Process loss, common in politics.
It is common belief to think that a group of individuals are able to make better decisions than a single individual because there advantage in numbers. This is not always the case, groups can make worse decisions because of their size. 

Process Loss: Any aspect of group interactions that inhibits good problem solving.  The most common way for process loss to occur is when a competent member finds it difficult to disagree with the other members of the group (similar to the Asch experiment). 

Groups have a tendency to focus on information that it's members have in common, failing to share unique information.  

An social psychology experiment that illustrates the failure to share unique information is by Stasser and Titus. A group of 4 individuals were asked to make a decision about a student body candidate based on information given by the experimenter. In one condition each member was given 8 positive facts and 4 negative facts.  83% of groups in this condition favored the candidate because they believe the positives outweigh the negatives. In the other condition each member was  given 2 positive facts and 4 negative facts.  In total they had 8 positive facts but they chose to discuss the information they had in common. Groups under this condition only preferred the candidate 24% of the time. 

Group polarization is the tendency to make decisions that are more extreme than the initial inclinations of its members.  If the decision is one in which people make conservative decisions, a group would make an extremely conservative decision.  If the decision is one where people would likely take a risk, a group would make an extremely risky decision.

When making a decision a group may not consider the facts in a realistic matter if they are trying to maintain group cohesiveness. This will occur within groups that are highly cohesive, isolated from other opinions, and have leaders who are directive and make their wishes known.  This is known as groupthink, and is an extreme case of 'not rocking the boat'.  
I was not able to post as often as i would have liked to because I have been busy with summer school work at the university. This week I'll be taking my final exam for my summer class. After this week I'll have more free time and be able to post more often. 


Conformity in Groups (Social Psychology)

psychpost | 8/19/2011 12:42:00 AM | 32 Comments

Conformity: Behaving according to the to real or imagined expectations of other, even against one's own wishes.

When does it happen? Confusion due to lack of information

Informational Social Influence: Phenomenon where people assume the actions of others reflect the correct behavior for a given situation.This can lead to Private Acceptance (You believe it) and/or Public Acceptance (You comply to the group).
A famous Social Psychology experiment where we see the effect of Conformity in groups is known as the Asch Line Study.

In this experiment the participant is placed with a group of 6 other "participants" who are actually confederates (planted by the experimenter). The participant was told that (s)he would be participating in a "vision test". The participants would be given a line and choose the line that is the same as the given line.

Obviously it's C right?
Obviously it is extremely easy to pick out the correct line. The actual aim of the experiment is to see how the real participant would react to the confederate's behavior. After a couple of normal responses the confederates all gave an incorrect answer, to the shock of the actual participant.

Would the participant give the correct answer or conform to the group's obviously incorrect answer? 76% of the participants succumbed to the pressure of the group and also answered incorrectly.

This experiment shows us something very important about group dynamics, that people are afraid to "rock the boat" even when the correct answer is obvious. Social Psychology study also reveals that there are many other ways that a group can produce behavior that is not logical. I will get to those in another post but they are known as "Process Loss" if you would like to do some research on it. 

I will most likely be writing more posts following this on how groups affect decision making but I am currently busy with university school work and studying at the moment.
PHOTO CREDIT: Kheel Center (Flickr)
Homelessness, Internally or Externally caused?
I have just finished my Social Psychology course at the University last week and will be writing a post based on the of the most important aspects of Social Psychology.

Attribution Theory
: A description of the way in which people explain the causes of their own and other people's behavior.

There are two different types of attributions:
Internal Attributions: The inference that a person is behaving a certain way because something about the person. (Attitudes, character, or personality).

External Attributions: The inference that a person is behaving a certain way
because of something about the situation they are in. (Assuming that most people would respond the same way in the situation).

When we make attributions about people's actions, we (usually) automatically make Internal Attributions. Through a conscious effort we can think about possible situational reasons for their actions. If we believe that the situation played a large role in their actions, we will make an External Attribution. The problem is that we often stop after we make an Internal Attribution. Thinking about the situation requires us to use energy and time, which we may not be willing to use.

Fundamental Attribution Error: The tendency to infer that people's behavior corresponds to (matches) their disposition (personality).

This idea leads us into the Actor/Observer Difference, the tendency to see other people's behavior as Internally caused and to focus on External Attribution when
explaining our own behavior. For example, if you were driving on a busy road and you suddenly get cut off by another car, it is likely that you will believe they are an asshole or a jerk. On the other hand if you were on a busy road trying to make an appointment and you cut off another driver, you will probably blame the traffic and your need to make the appointment on time.

Does anyone have any examples of Internal/External Attributions? It would be fun to hear about them. I wish I could write some more, but I need to study for my calculus exam coming up soon. University courses are pretty tough.
PHOTO CREDIT: Stevie Withers (Flickr)