In the last few lectures, we've broadened our focus from individuals to groups, but we've concentrated mainly on the effect that groups have on a lone individual, a single person—for example, group pressure, or conformity, or the road from individuation to deindividuation. In the next part of the course, we'll take a look at group psychology itself— what's sometimes called "group dynamics." Group dynamics is just a fancy term for psychological processes and behaviors that occur either within a group (that is, intragroup dynamics) or between groups (intergroup dynamics). For example, one of the dynamics covered in this week's assigned reading is groupthink, a well known group dynamic in which the quality of group decision making suffers when a cohesive group becomes insulated from dissenting viewpoints, especially when a group leader promotes a particular solution or a particular course of action, and others become reluctant to disagree. The person who conducted most of the initial research on groupthink and who did more than anyone else to popularize the term was Irving Janis, a Yale University social psychologist, whose work became so well known that when Barack Obama was elected President of the United States in 2008 and announced his national security team, he explicitly went on record as saying that he wanted to appoint a team that would avoid groupthink. Here's what he said in a press conference within weeks of being elected. >> I assembled this team because I'm a strong believer in strong personalities and strong opinions. I think that's how the best decisions are made. One of the dangers in a White House, based on my reading of history, is that you get wrapped up in groupthink, and everybody agrees with everything, and there is no discussion, and there, there are no dissenting views. So, I'm going to be welcoming a vigorous debate inside the White House. >> Isn't that something? It's a rare treat to see social psychology used at the highest levels of government, and of course, welcoming debate is just one way to avoid groupthink. Another technique—one that's sometimes practiced in the Japanese corporate world— is to have the lowest ranking members of a group speak first, then have the people right above that go next, and so on, up the status hierarchy, so that employees never have to contradict their boss— a very clever management technique for soliciting a wide range of opinions. Beyond groupthink, here are a few topics covered in three brief chapters I've assigned this week from David Myers' wonderful book "Exploring Social Psychology." All of these topics involve group dynamics that are very useful to know about. First, you'll read about social loafing and free riders. Here we have a couch potato. In the chapter on social loafing, you'll also get the answer to this true/false item from the Snapshot Quiz: "In a tug-of-war game with the same number of people on each side of the rope, people pull harder when they're part of an eight-person team than when they're pulling alone." And even more importantly, you'll find out why this matters. Here's the answer that you gave on the Snapshot Quiz. After the chapter on social loafing, you'll read about group polarization and the risky shift— a research detective story that began with some unexpected findings in a masters thesis. And you'll read about some research findings on deindividuation that extend our earlier discussion. Of course, at this point it might seem like maybe we should just get rid of groups in light of all the problems: conformity and groupthink, deindividuation, group polarization, social loafing, and the list goes on. But the news isn't all bad. For example, when it comes to solving difficult problems of logic or problems that require a wide base of knowledge, groups typically outperform individuals. That is, many heads are often better than one. This is just one reason why cultures around the world rely so heavily on working groups and committees, panels, boards, task forces, and, of course, juries. But why do groups outperform individuals? Is it because group members interact with one another and build on each other's ideas, or would the group do just as well if its members worked alone without interacting? This was essentially the question raised by the following true/false item from the Snapshot Quiz: "Five people will usually generate more solutions to a difficult problem if they work together in person than if they work alone during the same period of time." You can see your own answer to this question here. Alex Osborne, who popularized the term "brainstorming" over 60 years ago, proposed that there's a sort of synergy that takes place when group members interact with each other, that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts— a synergy that would make this Snapshot Quiz item true. According to Osborne, groups that followed his guidelines for brainstorming were twice as productive as groups whose members worked alone. What does the research record show? There is by now a mountain of evidence suggesting that this quiz item and Osborne's assertion are both false. In fact, Professor Paul Paulus, who's a world renowned authority on brainstorming, estimates that small interacting groups (typically, meaning four or more people) generate only about half as many solutions as the same number of people working alone— what's known as a "nominal group" (a group in name only) that pools its ideas and removes duplicate ideas suggested by more than one person. Why do nominal groups tend to outperform interactive brainstorming groups? Well, the most obvious reason is probably what psychologists call "production blocking," the loss in productivity that comes when one person's talking and everyone else is largely blocked from talking or developing their own ideas. To overcome, or at least minimize, that problem, Professor Paulus suggests alternating between interactive and nominal group approaches. For example, spend 20 minutes working together to get the benefit of diverse perspectives and then have group members spend time working independently, or in some cases, you might ask group members to work alone first, so that they don't settle on a particular solution prematurely. Then, hold a group brainstorming session to share different viewpoints, and finally, spend the rest of the time working independently without any production blocking. Whatever the mix, the important thing is to build in time for people to work on their own—not just time in a group setting. So these are just a few ways to avoid production blocking while still allowing group members to share information, and of course, if you want a group to function effectively— whether it's a campus group or a committee or even a family—group members have to have a way to share their opinions and their preferences and their perspectives and so forth. Sounds easy, but in fact, groups are notoriously ineffective at sharing information among their members unless a deliberate effort is made to do so. And even then, it's not always so easy. For example, some group members might be shy. Others might fear looking incompetent or foolish. Still others might want to avoid conflict. And of course, there is always peer pressure and conformity. Whatever the factors, groups often try to move in one coordinated direction, while their group members are moving in all sorts of other directions, which can lead to some complicated and very messy group dynamics. To illustrate what I mean, I recently visited my university's campus center during lunch and asked the students there to help with a strange little demonstration. What I asked them to do was to stand up wherever they were seated, to put their books down or to stop eating for a moment, just to stand up and to close their eyes. Then I asked them to turn in the direction they believed was north and to simply take their best guess if they weren't sure, so that everyone was facing north to the best of their knowledge. Finally, once everyone had turned north, I asked students to point directly ahead so that we can see which way north is. Here was the end result. You can see from some of the smiles, that students were being very good sports about the demonstration, and afterward, they even recorded a greeting to our class. >> Hello, Coursera! >> So there you have it. But now, getting back to group dynamics, what if instead of pointing north, you were in a group that had a certain direction, a certain group objective? Think about a group that you've been in— maybe it's a group of friends or students or coworkers or family members.This is what your group would look like. How efficient is your group going to be if everyone defines north in their own way— if everyone's moving in a different direction? Not very efficient. Yet, this kind of group dynamic is actually quite common. In fact, some groups are even more extreme. Their group dynamic actually looks like this. That is, even though every member of the group prefers to go in the same direction, the group actually goes in the opposite direction. How is this possible? Well, this particular paradox of group behavior, known as the "Abilene Paradox," is the subject of a video that I'm very pleased to share with you thanks to the generosity of Jerry Harvey, Peter Jordan, and CRM Learning. The video is shot with a very light touch, so it's a lot of fun to watch, yet it's very perceptive, and it's filled with great social psychology. In a nutshell, the thesis is that group dynamics don't have to involve conflict in order for there to be a problem. You can have a problem even when group members are 100% in agreement. To find out why and what to do about it, please watch the Abilene Paradox before you continue watching more lectures. Okay? And to finish this video, here's a pop-up question.