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Group Influence in Individuals’ Opinion

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In this paper, focus will be on social conformity, which influences individual members to adopt decisions, which they could otherwise not have made. The paper will give insights into the aspect of social influence and group conformity as depicted by the Asch effect, and groupthink elements. Social interaction may be artificial or natural, however, for the purpose of this paper; natural social interaction will be the basis of the group circumstances, which influence individual opinions. It is noteworthy that members of a group will all have varying opinions on a certain subject, but will have to transform their opinions to fit into one opinion, which is adopted by the entire group.

Groupthink and the Asch effect take center stage in group influence. The key objective of every group is to bring ideas together and brainstorm over an issue. Groups hold the belief that two people are always better than one. However, it is imperative to assert that when two or more people in the group hold similar opinions, this group strength is diminished. Experiments to explain Asch effect clearly indicates that individuals are lured into improper decisions or opinions as a result of incorrect, but unanimous opposition from group members. Groupthink is the pressure that individuals in groups encounter to make certain decisions, and fail to notice other alternatives at stake.

While group influence on individual decisions may be considered beneficial, it is worth noting that it comes with a number of disadvantages. More often than not, group influence will lure people into incorrect decision making and opinions, which might ultimately have adverse effects. However, the dangers posed by group influence can be avoided if various measures, such as personal independence are embraced.

Circumstances that a group influence in individual opinion

Every person desires to be associated with a certain group. The need to belong to certain social groups comes with various requirements. Individual groups will have norms and standards, which the individual members have no choice but to conform. The conditions set by the group bide individual members. When individual members are making any decisions, they are bound to the norms of the group. Circumstances under which a group member is in, when relating with group members bides him to the groups’ norms (Paulus, 1989). The decisions he makes must be socially accepted by the group. This has a consequence of individual members having to compromise their personal opinions in order to conform to the group. The aspect of social conformity takes center stage in the entire subject of group influence.

The circumstances set by social convention demand all individuals ascribed to the social group to conform. Personal opinions are changed in order to conform to the formulated group decision. Such circumstances of social influence are fundamental factors, which influence individual opinions of people who ascribe to the group.

Dilemma in choice making is yet another circumstance in social groups, which has a significant influence of individual opinions. More often than not, groups are faced by decision making situations, where every member’s opinion is crucial. Such situations may involve a decision, which has an assurance of success, but less attractive in terms of outcome, and another decision, which is risky, but with an attractive outcome. In such instances, the individual member’s opinions are compromised for the purpose of the group’s decision. For example, a group of four people may decide to take a long route to a football stadium to buy tickets and watch the game, or watch the game from a television at home. If the group decides to go and buy the tickets, it risks lateness and missing to watch the game altogether. However, if they decide to watch the game from home, they will have less fun, but are assured of watching the game. Such instances will influence individual opinions as they must follow the decision arrived at by the group.

Group influences on individual opinions are at times based on social group schemes. The criteria, which a group uses, in order to arrive to a decision is a circumstance within social convention, which influences individual opinions. When a group decides that a decision will be adopted when supported by more than half of the members that is a majority model scheme. Such a scheme has been popularly known as majority model. The decision, which is supported by a majority of the members, takes the day. However, in other groups, the decision, which has been adopted by an appointed person, is adopted. It is vital to note that a majority of social groups use the majority model to make decisions. Group scheme circumstances influence individual opinions, in that they make them compromise their opinions since they do not conform to the group’s decision.

Dangers of group influence

Although group influence may bring uniformity in decision making, it has had a negative influence on individuals. Personal opinions are not upheld, and members are forced to compromise them for the purpose of the group. While some decisions by the group may be incorrect, the individuals with different opinions are forced to conform to the group’s decision. Group influence has been largely attributed to individual’s loss of self awareness. When people conform to groups, they tend to act, behave and decide, on the bases of group norms. This makes people lose self awareness and self restraint. This may have adverse effects as they may make opinions with negative effects, due to the influence of the group.   

Conformity to group norms hinders the realization of reality as members act to entice the group because of social security. While there may be numerous correct alternative opinions to adopt, individual members are lured into the group’s demands, and end up making wrong choices (Forsyth, 2009). As expounded by the groupthink element, groupings tend to blindfold individual members, who cannot see beyond the group’s decisions and norms.

How to avoid dangers of group influence

Members of social groups have an emotional attachment with their groups, which renders them helpless, but to conform to the norms of the group. It is, however, crucial for individual members to analyze the consequences that group decisions might have on them at a personal level. Emotionally detaching themselves from the group may help them decide on the effects the group’s decisions have on them. This is vital as it may help them avoid the dangers, which might be brought about by the group influence.

Secondly, dangers of group influence only affect people who ascribe to such groups. It is paramount, therefore, for individuals to conform to the norms of groups, which are in line with their opinions. Members of social groupings are, at liberty, to join or leave groups according to how they perceive the effects of the group’s decisions on them.

Lastly, members have an opportunity to convince the other group members of the negative effects the group has them. Members should not follow the incorrect decisions made by social groups, simply because they belong to the group. They should criticize the decisions, by assessing the consequences of the decisions that the group makes. The decisions, which a group arrives at, should comprise all the opinions of individual members.

Asch effect

The Asch effect is an aspect where individual’s opinions or judgments are changed due incorrect opposition since it is agreed upon by an undivided group. While the individual’s opinion may be correct, he is prompted to abandon it, for the purpose of the opposition. The experiment carried out was to determine which one of a line was equal to the standard one. Group decisions influenced the answers, which people chose. Many people followed the group, whose selection of the line was wrong. It should be noted that the answer to the question was direct and unambiguous to answer.  A third of the wrong responses were noted to be conforming to the opposition response (Zaremba, 2010). Group influence can largely be attributed to Asch effect, where conformity to social norms influences the individual opinions. It is imperative to state that the effects Asch effect may be detrimental, when wrong decisions are arrived at, as a result of the social conformity.   

Groupthink

As the name groupthink suggests, it is clear that this is an aspect where people fail to see alternative options, due to pressures of social conformity, and end up making incorrect decisions. Individuals belonging to certain groups fail to see alternative options because they must conform to the norms of the group. This is aspect detrimental since it results in wrong decisions. Circumstances, norms, and the unwritten rules, which govern groups are key factors, which enhance groupthink (Zaremba, 2010). Groupthink is portrayed by various symptoms, which among others include illusion of unanimity, peer pressure and self censorship. Such vices make individuals have few alternatives, and do not critically examine the rejected alternatives. Groupthink is a key factor, which influences group influence on individual opinions.

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