Question 1: Groupthink
There is probably no other theory among the ones that we’ve studied so far that has more examples than “Groupthink.” Your text defines Groupthink “as a way of deliberating that group members use when their desire for unanimity overrides their motivation to assess all available plans of action.”
We’ve all been there: in classroom discussions, committee meetings, even juries (especially juries). We’re in a small group that is charged with making a decision. Members of the group offer differing opinions. Some members of the group express their opinions more strongly than others. There is pressure to come to a decision. A majority appears to favor the opinion of those who express their point of view forcefully. Others sit mute, unwilling to offer any opinions that will be contrary to the majority. After all, they think, to get along we must go along, right? Welcome to Groupthink.
Your text notes that this theory—like all of the others we’ve studied—relies on certain critical assumptions:
· Conditions in groups promote high cohesiveness. This is particularly true if members of the group are homogenous—that is, if they share similar backgrounds like race, education and socioeconomic status.
· Group problem-solving is primarily a unified process. Usually the group has a certain task to perform or a consensus to reach on behalf of the larger organization. All of the members of the group want to feel that they’re working toward a common purpose.
· Groups and group decision-making are frequently complex. Discussion generates differing opinions and different data, with diverse implications. After all, if the problem wasn’t complex, it wouldn’t need a group to come up with a decision, would it?
There are a number of examples of Groupthink and the disasters that can result from it: the Salem witch trials; the rise of Nazism in Germany; the Jonestown massacre; the Challenger disaster—even the sinking of the Titanic, thought to be “unsinkable.” But I think the Groupthink phenomenon can be demonstrated most clearly by examining the deliberations of a jury, such as the one depicted in the 1957 film, “Twelve Angry Men.”
In case you’ve never seen it, the plot centers on the trial of a young Puerto Rican man who is accused of killing his father. The jury begins its deliberations. Most of the jurors seem to reach a quick consensus that the young man is probably guilty, especially influenced by one outspoken juror. But another juror (played by Henry Fonda) expresses a reasonable doubt. Watch this scene of the beginning of the jury's deliberations.
For more information on the film, go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/12_Angry_Men_(1957_film)
As you view this scene, think about some of the symptoms of Groupthink that are outlined in your text. In what ways are these symptoms shown in the scene or in any jury's deliberations?
Try to recall your first day on a job or your first day at school. You were probably a bit bewildered by all of the new people, places and practices. No doubt you established a relationship with someone who could explain the rules of your new environment—how to dress, whom to know and especially, whom to avoid. This is an understandable attempt to make sense of your new environment.
Question 2: Structuration Theory
Every social institution has its rules for speech and behavior. Some of the rules are written down somewhere, such as an employee manual. Many others, however, are unwritten. We just have to explore and experiment to find out what they are.
The rules for speech and behavior within social institutions are explored by sociologist Anthony Giddens in his Structuration Theory. Structuration, he says, allows people to understand their patterns of behavior by understanding the structures of their social system. It is, according to your text, “the process by which systems are produced and reproduced through members’ use of rules and resources.”
Structuration Theory, of course, is based on certain assumptions:
· Groups and organizations are produced and reproduced through the use of rules and resources.
· Communication rules serve as both the medium for, and an outcome of, interactions.
· Power structures are present in organizations and guide the decision-making process.
While reading this chapter of your text, I realized that the perfect metaphor to describe Structuration Theory is a prison. Think about it: you are sent to a cold, forbidding place where you have no freedom. You are told when to eat, when to sleep and when to shower. The prison is full of forbidding characters: the prison warden, the guards, the other inmates. I think one of the best prison films ever made is “The Shawshank Redemption.”
It was released in 1994 and tells the story of Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins), a banker who is sent to Shawshank State Prison for the murder of his wife and her lover, despite his claims of innocence. He befriends a fellow inmate, Ellis Boyd “Red” Redding (Morgan Freeman), who introduces him to the realities of prison life. Watch. (WARNING: prison inmates often use rough language!)
As you watch the movie clip, consider the following questions:
1. What are the rules and resources that exist in prison that Andy learns about from Red?
2. How does communication (verbal and nonverbal) serve as a medium for their interactions?
3. How do we know from this scene about the power structures in the prison, and how do they guide Andy’s decision-making process?
(For more about the film, go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Shawshank_Redemption.)
|Due By (Pacific Time)
||09/13/2014 12:00 am