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What is Group Psychology?

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  • Written By: Rachel Burkot
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 25 November 2016
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Group psychology is the study of organizations and their behavior. It is a realm of psychology that explores the release of individual control within a group setting. Social, organizational and group psychology are all powerful areas of study that look at the many factors that drive group behavior and the decisions that a group makes. Depending on the group’s influence, individual consent is often completely relinquished for the greater good of the group. It is the role of group psychology to uncover why this release occurs and what effects it has on society.

Many groups are formed based on strong religious or cultural tenets. The beliefs these societies hold have a finality about them that becomes inextricably linked in participants’ minds. The concepts become both truth and reason, and eventually the individuals in the group no longer question anything related to these beliefs; they simply accept them without question. Group members will sometimes reach a point where they will do anything to defend the ideas held to be unquestionable by the group.

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In some cases, group psychology can uncover a healthy attachment to a group or foundation. Belonging to a religious group is often a positive, uplifting thing that enhances a person’s lifestyle rather than inhibiting it. However, the line can be easily be crossed where obsession with practices or beliefs of a religious sect can become destructive. Terrorist groups typically start out as nothing more than a welcoming collection of individuals who have similar beliefs concerning the world and a higher power. Group psychology concerning terrorists has uncovered an unbreakable bond to ideas that seem crazy to ordinary people, but to the group members who have spent so long attempting to ingratiate certain beliefs into their lifestyle, there is nothing at all abnormal about them.

Individual members of terrorist groups give up their individuality for the purposes of the group. A collective identity is assumed rather than individual personas, which becomes unhealthy. A group psychologist looks at the socio-cultural context in which the group operates to determine the extent to which each person can be held accountable for their actions. Additionally, criminal psychology looks at the same areas that define terrorist groups. Some terrorist groups have gone so far as to promote self-sacrifice that members will commit suicide on a mission for the group.

Group therapy looks at the balance between individual and collective identity. Natural elements of solitude and yearnings for belonging are present in everybody in varying degrees. Group psychologists look at the balance of these conflicting feelings in individuals and then analyze a group to see which areas have been compromised and which ones dominate.

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anon263004
Post 5

I don't think you can use the "wild boy" as an example of whether there is right or wrong or morality in the world. Even if he did have some kind of inner conscience, I am sure that was superseded by his need to survive.

Of course, the need to survive is going to supersede basically any other quality since our bodies and minds are built for adaptation. He adapted to his environment in order to survive and therefore you can't really use him as an example in this argument.

anon154651
Post 4

There is no right or wrong. Morality is just a glorified term for social customs. According to an article by David Hothersall, in 1799 a "wild boy" was found in france. It was speculated he had been abandoned at a young age and survived much like an animal, eating roots and nuts. In his years spent in isolation he had developed no social skills or concept of right or wrong. He possessed little ability to control his emotions or impulse desires. This is man without culture, society or learning. Though there is no true right or wrong, what makes us human is the belief and adherence to the moral laws in our culture.

GigaGold
Post 3

@arod2b42

So many cultures and groups have a different opinion than you do about this concept of conscience and right and wrong. How can you say you know it so assuredly? I think that you only believe what you say because of your own group psychology: you were raised to believe what you believe. It is not "self-evident," as you seem to suggest.

arod2b42
Post 2

@dbuckley212

I think that you may be mistaken in this "right by might" worldview. There are universal laws which everyone has recognized to be in place since the dawn of time. Primary to these laws is the golden rule, which states that we are to treat others as we wish to be treated. This is not determined by a controlling group, but by the laws of nature. It is always better for a people to consider others and seek to be helpful. Utter selfishness is a black hole. I don't need a powerful group to tell me this, I know it in my conscience, which was given to me by God.

dbuckley212
Post 1

I think that everyone has a strong group psychology which determines how they want to live their lives. Determining whether or not a group connection is "healthy" or not is impossible, because the rules are always made by the group. Whatever group is in power determines what is right, and people can't argue with them because they are in control of the money, which is protected by armies and weaponry that was bought with the money.

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