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Do Groups Corrupt People?
This essay is aimed to answer a question regarding influence of groups on individuals and whether such groups corrupt individuals or not. Furthermore, this will be answered in light of the principles and theories of social psychology. Similarly, the essay will talk about what an individual does for groups and vice versa. Classical research will be included in this regard. Factors that are seemed to badly influence the individuals will also be discussed. Historical trends in social psychology will also be discussed for attempting to answer this question. Finally, the conclusion of this essay will state that groups largely corrupt individuals and that the personal will and attitudinal approach of the individuals is lost, and they eventually do what the groups requires individuals to do.
A group is defined as two or more people who interact for longer than a few moments and attempt to influence one another as well as perceive each other as one unit (Stangor, 2004). Research shows that when we are surrounded by individuals in the form of a group, the speed and agility of the individuals improve, as people are able to solve difficult problems more easily (Cialdini & Goldstein, 2004). Similarly, accuracy is also improved through which people can perform longer tasks in short period of time. This means that the social facilitation within a group leads to help people in terms of their efficiency and accuracy (Cummings & Cross, 2003). However, one of the fundamental principles of social psychology states that groups largely corrupt individuals. This does not only apply in political sense, but also in any other sort of setting. The group thinking will influence the attitude, behaviour, and overall mood of the individual (Nolan et al., 2008). The corruption in this regard refers to the effect of the group thinking, which can either be good or bad (Hopper & Weinberg, 2011). When an person is communicating with a group of individuals, his personal behaviour and attitude will change, and he will eventually adopt group practices. Therefore, such a situation suggests that individuals will be corrupted by the groups by which they are being influenced.
The recent research suggests that the group environment is helpful for the individuals by promoting their character formation (Pickren et al., 2012). However, the main subject has never been discussed whether the process by which such groups are able to influence as well as challenge the moral character, behaviour and disposition of individuals is fair or not. When individuals participate in the extracurricular activities or religious activities, their moral outlook is heavily influenced (Rothbart & Korostelina, 2006). This means that there is a direct concern between the moral behaviour and attitude of individuals and group activities. The main rationale behind this is that when the individuals spend more time within a group of specific people carrying out specific activities, they are likely to be influenced psychologically as well as socially.
There are different types of groups. Some of the groups are joined by individuals voluntarily and in some groups individuals have to be a part, as it is their responsibility (Forsyth, 2010). Every individual joins these groups, because groups are a part of one’s social life. This is the reason that groups influence pretty much every individual. Similarly, individuals are also able to influence the groups but at a very minor level. The individuals form their attitude based on the group influence. In this regard, the individuals also learn about the acceptable as well as unacceptable patterns of behaviour. Here comes the main role and influence of groups on the individuals. Sometimes, the members of the groups declare a moral thing immoral and vice versa. For example, a group might influence an individual to lie about his personality, as it would not be harmful. These are the unacceptable norms and patterns of behaviour in our society, and humans are not supposed to act this way, but the influence of group makes individuals do so (Hecther & Opp, 2005). Additionally, such unacceptable patterns of behaviour and attitude make individuals not following the social norms, and which are also immoral. Hence this can be said that where groups can influence the individuals to learn about different new behavioural patterns, there are negative things too that they learn due to which they become corrupt and their morality on individual scale is questioned (Hecther & Opp, 2005).
Furthermore, is has been observed that the social norms rule the behaviours of individuals. For example, each individual has a choice to join a particular group, and thus he or she also has to subscribe to a particular group, which will follow certain norms and will drive individual behaviours in a certain way (Cook, 2003). The individuals are psychologically influenced by the groups in a way that they will also have to approve and disapprove those practices and norms as well as behaviours that the groups approve or disapprove. By doing so, the individual morality is questioned and the individual is likely to become corrupt if he is psychologically influenced by the bad practices and norms of a group. This also means that the group largely maligns the individual thinking and attitude about a particular aspect of our society (Cook, 2003). This is an argument from the psychological end and not in the social respect. Furthermore, this actually means that the individuals do not become capable to think and reflect about issues themselves and become victim of the group thinking. Whatever the group says is largely acceptable by the individuals, and they do not even have second thoughts about what is being talked about. Therefore, when the individuals are influenced by the group in terms of the specific pattern of thinking, behaviour and attitude, then this would mean that the groups have largely corrupted the individual’s moral formation (Cook, 2003). This also suggests that the individuals tend to avoid those things that are disapproved by the groups and do those that the groups approve. Moreover, it is also essential to identify how an individual is important for a group and vice versa. Also, important point is that what an individual does for a group, and vice versa. These aspects will be discussed in following discussion.
An individual is the basic component through which a group is formed. A group consists of two or more individuals who have a shared goal of achieving something. The individual is motivated by the group through different factors. In this regard, individual also plays his role for the group. An individual plays the role of initiating something within the group he is a part of. He similarly also defines the rules of the group that is formed by including him in that. Group members develop opinions on a certain subject through which different issues are clarified and a major view is obtained which is adopted by all the individuals later (Levine & Moreland, 2006). In this regard, individual also has his opinion, which is merged later into the group opinion.
Similarly, an individual will maintain one or multiple roles within a group. The group is basically an association of individuals, so all the individuals are associated with one another for achieving a cause, for which every individual will play his distinct role. Maintenance of roles should then involve encouragement, harmonization, record keeping, compromise and expressing. However, there are also very controversial roles in a group, which are played by the individuals themselves and groups do not have any influence on this individual roles (Levine & Moreland, 2006). For example, as mentioned before that group is formed for achieving a particular cause. Because of that, individuals have to engage in a performance of responsible roles. Although, sometimes it seems that an individual plays a negative role by becoming more degrading, withdrawing, uncooperative and dominating towards others. In this case, the individual is simply trying to corrupt the other individuals in the group by influencing his personal view (Levine & Moreland, 2006). So this means that the individual also has to be socially responsible when he is acting in a group, as otherwise he will only cause a bad and corrupt influence in the other group members.
A group influences an individual through several different ways. Most of the factors for this are personal in nature. These can be known as egoistic, emotional and achievement factors. When it comes to egoistic factors, it means that every individual has a personal pride as well as a sense of personal value. In this regard, the group tries to influence the behaviour and attitude of an individual in a way that he acts in accordance to his own self-esteem and values. Personal values of an individual also have to do with a change based on the sort of influence exercised by the group over individual. Similarly, every group has a role to play through which the individuals can achieve something (Provis, 2016). This is also considered as the main purpose for which a group is formed by the individuals. In this respect, the achievement oriented attitude of the individual will be affected if the group does influence in negative way. An individual will only try to show them skills only when the group supports and encourages him to do so. If the purpose is not being served in a better manner, then the individual’s attitude to achieve to something will be devalued and he will behave in a way that will not be beneficial for him (Provis, 2016).
Furthermore, a group also serves to the emotional needs of the individual. People seem to primarily aim to join groups in order to gain a plethora of their emotional needs. Groups can provide an emotional support to the individuals in hard times, happiness, anger and loneliness etc. (Cialdini & Goldstein, 2004). This means that, the group has a very important role to play for individual. However, if the group does not play its role, then the essence of its foundation in view of individual is lost, and the person also does feel corrupted as the group influences prevail in his mind and brain.
The above discussion has so far established the relation between group influence and individual’s formation of morality. Similarly, the discussion has also been made on what individuals do for a group and what groups give back to individuals in return. In this regard, this is main part of discussion that whether the groups corrupt people or not. Furthermore, it will be asserted that groups influence individuals in a way that their attitudes and behaviours change and their choices and thinking are corrupted (Cialdini & Goldstein, 2004). This can be established with the help of different historical trends and classical principles of social psychology, which have been presented by postmodern thinkers.
In this regard, Zimbardo conducted a study related to Stanford Prison Experiment. His study revealed that social roles have a major influence on the behaviours of individuals. In this experiment, different participants were given different roles such as prisoner and guard etc. Guards were equipped with sticks and Prison wore chains and prisoner dress. The guards acted ruthlessly in this experiment. This study showed that the individuals in the prisoner were heavily influenced by the acts of guards as these individuals submitted to what the guards asked them to do (Carnahan & McFarland, 2007). The cognitive dissonance theory was also reflected in this experiment. It was also seen that the individuals’ thinking was largely corrupted and they assumed that the prison environment is bad. Similarly, the group of prisoners was involved in the acts of denial, which influenced the individuals by becoming corrupt.
Similarly, Bibb Latane proposed the social impact theory, in which he presented the mathematical equations for predicting the level of impact of society on individuals in particular situations. Based on this theory, Latane argued that there is a bystander effect or bystander apathy in case of most of the situations where when the individual is in need of help from others, the others in the group would not help him (Fiske, 2013). This is a psychological phenomenon that is largely present in many of our social settings. The people exhibiting deviant behaviours are also seen doing this when they are in a group. In most of the situations, this theory suggests that the individuals will feel helpless and so when they are put in certain situation where someone else is in need, they will not be included to help others. So the individuals become corrupt in many ways due to group influence in different social contexts.
Furthermore, Darley also presented another theory of social impact in which he argued that individuals’ social behaviour is being largely influenced by the groups of which they are part of. Darley also gave the same view as was given by Latane that the individuals will not be helping others when there are people in the surroundings (Hogg & Tindale, 2008). This behaviour arises among individuals because they feel that others should help the individual in need and they do not need to take this initiative of helping the person out. So the views given by Zimbardo, Darley and Latane suggest that there is a great influence of groups on the social behaviours of individuals, due to which they often behave in a negative manner when they are put in to a certain situation.
To conclude, it can be said that the central question of groups corrupting people has been answered in light of the principles and theories of social psychology. The essay has discussed about what an individual does for groups and vice versa. Classical research has been included. Factors through which groups badly influence the individuals have also been discussed. Historical trends in social psychology have also been provided regarding how the individuals have been influenced by the groups while they assumed different roles and responsibilities. Based on the socio-historical narrative about group thinking presented by Zimbardo, Latane and Darley, this can be concluded that that groups largely corrupt individuals and that the personal will and attitudinal approach of the individuals are lost, as individuals eventually do what the group required them to do.
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