Find out how groupthink theory becomes groupthink manipulation in practice. Learn how it is used to profit and control people and what you can do to prevent from affecting your life.
A theory is a way of explaining how something works. It often relates to principles that govern cause-and-effect relationships. When others test the theory, it becomes accepted as a valid explanation. A theory is an accurate way to predict how things work. For instance, there is the theory of gravity. This is the case with our subject of groupthink.
What is Groupthink Theory?
Groupthink is when people think and act as one entity. It is a powerful influence that overrides an individual’s own thinking and ethical behavior. The agenda of the group is in the hands of the leader or speaker, they drive thinking and actions triggering instinctual and emotional priorities rather than common sense or logic.
The pressure to conform and belong often results in irrational or dysfunctional decision-making. It discourages critical thinking while negating the individual’s responsibility for their actions. Moreover, this type of brainwashing employing systematic psychological tactics to incite members to adopt radically different ideas and actions. One of the main tools of this brainwashing technique is classical censorship.
The general formula of groupthink theory is a simple but effective. Bring people together. A controlled space works best. But the TV screen is a good substitute. Then use gimmick to garner attention. Then, you use language which triggers deep emotional reactions like fear or hate. The group leader or speaker then uses peer pressure to solidify the action. The topics that work best are those the drive emotions which are the home of extremist ideologies. This keeps people from questioning the desired agenda or direction of the group.
How does it work?
Groupthink tactics work because people feel “special” because of their inclusion in the group. But, then they take on characteristics of the group which are programed by those who lead the group. Profit and control are the hidden agendas behind these tactics.
People feel emotionally charged, stimulated. So, the feelings of stimulation and belonging can be very addicting. These tactics are group mind or the mob effect. The idea of a group mind, herd or mob behavior is a theory put forward by the French social psychologists Jean-Gabriele de Tarde and Charles-Marie Gustave Le Bon. These researchers give us a way of identifying the tactics and effects of these types of psychological and sociological techniques. They prove this theory works.
When you become a part of a group, the natural tendency to belong causes the loss of your individuality. Exploiting this loss gives groupthink its power to motivate using emotionally charged discourse. This type of language compels people to act without considering their actions or consequences. In an emotionally charged crowd, the individual tends to act in sync with the group. This can lead the group to behave in ways the individual would not. So, inclusion in the group is not without a price. This is why these tactics are so dangerous for any civilization.
Groupthink theory often uses a scapegoat on which to project negative emotions. This focal point gives a charismatic leader an enemy on which to project blame. Adolph Hitler is an example of a leader who was an expert at these tactics. It is the tactic of con-men who hone their craft in public. Religion and politics are the two public spaces where this occurs most often.
Where are these tactics found?
Groupthink manipulation tactics are more common than you realize. This strategy at work in Western organized religion, politics and even street gangs. Above all, religion is the biggest enemy of progress. It’s the chosen-one mentality and belief in the imaginary being known as God. We even see it celebrations of sports teams which turn into vandalism. The negative sociological effects of this type of psychological manipulation are undisputed. Once immersed in the emotionally charged environment, it becomes addictive. The effects can last long after people leave the group. Thus, providing fuel to individual acts of violence.
Religions have long used Groupthink manipulation for profit and control. They use it to protect their paradigm up to and including genocide. Christians and Muslims retaliate against one another in under the guise of protecting their invisible friend. These religions have splintered into thousands of separate sects. Each sect believing they alone are “right.” And, because everyone else is wrong, this provides the basis to act violently, to protect their doctrine. If you ascribe to one of the versions of the Abrahamic traditions the following list of tactics should be illuminating.
Characteristics of Groupthink Manipulation
If you find yourself subject to any of the following characteristics, you are exposing yourself to these tactics.
Membership in the group makes you special, a “chosen one.” Membership in the group centers on belief in an imaginary friend. And, this membership empowers the group to protect the solidarity of the dogma of the group. They are often provoked to use violence in order to protect these beliefs. Everyone outside the group become enemies of the group by default. This provides plenty of adversaries on which to project hatred. Many religions and political movements capitalize on this feature.
Illusions of Invulnerability
Now because you are chosen you must also be invincible. This inspires members of the group to be overly optimistic. Members engage in risk-taking outside their personal norms. They are willing to participate in violent acts on behalf of the group, in the name of their imaginary friend. Membership resolves people from individual responsibility for their actions while encouraging participation. A charismatic leader will use this element repeatedly.
Unquestionable beliefs or creeds
Requiring members to avoid and ignore any inconsistencies in the dogma of the group. Likewise, they are taught to ignore the consequences of individual and group actions. The edict is to follow the beliefs and the actions of leadership without questioning the logical or moral implications. Hence, members are often required to recite dogma, doctrines or creeds on a regular basis to confirm their assimilation.
Complete Social integration
Groupthink seeks to integrate the individual’s life as much as possible. This acts just like social glue. The idea to have the individual’s personal and business life tied into the group. Integrating the individual’s social and business relationships with those in the group cement them into the group. They are far less likely to push the boundaries of the group. In fact, this makes them a reliable source of cash flow and easily manipulated into other less socially acceptable behaviors.
Rationalizing actions replaces remorse. It provides logical fallacies as a means of justifying group actions. This effectively prevents members from reconsidering their beliefs and behaviors. The misuse of logical argument causes members to disregard warning signs of manipulation. Facts that contradict the dogma of the group are off-limits or reasoned away in some way. The result is the intentional misrepresentation of mythology as fact.
This leads members of the group to demonize individuals not a part of the groupthink’s ideas. And, it provides a scapegoat on which the negative emotions of the group can focus.
Self-censorship refraining from entertaining thoughts which conflict with the cultural narrative of the group. This causes members who may have doubts to hide their concerns. Because the individual becomes integrated into the group, loss of membership would be devastating on many levels. Loss of membership means loss of significant social and sometimes also business connections. This fear can extend beyond expulsion and ostracization from the group. It can include violence. This is because extremist sects believe that rejecting groupthink dogma warrants is tantamount to rejecting their Supreme Being. And, it is this relates back to the chosen one mentality. So, self-censorship of thoughts is paramount. And, they are aware of the Mind-guards that identify problematic members.
People act as group censors. This job may be formal or informal. They circulate in groups of the organization. These individuals discourage or hide problematic sources and information from members and the group(s). They inform the leadership of members who may be questioning the boundaries of thought/belief.
Illusions of unanimity
Lead members to believe that everyone in the group is in total agreement. Public demonstrations and examples use groupthink to align members.
Social Group Psychological Pressure
In order to ensure compliance groupthink requires members to attend frequent meetings. Here the leader repeats and reinforces the edicts of belief and boundaries. No matter what superficial reason for the meeting they always circle back to reinforce the underlying themes above.
These meetings are often mandatory. It is also common to set up small group meetings. Small group leaders are often also Mind-Guards. Peer group pressure is a common strategy. This helps to ensure attendance because it is the continual exposure to these techniques which cements the membership.
Profit and Control
The underlying agenda of these tactics is always for profit. The leader of the group always has agenda. They control the group through the tactics for a specific purpose which always leads to them profiting in some way. Follow the money. If you ask yourself, how does the leader or leadership of the group profit from my actions? This will clue you to the potential use of these tactics.
Groupthink manipulation is almost invisible in the modern world. It permeates the fabric of many so much of the culture that we fail to see it. It becomes a part of the cultural narrative.
Not everyone is willing to acknowledge it even if they do recognize its tactics. Hopefully, more people will begin to how Western Organized Religion uses these tactics to control and oppress. Even if you still align with the underlying mythologies, you have to admit that brainwashing tactics are being used.
The study of logical reasoning can help people to overcome their natural tendency to protect the boundaries set up by Groupthink manipulation.
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Joseph Campbell & Joseph Campbell’s Book The Hero’s Journey, Wikipedia
Jean-Gabriele de Tarde and Charles-Marie Gustave Le Bon, Wikipedia