Psychology of Group Mentality
Groups and the Social Needs of People
- Human beings are social creatures, making it natural for us to gravitate towards groups, where we believe we will find acceptance and inclusion.
A group is defined by two or more people interacting, influencing, and working together for their needs and achievement desires,
Every one of us is a member of some group. The people we work with, being part of a family, clubs, business associations, religious organizations, book clubs, bowling leagues, softball teams, political organizations, unions, Hub Pages, forums, user groups, and other internet sites, and many other types of groups. We sacrifice our time, energy, money and talents for the groups we join. Large groups make it difficult for members to interact, but being part of a group helps to satisfy our basic social needs.
What happens to the thinking of a person in a group?
A person gains a sense of power, which they would not necessarily feel capable of harnessing, if they were by themselves.
In a group, personal consequences are less, there is an anonymity, and personal responsibility, which controls people, disappears. The new characteristics of the group are actually unconscious manifestations of the individual. A trend takes place within the group that becomes contagious from one person to another. In a group every belief, every act, every emotion is taken in to such an extent, that the people in a group will often sacrifice their own personal interests for the collective interests.
In a group people make decisions based upon the actions of others. People lose their individualism and their conscious personality to obey the suggestions of the leaders of the group, who have deprived the individual of their uniqueness, compelling them towards the direction the group is headed towards.
However, while we lose some of our individual characteristics, we gain a sense of power of being part of something bigger than ourselves.
Groups of People
Emotions and Group Mentality
Emotions motivate much of what we do, unlike animals who rely more on their instinct.
Joining a group is attractive to human beings because we gain a great sense of belonging, interaction and interpersonal connections, and a sense of teamwork.
The psychology of group mentality involves the interaction between people and the dynamics of the group as a whole.
We affect each other. When our group environment is a collective negative energy field, we can become something we don’t want to be. When our group is a collective positive energy field, we are nourished and encouraged to become what we can be.
People in a group can believe they are part of the greatest, the best, the most wonderful, etc. This is known as group narcissism.
Oxytocin is a neurochemical in the brain, that is produced mainly in the hypothalamus where it is released into the bloodstream from the pituitary gland or to other parts of the brain and spinal cord. Then it binds to oxytocin receptors where it affects us physically our behavior, and It is triggered from social bonding.
Our brain is wired for survival. From the early days of man to today, an effective survival technique is to find safety and comfort in numbers. Our body wants us to feel good from this, so oxytocin is produced in social situations, making us feel content, secure, and safe. We are social animals and seek connections to get this chemical response. We get a good feeling from belonging to a group. This also makes us vulnerable to making incorrect decisions and prone to the herd mentality.
The People that Make Up Groups
People who comprise the group tend to be alike in age, beliefs, gender, and opinions, hobbies and interests, and views. Groups are often homogenous because the purpose of the group tends to attract people who are similar, even before they join.
It is also fascinating that groups are composed of individuals who may also have different lifestyles, occupations, personalities, intelligence, social statuses, and other factors. The idea that they have been transformed into a group puts all these people together into a collective singular mind which makes them think, behave, feel, and act in a way often quite different than each of them would think, behave, feel, and act if they were alone.
Groups of People
Group mentality can transform crowds of people, who otherwise might be civil to sometimes act in barbarian like ways. This comes from an excitement level and energy that emanates from the group
People in a group are led mainly by their unconscious. Impulsivity, being part of the majority, anonymity make the group’s feelings simple, yet exaggerated, making the people in the group emotional and excitable by the excessive stimulus.
Individually, people are motivated by their personal interests. In a group, the group is motivated by its impulsivity. Leaders who are charismatic, prestigious, and a magnetic force can often compel people to lose themselves to the group.
You would think that people, having a higher sense of intelligence, would know better than to follow the crowd. Yet, our instinct and our desire to be social leads to be part of something. Herd mentality lets people move in the same direction. Researchers have found that it only takes about 5% of people in a group to influence the behavior of the entire group.
How do Group Change People?
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Groups and the Social Needs of People
Social Norms and Group Mentality
Why We Imitate Other People
Science has discovered part of the reason we imitate comes from actual mirror neurons in our brain. When we watch what other people are doing, our mirror neurons are activated, making us naturally prone to imitate what we see others doing.
As individuals, we look for validation, acceptance, and support. As we observe the actions of others, mirror those actions, and give up our autonomy, we no longer make individual choices, we move to serve the purpose of the group.
Another aspect of groups is the idea that people imitate others. Imitation can be traced to our evolutionary roots, which helped primitive man adapt and survive by taking advantage of the success of others. Imitation, blindly following without using our intellect, can create erroneous decisions.
Groups and Social Norms
Social norms within a group are often unspoken rules that shape the behaviors, attitudes, and opinions of the group. Adhering to ths social norms of the group helps us become accepted in the group. Social norms help the group distinguish who is an outsider.
According to social psychologist, Deborah Prentice of Princeton University, people follow a group’s norms by observing the behavior of the leader of the group. If people’s observation causes misperceptions, social norms may shift. Misperceptions can lead to incorrect decisions, or risky behavior. When Prentice did a study with college students about their drinking habits, students were asked to estimate how much they believed other students drank. The study showed students often over estimated how much others drank. Participants who thought other students drank more, reported drinking more themselves.
There are times when misperceptions of the group’s social norms have led to positive effects. For example, people who have biases against others, may not let their opinions be known in order to be accepted in the group. Over time people begin to accept the group’s opinion and the bias is lessened.
Do Groups Change People
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How our Thinking Changes When We are in Groups
Although anyone is susceptible to group behavior, researchers have found that certain situations, certain personality types, and certain conditions prime people to participate in the group behavior. Researchers have found for example, adolescents who share antisocial characteristics and don’t have strong family bonds are more likely to search for their social identity in gangs. The more a person feels like they identify with the group, the more likely they are to conform and lose their self identity.
Scientists at MIT at the University of California, Berkeley, and Carnegie Mellon University studied the effects of mob mentality on the brain. Using MRIs, they found the part of the brain associated with morality and self awareness was not as active, allowing people to become less moral when part of a group. The tests showed that not everyone was susceptible to mob mentality. When people pay attention to their own moral standards, they were not as influenced by the mob mentality.
A study published in the journal NeuroImage, asked participants to play a game where they had to react quickly to the personalized messages that showed up on the screen in a competition for money. Some of the messages were related to moral codes. As the people played the game, the scientists monitored their medial prefrontal cortex, which is the part of the brain associated with reflection and moral judgment. The people who were told they were competing as part of a team, had less activity in that part of the brain when messages appeared. People who had lower prefrontal cortex activity tended to choose cruel and unflattering pictures of their opposing team when asked to select photos of them. The experiment also showed that not everyone was affected by being told they were part of a team. The scientists believe these people reflected more on their personal moral values.
As more research is done in the psychology of group mentality, we will learn more about ourselves and others. What we do know is that groups are an example of Aristotle's quote “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts”. The psychology of group mentality dynamically transforms an individual into the whole personality of the group.
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