What are social groups?
Social groups are collections of people who have something in common and who believe that what they have in common is significant. This commonality between the members of the group could be a task that they are trying to accomplish, a relationship that binds them together, a common part of their identity like race, ethnicity and so on. These groups can either be primary groups- small and tightly knit, bound by a strong sense of belonging- or secondary groups which are large and loosely connected. Sometimes, these groups are created by forming boundaries between ‘us’ and ‘them’ but it’s also flexible.
Social group interactions
Mina Cikara, in her talk When I becomes We, emphasizes on how groups satisfy the need to belong. She also mentions how group on group interactions can be more abrasive, aggressive and competitive than one on one interactions. I experienced this when our class was split in two for the debate on empathy. When we asked the team against us questions and tried to debate with them, I could feel myself getting more irritated and my voice rising when they would not agree with the point my team was trying make. I observed that not only in myself but in my teammates and among the members of the other team as well. Read more on agression here.
Leaders in social groups
Another important feature of groups are how leaders always seem to emerge. These leaders are usually the ones who influence others in the group. There are different leadership styles. Authoritarian leaders lead by giving orders and setting down rules which they expect the group to follow. Democratic leaders, on the other hand, lead by trying to reach a consensus. While the type of leaders has an effect on group efficiency, other factors like group diversity, social loafing and groupthink can also effect group performance.
Effeciency in social groups
A more diverse group is more efficient in completing tasks because each member brings a unique thought or skill to the table. However, if the individuals do not feel like they are being held accountable or responsible, it could lead to social loafing. One way to make sure that social loafing does not occur is to make sure that each individual knows that they will be individually evaluated. Using the same example of the class debate, by asking a person in the group to keep track of those who contributed to the discussions, it ensured that there was no social loafing and everyone voiced their thoughts which lead to a discussion with lots of different ideas and thoughts.
Emergence of groupthink in social groups
The narrowing of thought in a group by which its members come to believe that there is only one particular correct answer is called groupthink. When groupthink occurs, the members cannot consider any other option or think beyond the decision made by the group. This could especially lead to dangerous consequences like hate groups and group aggression. One way of reducing group aggression would be by making people think about themselves as individuals rather than just group members. In the video below, a former member of a neo-Nazi group talks about how he realized the wrongness of his actions after only after he started thinking about himself and his life as an individual.
How do we reduce groupthink?
By making sure that deindividuation does not take place and the members of the group are still able to think individually and for themselves, we can reduce groupthink and aggression and ensure that groups work efficiently and in a way that is beneficial to society.