I haven’t posted in a good while simply due to the amazing number of things that have happened the past few days. In summary, Friday, I spent some time hanging with the boys, tried several new things and had a real relaxed night. It was actually quite unreal how many things happened in a span of a few hours (like discovering delicious chicken in Sobey’s downtown). Saturday I spent time with the work crew enjoying some cooled beverages (playing very fun games with cooled beverages) and some time on Whyte in Billiards Club (where incidentally I know some of the workers). Sunday was pretty much recovery mode and a bit of reading. I’m not going to go too deep into the events, but suffice to say that Sunday was unreal bad in the morning trying to cure the headache.
In a rare combination of inspiration from four fronts, I managed to find some explanations in Chapter 2 Groups, from my fourth year Social Psychology textbook (Gilovich, Keltner & Nisbett). I have been curious about the problem posted by Joey concerning the issues of working in a group under pressure, why I have embraced alcohol so adamantly in the last 30 days, why I like studying in Second Cup/Rutherford Library and why 17 students from Central High’s Sedgewick public school turned themselves to authorities over a vicious hazing incident(where students were stripped of their pants and hit with such items as cheese graters attached to bats). I suppose the underlying question is what is the overall driving force in groups that causes such extremes as polarization and risk taking? I found a few important concepts that really seemed to hit home.
Emergent properties of groups are those which tend to exist only when people are in groups (defined as a collection of individuals who have relations to one another, with a significant amount of interdependence). Some of the common effects can include the enhanced performance of simple, well learned tasks. For example, I have noted that simple reading/highlighting papers tend to increase with efficiency while studying in coffee shops or libraries with large numbers of people around. What is interesting is that the minute this study session turns into a complex mission, such as synthesizing my literature into an essay, it goes downhill and I must go back into my room and type the night away in isolation. Robert Zajonc suggests that the mere presenc eof others facilitates simple/well learned tasks because we are more aroused. Due to the complex nature of humans, it is important that we prepare ourselves of possible situations. Secondarily, this leads to a dominant response, the tensing of the body which provides a faster response/more likely to undergo behavior. Finally, this dominant response tends to be the correct one only for simple tasks, as it is usually reflexive/instinctive by nature.
How does this apply in the real world? When I am simply reading a chapter and tabbing pages with summaries, it is more efficient to stay in the presence of others. Instead of in my room where I have not done crap all today. It also means that working out in the gym is much more efficient than it is at home. I easily double the time required for a full workout by staying in my room. Unfortunate really, but at least I know why. Also in really cool news, I bought a three hole puncher, Post-Its (colored ones are effing 8 bucks!) and tabs to make a delicious combination of organization and binder. Sweet.
The next issue I was interested in was how drug use, such as alcohol, has become such a popular tool in today’s society. I was most curious applying it towards my own nature, as I have only recently started participating in social drinking events, and have enjoyed the times there rather fondly(too much). Interestingly, this behavior can be associated with the behavior of mobs, where the reduced sense of individuality accompanied by diminished self regulation can lead to deindividuation. Occurring both in large groups, or under the influence (where people literally lose themselves/sense of self in the bottle). This provides a basis for irrational/emotional/antisocial behavior. The impulsivity implied by Zimbardo’s model is often liberating, especially for people who undergo much of their life in a straightjacket of cognitive control. Personally, I feel that this is a large reason that I have “blossomed” per say (note that I am not personally condoning alcoholism) this month. I feel truly exquisite, that I am no longer under the pressure to conform to my life as an undergraduate, that I can now truly embrace my education as an end, rather than a means to an end. There are certainly other factors that seem to play into this account (notably the annoyingly conservative jacket that Asian culture tends to force feed down our throats). Unfortunately this is also a dangerous path, as people who are high on self consciousness (I most definitely fall under this category) are twice as likely to relapse into addicitonal habits (including drug usage). Baumesiter aruges that alcoholism, binge eating (definitely under my radar!), suicide (don’t worry about that) and masochism (no) are ways of escaping self consiousness and not attending to the self. OMG. Clearly my personality has a means of sliding down a very slippery slope. Therefore I must be cautious and weary about my weekend happenings.
The next point I was interested in was that of group decision making. Typically groups have been found to be more riskier/conservative by nature than where individual thought tends to lie (James Stoner). Take for example the 17 students who decided that stripping/assaulting their freshmen classmates at Sedgwick high school was a fine idea. Despite the horrifying nature, and what most persons would deem highly immoral, they managed to keep an entire school (indeed even parents) silent to investigating authorities. Why? Groups tend to make riskier decisions and even after that, individuals tend to continue such extremes on their own (an idea known as polarization). The persuasive arguments theory suggests that the average person is exposed to a larger pool of arguments in favor of their already inclined to take position. What this means is that while sitting with persons with similar dispositions, you are likely to develop a much more charged side (whether it be more conservative or risky). This is augmented by the lack of standards to compare one’s position with. People tend to use their peers to determine a location on the distribution of opinions. This tends to lead to a discrepency and they try to reclaim the right position, leading to further polarization (social comparison theory). I really like this idea, because there have been numerous times where I have found my position augmented by group settings. This can explain the 180 the high school clique pulled from assault to confessional, or the way my cohort increasingly pushes me to the yes camp for a doctorate despite my lack of experience. It is also rather uneasy to see how simple work politics can become so charged/negative, simply from group discussions. I don’t think its as easy as disbanding cliques in schools/workplaces but at least there’s a base to work on.
I hope I didn’t just text spew there, but I found this immensely interesting and relevant. I was going to analyze Joey’s link to the Challenger incident with the ideas of group think, but I’m kind of panicked about my counselling class readings that are largely untouched as of now at ten pm. I must shuffle along.