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The Psychology of group think

Categories: General | Author: David O'Leary | Posted: 11/30/2004 | Views: 4187
So I do this thing called Philosophical Cafe whenever I get a chance. It's led by a Webster University professor and is run as a simple discussion. If you're interested, let me know and I'll keep you up to date on when it's happening... anywho, here's some thoughts from tonights discussion...
The topic was, "Is there a mass psychology". It was quite broad as they tend to be and the discussion shifted around quite a bit but it was one of the best discussions I've ever been involved in... I won't even attempt to capturing it all, and even if I did, it might be meaningless to you, but even so, I want to capture some ideas for my own usage as it helped develop some thoughts I haven't been able to express before...

The initial presenter framed the topic as, Is there a phenonmenom where, when placed in a group, individuals will act, not in their own best interest, but along with the group... examples: lynch mobs, white flight, Bush's election, war, ... I brought up examples of group think that were positive such as an Ant Colony where each individual ain't is non-intelligent but as an organism, an Ant Colony is quite impressive, likewise for the molecules, sub-systems, and systems that make up the human body...

From there we struggled a bit with the opposite question, are there free thinkers? And what does that mean? Is a free thinker necessarily a non-conformist or can a free thinker be very conformist as long as they truly think for themselves. Independence seems to be the key here where the thinker doesn't do something because it is or isn't popular or not, but based on as much unbiased information as they can gather, Informed Decisions.

From there we dipped into the impact of emotion and how it affected all this and then we revisited the original question.

Mass psycology seems to be driven more by emotion than by reason. When reason is involved people tend to go in many different directions, but when a strong emotion is involved, people come together around that emotion.

Fear is the best creator of group think, mass psycology, or mob mentality. Fear is THE motivating factor behind lynch mobs, NAZI germany, white flight, and war in general.

In an attempt to apply this to something, I looked at the recent election...
When people spoke of Kerry, the chief complaint was that he wasn't able to connect to people or that his sentences were too long... rationally, most people agree with what Kerry and the democrats stand for but emotionally, Kerry was stiff, boring, and robotic.

The republican's ran a much better campaign because they were able to connect to American's emotionally. The primary emotion was fear. Fear of terrorism, fear of losing their jobs, their healthcare, their social security, ... but the number one thing that won the election for them, was gay marriage... rural America is extremely afraid of the impact of legalized gay marriage and that issue is what shifted things to the Republicans...

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