October 10, 2014

The Danger of ‘Group Think’

All throughout evolution, different species have decided how their societies would be formed. Sometimes like the Tigers, they have decided to go alone, like lions in smaller groups or like wolves in packs.

The human species however carry the traits of almost all species. We have had individual thinkers – visionaries who changed the world with the light of their knowledge. We have had the world’s first democratic councils in Athens and in India where the Lichhavi council stood up to invasions and we have had clans travelling on their horsebacks plundering without a second thought – The tigers, the lions and the wolves.

Anthropologic studies have shown (For those interested in further studies, do look up Dunbar’s Number) that any human being can possibly maintain between 100 to 200 social relationships and that is the reason we lose touch with great friends from yesteryears.

But over the last few months, I have also been realizing how thought processes evolve. More and more due to structured thinking so ingrained into our education and corporate system, we are seeing a situation where otherwise intelligent individuals tend to follow ‘group think’. It’s evident in various ways that it manifests itself; we crave for leaders who show ‘direction’, leaders desire those that follow without question and a huge rung of the in-betweens try to figure out which way the wind blows. They are the ones who struggle to find, adopt and worship ‘best practice’

The biggest danger of ‘group think’ happens in a mob. Rational individuals, who can make socially acceptable decisions on their own, often change their behaviour completely in a crowd. That’s why you have bystanders who become a mob that tears down shutters, looting and plundering.

Cowardice also spreads due to this behaviour. Imagine a crowd facing one individual who for the right reason or wrong, makes the first attack. Suddenly the entire crowd forgets they have the power of numbers and slink back. While all of you would have laughed at Bollywood heroes for taking on a gang single handed, it has its basis in how humans behave.

The ubiquitous middle class of every society is the one that faces this conundrum. Years of conditioning have taught them to live in their cocoons, living in an imagined world of security. That’s why whenever there is a problem, we tend to turn our backs or try to go in as a group, but never alone. This is also the reason why most revolutions in the world are brought in by students who have not yet succumbed to the pressure of ‘group think’.

The world requires thinkers who have not been conditioned by ‘group think’ and that seems to be a challenge.


Anonymous said...

Group think big, group think tight.

Madhurjya Banerjee said...

How well I know where this comes from!!!