Tribalism and Groupthink: Unite for the Right Reasons

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Tribalism and Groupthink: Unite for the Right Reasons

In this episode of the Psych Bytes podcast, Craig Pohlman, Ph.D., and Jennifer Fights, LPC, are discussing tribalism and groupthink. They explain how and why we divide ourselves along political and cultural fault lines.

Tribalism can be a real problem. So, how can we recognize our own tribalism and put an end to this phenomenon? Here are our 8 tips to put an end to tribalism:

8 Ways to Put an End to Tribalism:

Ask yourself what makes you an individual. What makes you special? What makes you unique? Remember, you ARE different from others in your “tribe”

Embrace a level of skepticism. Be willing to question your own beliefs and consider the beliefs of others. Maybe you’re wrong. Maybe the other tribe is wrong. Who knows, you might both be right and you might both be wrong! Be skeptical!

Expose yourself to contradictory ideas. There are many different views, ideas, and beliefs in the world. Expose yourself to different viewpoints.

Practice theory of mind. Theory of mind is being able the take the perspective of another person. Ask yourself the following question: “why would this person think or believe this?”

Acknowledge diversity within groups. Understand that people in tribes are completely different. Just because an individual aligns with a particular tribe does not mean they are like everyone else in that tribe. Avoid “lumping” groups of people together!

Tackle groupthink head-on. Talk and notice groupthink within your own “tribe”. Select one individual in your group and have them be the “devil’s advocate” and address opposing thoughts and viewpoints. For more information on groupthink, continue reading this article!

Get proximate. If you want to understand an issue, you have to get next to the people who understand other ideas, issues, and experiences. This could take the form of traveling, reading, or sitting down and talking with someone else who thinks differently from you.

Focus on what is shared. Pay attention to what you have in common with other people and avoid focusing on what divides us.

What is Groupthink and How Does It Relate to Tribalism?

For our tribalism breakaway segments, Dave Verhaagen, Ph.D., talks about groupthink. Groupthink is a psychological phenomenon when a group of people start thinking with one mind.

Yale psychologist, Irving Janis, first coined the term in 1972 to describe the systematic errors groups make with their decisions. These groups share the same beliefs, consider the same facts, fail to consider other facts, and come to the same conclusions.

Groupthink sounds like a good thing until you realize the group then loses the ability to objectively evaluate alternatives and options. As a result, the group tends to make irrational decisions and take irrational actions.

These groups almost always overestimate how solid their positions are and feel like they are making the necessary and morally correct choices.

Janis found three conditions that produce groupthink: high group cohesiveness, structural faults, and situational context.

High group cohesiveness is when people are more concerned about the harmony of the group than rocking the boat. This is the MOST important.

Structural faults are when the group tends to be more isolated from other groups or has strong, but biased leadership.

Situational context refers to factors such as high stress, time pressures, or a history of recent failures.

We see groupthink and tribalism EVERYWHERE! It can be found in politics, religion, business, professional organizations, and in social clubs and groups. Start to monitor and analyze your surroundings and don’t fall prey to groupthink. It is NEVER a good thing!

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