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60-Second Mind

Individuals Are Removed from Blame When in Groups

A recent study has found that we do not tend to hold individual members of a group responsible for their individual actions. Christie Nicholson reports

Groupthink is a phenomenon in which the members of a group override their individuality in favor of unanimity. Scholars have ascribed bad decision making to groupthink, for example, in U.S. policy during the Vietnam War.

But how do outsiders interpret groupthink when they observe the behavior of a group and its members?  

A research team had subjects rate groups, such as corporations, sports teams and government parties, about how much the group has its own collective intelligence. Subjects also rated how much each member of the group had a mind of his or her own. Finally, they rated the perceived cohesiveness of the group.

And the perception was that the more cohesive a group the less its individual members are thought to have independent thought. The study is in the journal Psychological Science.

A second experiment revealed that subjects did not hold members of a very cohesive group responsible for their individual actions. Indeed, some people argue that John Pike, the now infamous pepper-spray cop, was not accountable. And that the responsibility for his actions rests higher, with the police force and local government. Such notions may get tested in court. With psychologists as expert witnesses.

—Christie Nicholson

[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.] 

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