Understanding the Evils and Dangers of Group think

We like to think of ourselves as individuals who think for ourselves. Our decisions are our own and while others may influence us they don’t control those decisions. This may be true for some people but for far more the tribal mentality of humanity reigns supreme. This can range from the Germans who went along during World War Two to the person who goes to the megahit just because others like it, and while often allowing others to impact your decision making is perfectly reasonable there are great dangers in “Group Think”

At its most basic group think is the desire to get along without conflict in a group. This is the natural outcome of the tribe in the early days of man. At this time there was little choice but group think because without that tribal unity we would have died out.

There have been many studies that show the dangers of this type of thinking though. One of the more entertaining involved a group of people who were put into a room. Nine of them were actors and one was a real person. They were and asked to silently fill out a questionnaire. Part way through the test they began to blow smoke under the door of the room. The nine actors would ignore the smoke and continue to fill out the forms. And most of the time so would the person who had no idea what was going on, seemingly willing to burn to death rather than say something about the smoke.

Another test by the same group involved a man pretending to have a heart attack on the streets of New York. Again most of the people on the streets were actors, but so long as they continued to walk past without paying attention most other people would also ignore the man dying in front of them, but as soon as someone else stopped a crowd would begin to gather.

Although the most powerful and dangerous versions of group think occurs in militaries and governments there are cases of it that hit far closer to home. One of the most common places that group think can negatively impact everyday lives is in the workplace. It is often far easier for otherwise useful and intelligent employees to simply go with the group. This can stop people from clearly analyzing the risk of a situation, refuse to speak their own opinions and the inability to reconsider any idea that has already been examined.

Whether it is our homes, our buying practices or our government we must struggle to avoid making choices simply because others are making a similar choice. We should work each day to think critically about the decisions we make asking ourselves and be willing to take the criticism for thinking and speaking our minds because while most people may be willing to subjugate their will to others it is the handful who don’t who truly change the world.