswk7e7zgd2q.jpeg

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Shyness and Introversion

Shyness and Introversion

By Crystal Tsui

We all know someone who prefers to stay in rather than go out and party or someone who barely talk in a group setting. We may call them shy, quiet, or maybe socially awkward. But they may just be an introvert. Introversion and shyness are often times used together. However, shyness revolves around the fear of negative judgment while introversion is the preference for quiet, minimally stimulating environments. So it is possible for a person to be a shy extrovert, where the individual is afraid to speak up, fearing negative judgment, more so than exhausted in a certain social situation.

Despite the difference, there is also an overlap between shyness and introversion, e.i. many shy people are introverted. Some people are born with “high-reactive” temperaments that predispose them to both shyness and introversion. A shy person may become more introverted over time, motivated to discover the pleasures of solitude, other minimally stimulating social environments, and to move away from judgments. On the other hand, an introvert may become shy after continually receiving the message that there’s something wrong with them.

There’s a shared bias in our society against both shyness and introversion. Neither trait is welcomed in our society because studies have shown that we rank the fast and frequent talkers as more competent, likeable, and even smarter than slow and quiet talkers.

Here are 5 ways introverts can spend time that is deeply fulfilling and socially connected:

  1. Reading. Books transcend time and place. Studies have shown that reading fiction increases empathy and social skills.
  2. Enter a state of “flow” by doing work or a hobby that you love. Flow is the transcendent state of being, in which you feel totally engaged in an activity. People in flow don’t tend to wear the broad smiles of enthusiasm. When you watch them in action, the words “joy” and “excitement” don’t come to mind. But the words “engagement,” “absorption,” and “curiosity” do.
  3. Keep an informal quota system of how many times per week/month/year you plan to go out to social events and how often you get to stay home. This way you can plan which parties or get-togethers you can truly enjoy and which you don’t. So you are less likely to drive yourself mad thinking you should’ve stayed home.
  4. Have meaningful conversations.
  5. Spend time and show affection to the ones you love, whose company is so dear and comfortable that you feel neither over-stimulated nor anxious in their presence.

If you or someone you know is dealing with social anxiety or suffering from a disruption of their social life, please contact our psychotherapy offices in New York or New Jersey to talk to one of our licensed professional psychologists, psychiatrists, psychiatric nurse practitioners, or psychotherapists at Arista Counseling & Psychotherapy. Contact our Paramus, NJ or Manhattan, NY offices respectively, at (201) 368-3700 or (212) 722-1920 to set up an appointment. For more information, please visit http://www.counselingpsychotherapynjny.com/ .

Sources:

https://www.quietrev.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/QR_ebookMay8-2015.pdf

https://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/15/opinion/sunday/the-rise-of-the-new-groupthink.html?_r=0

https://live.staticflickr.com/627/21427437162_910d54e08e_b.jpg