July 14, 2010
Social Influences on Behavior
Several social situations can determine an individual’s behavior. There are phenomena that can facilitate certain behavior’s, like social loafing, groupthink, and social facilitation. These particular phenomena can have either a negative or a positive influence on an individual. We must take into account what the behavior entails and whether or not these behaviors require an intervention. Groupthink
Social psychologist Irving Janis (1972) coined the term groupthink (Allyn & Bacon, 1998). Several factors must be involved to consider a decision as a groupthink behavior. For example, individuals will not examine other avenues of behavior; also, they will not criticize the groups’ behavior. There is usually a negative consequence of this type of behavior. Lack of self-esteem can contribute to an individual’s ability to remain autonomous. This type of individual will succumb to the groups’ behavior. A hypothetical scenario where groupthink might take place would be in a social network like high school. In high school, where we need to fit in, peer pressure and the like, it is very easy to believe that one group could influence an individual to go along with an activity, even if it is not on their moral compass. Of course, if this groupthink allows an individual to continue with destructive behavior, then a therapeutic intervention may be necessary. An obvious destructive group behavior that encompasses peer pressure is drug abuse. It is hard to separate groupthink from peer pressure, even though peer pressure can involve one individual influencing another; it still follows the same line of thinking. If a group of the in crowd is doing recreational drugs and they invite an individual into that fold, this particular individual will follow the crowd. Jonestown was a massive groupthink that ended in tragedy. The Peoples Temple took in those that where in search of an identity. Each one of them needed a place to belong. No matter how bizarre the request were from Jones, it was better than not belonging. Being a part of Jim Jones circle seemed as if you were the only one in the world to him. It was part of his charisma and charm. Just as quickly were you brought into the inner sanctuary of his “love”, you were just as quickly discarded. Not for good mind you, because he needed you to still believe, despite the abuse, the neglect and the verbal lashings. These are the rules that were in play that allowed Jim Jones to take it to such an extreme. The mindset of this group was a “shared illusion of invulnerability” Secondly, is the “direct pressure placed on the individual” Thirdly, is the “pressure of a sanctimonious mindset within the group and the unquestioned belief in the inherent morality of the in-group which inclines the members to ignore the ethical or moral consequences of their decisions” (Canadian Content, 2005). This mindset was prevalent amongst the followers of the People’s Temple. This is of course the extremes of groupthink.
Social loafing is a phenomenon that is seen in a group or team and mostly within a business setting. Social loafing by definition is literally exerting less effort on a project that includes a group, than would be exerted if it were an individual effort (Williams & Karau, 1991). A perfect example of this is online school’s that have teams incorporated into the curriculum. In a team, there will always be an individual or even a set of individuals that do not participate at all. More often than not, there is an unfair amount of work placed on certain individuals, while others’ do not take up the slack...