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The Paradox of Group Polarization: Confused by the Crowd

May 16, 2024
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Every time you want something, the most common phrase that you get to hear is, “ Would you leap off a cliff if everyone else did?” In actuality, the answer to this question is far more complicated. Groups bring about invisible processes that start to change people’s attitudes, behaviors, and perceptions. 

Like-minded individuals joining a group can lead to polarization and extremism in businesses or any other group of people if it is not promptly and sufficiently recognized. 

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What is Group Polarization?

A psychological phenomenon known as “group polarization” occurs when members of a group hold views, attitudes, and decisions that are generally more extreme or magnified than those of the individual group members. When individuals within a group are already inclined toward caution when making decisions, they will exhibit a shift in this direction when discussing the matter in a group with similar values. 

Group polarization is the solidification of an initial group viewpoint after internal debate. In other words, even if a group starts off favoring a particular opinion, the group consensus will likely strengthen that viewpoint following discussion. On the other hand, a group discussion would probably result in more opposition if the group was initially against a particular opinion.

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What Causes Group Polarization?

Group polarization has many underlying causes:

Social Comparison Theory

Individuals normally research the group to identify its primary trends in terms of prevailing viewpoints. It claims that people typically adjust their opinions inside a team in an effort to blend in, be accepted, and appear good. Subsequently, the same ideas are presented in a more optimistic, radical manner, giving the impression that the speaker not only represents the consensus but is also seen as a leader. 

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Confirmation Bias

Confirmation bias is the inclination of people to minimize or ignore contradicting evidence while giving greater weight to information that supports their preexisting ideas. People who share and confirm their preexisting ideas are more likely to be cognitively biased, which can lead to group polarization.

Informational Bias

A person initially joins a general debate with varying degrees of awareness regarding all sides of the fact (event, issue) but later leans toward the side, offering more details. This occurs because, sometimes, we are unsure of how to approach the fact and, instead, choose to side with greater “authoritative” or informative information.

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When members of a group are presented with convincing arguments that support their initial beliefs, it tends to strengthen those beliefs and drive the group toward a more extreme stance.

Real-Life Examples of Group Polarization

Group polarization occurs in many different contexts in the real world. 

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Social Media

The argument goes that social media encourages homophily, or the propensity to interact with others who share one’s ideas, which leads to the formation of groups where particular viewpoints are prevalent, increasing group polarization. Additionally, because the users are dispersed throughout the globe and frequently remain anonymous, there is a higher level of group polarization as a result of the increased number of unique arguments and one-upmanship behavior.

Cults

Group polarization can develop as a result of radical organizations and cults. People in these groupings are always surrounded by others who hold similar opinions since they frequently distance themselves from others who have different viewpoints.

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As a result, radical concepts are reinforced, and people begin to identify with the group’s viewpoints.

Volunteer Groups

Volunteer relief organizations could serve as an additional example. They frequently attempt to carry out admirable deeds of kindness, but many of the organization’s members lack the will to attempt this on their own. 

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Sports 

Every fan has an affinity for the team, and when they gather together with other supporters, they experience an increased sense of social identity. Even while they might not say much when they are alone, when they have other supporters, they are more prone to act out in ways that are excessive, including jeering at athletic officials or acting hostile toward the opposing team and its supporters.

Political Scenario

Political polarization results from group polarization, which is frequently observed in political circumstances. This indicates that political opinions are diverging more from the center and toward ideological extremes. For instance, there has been an increase in the animosity between rival political parties and a higher polarization of the public in the United States. 

How to Get Past Group Polarization?

Group polarization is a phenomenon that happens when individuals with similar ideas or viewpoints join together and support each other’s points of view. This can result in extreme or dangerous decision-making. Nonetheless, a number of tactics are available to prevent group polarization and encourage better decision-making. 

Encourage a range of viewpoints and beliefs within the group

This can be achieved by including people from various experiences, perspectives, and points of view in the decision-making process. 

Promote Constructive Debate

This can be achieved by establishing basic guidelines for the conversation, such as promoting polite and unbiased dialogue and prohibiting insults or criticism. 

Boost Personal Accountability And Responsibility

This can be achieved by giving each group member clear tasks and duties and ensuring they are held responsible for how they contribute to the decision-making process.

Conclusion

The study of psychology dissolves the division between social science and science. Turito is the best option for grabbing your psychology degree abroad. Turito has the best resources and courses for you to crack the exams required both in India and abroad.  

FAQs

What is the positive real-life example of group polarization?

The new wave of feminism is all thanks to group polarization. Women with moderately feminist ideas usually show stronger pro-feminist sentiments after group discussions.

What is the risky shift?

In 1961, James Stoner proposed a hypothesis known as “risky shift,” which is where the concept of group polarization originated. Prior to interacting with the group, decisions made individually are far less dangerous than those made as part of the group.

How is groupthink different from group polarization?

When people engage in groupthink, their decisions are made with the intention of not deviating from the consensus, unlike group polarization. 

Group Polarization

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