Psychological Self-Help

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Most of us know how difficult it is to disagree with three or more
people when they all see things differently than we do. We also know
(and research affirms) that we don't always believe what we say to
others. Example: you are with a group of friends and one of them is
considering buying a car and asks how you like Fords. One person
says, "They really look nice" and another comments, "They have a
good repair record and don't rust out." Even if you don't care for
Fords, the chances are you will make a favorable comment in spite of
your private opinion. This is even more true if you are in a group of
older people or one that includes experts or your boss. In general, if
we are interested in pleasing or impressing the other group members
but feel we are only moderately accepted by them at this point, we are
more likely to conform. If we are very secure with the group or don't
care, we can speak up (Aronson, 1984). Self-actualizing people are
non-conformists; they think for themselves (Maslow, 1970). 
Love your enemies, for they tell you your faults.
Studies of group behavior also add to our understanding of
conformity or compliance. Groups are usually superior to individuals in
solving puzzles or problems in an experimental setting, like how to get
three missionaries and three cannibals across the river in a 2-person
boat without the missionaries ever being outnumbered (Deaux &
Wrightsman, 1984). Yet, when emotions, politics, and personalities get
involved, groups often make bad decisions. Janis & Mann (1977) have
studied several unfortunate governmental decisions, like the invasion
of Cuba (which Kennedy favored) and the expansion of the Vietnamese
war (which Johnson favored). Janis believes that group members
become too eager to please or agree with a powerful leader or too
eager to avoid controversy and arrive at a speedy solution. In the
process they overlook important information and discourage different
opinions. This faulty thinking, motivated by needs to please and
conform, was called groupthink by Janis. Watch for this in your groups.
See method #11 in chapter 13 for ways to counteract these errors in
Compliance and obedience
There is not only a personal need to agree with others but strong
pressure exerted by the group on any person with different opinions to
comply with the majority. Promises, arguments, and threats are used
to get agreement. If someone steadfastly refuses to agree with the
group, he/she is frequently rejected and ignored. Usually the more
deviant group members (those taking an extreme position) and the
entire group move in the direction favored by the majority. This has
become known as group polarization (Deaux & Wrightsman, 1984). It
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