The Almighty Group Revisited

by Vicki on May 30, 2014

A couple months ago, I blogged about the tendency for groups of people in complementary fields who “should” be able to appreciate alternative points of view but for whatever reason, emphatically do not.

In my post, I suggested that group dynamics might be at play in hindering people’s abilities to see alternative ideas including:

  • Groupthink
  • Group polarization
  • Discontinuity effect of inter-group conflict
  • Realistic group conflict theory
  • In-group favoritism

At the end of my initial post, I indicated I would blog at a later time on how social psychologists have managed to get people to see and move beyond the mighty hold of the group.

Based on a cursory survey of the literature of group dynamics, here is a list of things researchers suggest to avoid group biases:

  • Anticipate groupthink when working in groups. Monitor for it and have processes in place to mitigate it.
  • The role of a devil’s advocate is critical to any group. Assign one or more group members to this role and actively think through alternative points of view expressed from this perspective.
  • The composition and size of groups matter. Groups led by strong persuasive leaders, groups that are highly cohesive and groups that are large in size are especially at risk.
  • Avoid pressure to make a “good” or “right” decision. Intense pressure can push group members to censor themselves, not look at information objectively and not seek out alternatives (e.g., high stress and low hope of finding a solution).
  • Seek information from experts outside the group. It is in our nature to “buy” what our own group is “selling”. An external point of view is critical to good decision-making.
  • Actively invite criticisms and minority positions
  • Foster healthy communication and trust. Groups that enjoy these elements are less likely to fall prey to group biases.
  • Have group decisions evaluated by an external independent resource

After sifting through this literature, I still believe that professionals’ inability to see complementary points of view can partially be explained by the groups to which they subscribe and group biases.

But as it often happens when reading and writing about phenomena, new ideas have emerged that might help shed further light on this tendency. Specifically that process is persuasion, or:

…the process by which a person’s attitudes or behaviour are, without duress, influenced by communications from other people.
persuasion. (2014). In Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved from http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/453093/persuasion

My next blog post will explore the art and science of persuasion and how it may be used to help people see alternative points of view.

References
6 Steps for Avoiding Groupthink on Your Team
Avoiding Groupthink
Groupthink
Board Bias: Setting Acquisition Premiums
Mitigating the Negative Decision Making Consequences of Groupthink and Other Social Pressures

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: