One of the dangers of our world today is group-think. It occurs as a person lets identification with a group cloud their reasoning and deliberations when reaching a position on a given issue. At best, it is a rhetorical device. At it’s worst, it can be a very harmful replacement for sensible thought. In fact, it is considered one of the common fallacies of modern society.
Group-think can be found in many areas of life. Group identification begins at an early age, when children take on the beliefs of their families, and later when they band together with their group of friends on the school playground. When youngsters join Boy or Girl Scouts, a team, a club, or even as students in their school, the group becomes a source of identification. More harmful to children and society, are the gangs that are created to fulfill the human need to belong.
When individuals identify with the state where they live, or a country of their heritage or origin, they relate to other individuals from the same state or country in their views of the world around them. This type of group identification indicates that they are part of a group of people who share the same life experience.
As people join religious denominations, civic organizations, and other community groups, they again identify with groups of people. It is common to find the people in the group thinking along the same lines as they perceive the others in the group to be thinking. When this is negative, it can be the cause of harmful and dangerous actions. Consider the mind set of a cult. This is one of the most dangerous forms of group-think. We’ve seen how group-think has led to the decimation of an entire community of cult members when they’ve been under the influence of a dangerous leader.
Another prime example of group-think is nationalism. It is the “my country, right or wrong, my country” mentality. It allows no room for logic or reason. When a national leader implies that if a country’s citizens are not totally aligned with his or her policies, they are not patriotic, group-think has come into play on a large scale. While patriotism is good and desirable, blind patriotism is not, and the fallacy is apparent when individual thought is replaced by group-think.
Group-think is common whenever individuals’ affiliations become a priority and a major identity factor. It is deceiving and enticing because belonging is so psychologically important to humans. We have all felt the need to strongly identify with a group and to enthusiastically embrace the ideals and beliefs espoused by its leaders and other members.
But it is wise to recognize that the language of group-think is usually designed to arouse the emotions so that conclusions will be accepted even though they lack logical support. If there is no evidence to support the views or beliefs that have been adopted or endorsed by a group of people, it may be good to examine the possibility that one is under the influence of group-think.