“Group-Think” I Saw a Putty-Tat? I Did! I Did!
Tweety Bird was susceptible just like Tex and the gang, I guess…
Heck, according to studies done on this psychological phenomena termed, ”Group Think”, 80% of humans will succumb to an accepted group’s belief system, even if that system is known to be flawed by the individuals within that group.
Scary statistic, huh?
That if a leader of an isolated group says the world is flat and the higher echelon members of that group believe it also, then 80% of the people who actually know different, will acquiesce and agree that it is so.
Researchers on the subject controversially include into this mix, Moses, Jesus, Hitler, Jim Jones, Charles Manson, and yes, even George W. Bush and Rush Limbaugh!
Black is white and NOT black, if these leaders say it’s so to their following, and the followers have no problem relinquishing their inner core, abandoning their moral fibre, deserting their back bone in heralding, “Yes! You, our Leader, are right!”
These individuals who make up this 80% haven’t even had a speck of alcohol or illicit drugs in their system to cause this reaction. These are just plain, sober, everyday folks, from all walks of life, all socio-economic-cultural backgrounds, all bowing down to the erroneous beliefs of their Leader for the acceptance and approval within the group dynamic.
In the landmark 1971 paper entitled “Group Think among Policy Makers” Irving Janis coined the term and defined the phenomena as this;
“….Given the series of cautionary examples and the constant reaffirmation of norms, every dissenter is likely to feel under strong pressure to suppress his doubts, misgivings, and objections. The main norm, as I have already suggested, becomes that of sticking with the policies on which the group has already concurred, even if those policies are working out badly and have some horrible consequences that may disturb the conscience of every member. The main criterion used to judge the morality as well as the practical efficacy of the policy is group concurrence. The belief that "we are a wise and good group" extends to any decision the group makes: "Since we are a good group," the members feel, "anything we decide to do must be good."
In a sense, loyalty to the policy-making group becomes the highest form of morality for the members. That loyalty requires them to avoid raising critical issues, to avoid calling a halt to soft-headed thinking, and to avoid questioning weak arguments, even when the individual member begins to have doubts and to wonder whether they are indeed behaving in a soft-headed manner. This loyalty is one of the key characteristics of what I call groupthink.
I use the term groupthink as a quick and easy way to refer to a mode of thinking that people engage in when they are deeply involved in a cohesive in-group, when concurrence-seeking becomes so dominant that it tends to override critical thinking. Groupthink is a term of the same order as the words in the newspeak vocabulary George Orwell presents in his dismaying world of 1984, where we find terms like doublethink and crimethink. In putting groupthink into that Orwellian class of words, I realize that it takes on an invidious connotation. Exactly such a connotation is intended since the term refers to a decline in mental efficiency and in the ability to test reality and to make moral judgments. Most of the main symptoms of groupthink arise because the members of decision-making groups avoid being too harsh in their judgments of their leader's or their colleagues' ideas. They adopt a soft line of criticism, even in their own thinking. At their meetings, all the members are amiable and seek complete concurrence on every important issue with no bickering or conflict to spoil the cozy atmosphere….”
Now, if you place weak-minded souls with a domineering leader, isolate them from the real world, starve them physically and over-feed them mentally with mind-altering drugs and extremist values, the mix, as in the case of The Manson Family, can be lethal.
Katherine Share, aka Gypsy, stated in the TV programme “Most Evil” that even though Manson preached End of Days to the group, individuals within The Family would go into town and see average human beings laughing, talking, happily swimming at the beach, etc., the incongruous experience wouldn’t register in them as a sign that what Manson was saying was anything but truthful and inevitable.
You add to that the constant state of unease around Spahn Ranch, the isolation of that locale from the real world and the inner core members/followers of Manson willing to say or do anything to please their guru, and even if it hadn’t been 10050 Cielo Drive on August 8th, eventual destruction of innocent lives would have been the result, the individuals of group far too narcissistic to take their own lives in revolt, as in the form of group suicide, as many modern day cult members do.
It is my opinion, that without each and every one of the eventual killers having some pre-existing, innate amount of narcissism, anti-social disorder or sociopathic tendencies, Manson’s Group Think powers would not have ended in a murderous reaction to outside stressors. It was the conflagration of such persons, a highly abnormal environment and drug abuse which made this dysfunctional, psychological phenomenon take hold, grow and bloom into such an evil entity.
When next you and your friends go out for coffee and all but you say the coffee is vanilla flavoured when you KNOW it’s caramel, decide if your instincts would make you one of the 80% of Group Think sufferers, and with a Buck knife in your hand, make you one of Manson’s 80%, if you had found yourself on a dusty driveway in front of Spahn’s Ranch in 1969.