It has often been said how there are strength in numbers. This is because the dynamics of a group make someone stronger and more capable of performing acts which they may not considered on their own. At the same time, it becomes a part of who they are and allows each person to feel a sense of belonging. This enables them to mask their insecurities and transform their thinking to be in line with its psychology. To fully understand the way this occurs requires looking at the strategies that are used to achieve these objectives and how they impact individual behavior. These elements will illustrate the influence this will have on the person based upon embracing some of the most common attributes and social norms.
The movie The Wave is the classic example of how group thinking can have an impact on political psychology. It is highlighting the way different personalities are able to change and accept the dynamics of the sub society. This achieved through embracing some of the most common attributes. That influence how the person sees themselves and the way the group is able to fill a void in their lives.
Factors Influencing Political Psychology through Social Norms
According to Chapter 6 (Experimental Research), there is one primary concept that will have an influence on political psychology and group thinking (i.e. control). This can occur based upon a number of factors. The most notable include: a focus on specific issues, the political ideology of teachers / college professors / members of the group and the targeting of specific segments of society.
Each one of these will cause a person to align with specific ideas. The basic objective is to unite under common sense of purpose and understanding. At first, this helps to give someone a way to connect with group and feel as if their ideas are respected. However, over the course of time, other individuals will have an impact on their thinking by changing how they look at their cause and the basic beliefs they are embracing.
To build upon these beliefs, college professors / teachers / other members of the group will influence how they look at themselves and those around them. This can further instill a sense of community and make the person to feel as if they are a part of something special. When this happens, the person will become more radicalized in their beliefs. Over the course of time, they will engage in actions to support the group and demonstrate how they are following various social norms.
Moreover, control can more easily be exerted on those who are from specific segments of society (i.e. the young and social outcasts). This serves as a way for them to identify with everyone and to have a sense of family. It also enables them to build their self confidence and address critical weaknesses in their lives. These areas will have an influence on political psychology by changing how they see themselves and the basic issues they support. Once this occurs, is when they will do more for the group by having a sense of belonging and needing their support to feel stronger / more self confident.
The chapter titled The Conceptual Scheme is showing how situationalism and the power of situations will influence this behavior even further. Situationalism is when the person is influenced to act a particular way based upon how the group is reacting. This shapes the way they look at various events and the attitudes that are embraced. While the power of situations, will encourage them to engage in specific behavior, to support these various social attributes. It is at this point, when someone will do activities that may conflict with their morals and values. Yet, they are changing how they look at the situation and the lasting impact they are having on others.
A good example of these concepts can be seen with the Abu Ghraib scandal. In this situation, each person had embraced behavior which went beyond US military protocol by abusing and humiliating Iraqi detainees. What fueled their behavior were the attitudes of the group through situationalism and the power of situations. Both of these factors impacted how they looked at each other and the impact they are having on everyone. It is at this point, when the members became proud of their activities and felt they were justified.
As a result, political psychology is influencing the behavior of an individual with the group embracing these ideas. When this happens, it will alter how they see themselves and encourage someone to engage in more brazen behavior. The movie The Wave is a classic example of this. In this case, each member of the group was transformed by various social norms and shared psychology. This encouraged them to engage in more brazen acts.
Moreover, the Stanford Experiment is looking at these issues by having the guards embrace authoritarian practices. At the same time, the prisoners were forced to submit to them. The head of the study (Phillip Zambardo) was forced to abandon the project after six days. This is because everyone adopted their roles with the guards becoming a part of the group dynamic including Zambardo himself (as the superintendent). The conclusions that can be reached are the guards supported to their positions more than expected. This is illustrating the impact it is having on their personalities utilizing ideology and social norms of the group to influence each person’s thinking.
Clearly, political psychology is influenced by a number of different factors. The most notable include: control, situationalism and the power of situations. These variables will transform the way someone identifies with specific causes and it changes their beliefs. Once this happens, is the point they will embrace these ideas and engage in other beliefs to shift how they look at themselves and those around them. This is when they will walk away from their basic morals and values by supporting and engaging in more brazen actions. As a group their mindset is changed to embrace the larger ideas of this sub society, which is different from individuality.
- “The Stanford Prison Experiment.” You Tube. Last modified 2011. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=760lwYmpXbc
- The Wave. Directed by Dennis Gansel. 2008; Berlin: Rat Pack Film Production, 2008. DVD. /li>
- Cottam, Martha. Introduction to Political Psychology. New York: Psychology Press, 2010.
- Houghton, David. Political Psychology. New York: Taylor and Francis, 2008.