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The Importance of Collective-Thinking: An In-Depth Analysis

Updated on January 31, 2013
Are we imprisoning ourselves from good ideas? From accepting others? Are we just setting ourselves up for disaster?
Are we imprisoning ourselves from good ideas? From accepting others? Are we just setting ourselves up for disaster? | Source

Importance of Group-work: Why do we work together?

Have you noticed any trends about the beliefs of the world? I'll do an easy one. Let's compare religions of areas- Israel and the United States. he United States is dominated by the Christian faith. However, when we start moving in a different direction towards Israel, we see that the population is over 70% Jewish. Why is this? It may seem better for an individual to just accept the belief system that has become the social norm of the area- we can see this through an evolutionary standpoint. However, there may be some downfalls when we fall into this kind of collective thinking. Collective thinking occurs in group-work. So why do we work together? Although group-work may have it's obvious benefits, we have to consider all parts and effects of collective-thinking.

How Our Group-Work Started: The Biological Beginnings of Collective Thinking

Cells developed simple forms of behavior. Cells could move their cilia of flagella to get to energy (food), and developed chemotaxis, which allowed them to sense toxic chemicals in their environment and move away from it. Cells’ environments allowed for other important systems inside the cell to develop, such as a place to keep genetic information (nucleus), mitochondria, chloroplasts, etcetera. Bacteria could extract energy and use it to live.

This is the goal of nearly all living things (with exception to some humans): to continue living. We can see this with even the simplest cells, as the develop systems and abilities that allow them survive and live. Chemotaxis allowed for the exchange of genes between these different organisms to exchange. Cells could generate molecules similar to pheromones and hormones to communicate with one another.

Collective Thinking & Hierarchy

Multi-cellular animals are composed of subsystems (tissues, organ systems), which are formed by cells. We can take note of this sort of hierarchy that occurs in the body, where each higher level contains lower levels. Hierarchical systems go into many levels- anywhere from a cell’s system, to a human body, to a city, state, country, earth, universe… it’s an ever increasing network of systems.

It was important for an individual to comply with the larger system- so they can be a part of the larger system (culture/society), because being a part of a culture/society/area has benefits that optimize their survival. When humans began using tools, organizing into groups to hunt together, it benefited them greatly. They had more food, when working in groups learned what tools could better protect themselves and the group, and was just overall better for their survival.

From the early beginnings, group-work had its benefits.

Would we view the world differently if there was less focus on group-work and collective thinking?
Would we view the world differently if there was less focus on group-work and collective thinking? | Source

Is Group-Work Really Necessary?

As technology/tools became increasingly complex to the point at which we’ve reached today, this idea of group-think/decision-making still is apparent, but is no longer necessary for life/death survival. However, emotions, whose possible origins may start from common human phobias, cause the need for social-survival to occur within us. Learning what is socially acceptable is pertinent to survival today.

Darwin recognized the importance of emotions, informing one animal about the state of another animal. Humans have learned responses to situations, allowing for emotion to be relatively easy to convey to others (though emotions can get complicated). The social group or culture that we make up, affects our emotional states.


It's Easier to Go With the Flow of Society & Accept Ideas

Emotional responses can be more rapid than reasoned ones, and more often than not, it is easier to be emotionally “there” with a culture’s ideas than it is to think of a logical or reasonable response or idea of your own. It is easy for one to get caught up in the emotional hype of religion compared to going against a dominant idea of a society. Also, it is more socially appropriate to comply than it is to go against.

Societies program people basically to not think for themselves, and the reward for conformity is not being ostracized. People can socially survive this way. In some societies though, to not conform to the belief system could actually mean death or it may be necessary to sacrifice one’s self.

For many of us though, in America, this is not the case.


Group-work isn't all bad. However, it may not be healthy to be so focused on this idea of "collective thinking". Maybe we are hindering progress.
Group-work isn't all bad. However, it may not be healthy to be so focused on this idea of "collective thinking". Maybe we are hindering progress. | Source

Analysis & Conclusion

Surviving by working in groups was a necessary step for the human species to continue. However, in order to work in groups, collaborate, and survive, a system for communication needed to be established.

The increasing need for collaboration, along with episodic and mimetic intelligence, probably played a central role in the origins of language. According to Merlin Donald, a cognitive neurologist, there are four main stages of cognitive evolution in primates and hominids, which revolves around the idea that older systems and their associated brain structures are enclosed by newer ones, all of which operate in parallel: episodic, mimetic, mythic and theoretic. Episodic intelligence, or when single events can be remembered as well as remembering complex social relationships, which requires a large memory capacity, is a sort of present-centered, environmentally driven intelligence. Mimetic intelligence, according to Donald, resembles the extra linguistic features of the “modern mind” and mimetic abilities grow out of episodic abilities. To put it simply, mimetic intelligence is kinetic communication, aka the non-verbal communication. Perhaps episodic and mimetic intelligence, along with the need for cooperation brought about the development of language and culture. Learning verbal language is essential in the development of human selves, because this is when internal narrative may have come about.

. “Perhaps a system that evolved for communication with other individuals---your mouth speaks, other ears listen, others speak, you listen---could change into communication within the individual: speaking and listening to oneself”

- Bownds

Although it may be easier to just "go with the flow"- but it plays a big role in how you perceive the world and how you understand someone who has different beliefs and ideas from yourself. Collective-thinking can actually hinder our thinking- when we just accept the paradigms laid out for us, we don't think. We just accept. We are not actively playing a role in thinking. This is why America feels so superior as a country and everyone else who isn't America is inferior.

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