MCAT Social and Behavioral Sciences : Group Polarization and Groupthink

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Example Questions

Example Question #3 : Behavioral Phenomena Within A Group

The facilitator said, "Any other ideas before we move on and make a decision?" As Laila raised her hand, she could see people sigh and roll their eyes. She was always suggesting something that went against the grain; moreover, the longer it takes to make a decision, the hungrier people will get. Laila puts her hand down, thinking that moving the group forward is more important than getting her idea on the table. Given that it was a significant departure from what everyone else was saying, they might miss both lunch and dinner!

The example above is best described as an illustration of what concept?

Possible Answers:

Bystander Effect 

Stockholm Syndrome

Hallow Effect

Group Polarization

Groupthink

Correct answer:

Groupthink

Explanation:

The correct answer is "groupthink," the concept that individuals stifle their ideas in the group to achieve concensus. Group polarization is not the correct answer, because it means that groups might select options that are more extreme than individual members of that group might select, and this is not illustrated in the example above. The other concepts are concepts of psychology, but are not related to group processes. 

Example Question #4 : Behavioral Phenomena Within A Group

As they embarked upon deliberations, nine jurors were leaning towards finding a defendant guilty while three jurors thought the defendant was not guilty. It was observed that during deliberations, the nine who believed the defendant was guilty tended to confer, while the three who believed he was innocent also discussed more with each other. This resulted in the jury members each becoming more entrenched in their initial positions than they had been before. This scenario exemplifies which of the following concepts in social psychology?

Possible Answers:

Group polarization

Social categorization

Cognitive appraisal

Self-serving bias

Informational influence

Correct answer:

Group polarization

Explanation:

Group polarization describes the phenomenon when individuals make more extreme decisions when acting together as a group than they would by themselves. In this scenario, as individuals—the jurors—believed in their respective points of view from the beginning; however, after they formed oppositional groups, they became even more entrenched in their points of view.

The other choices are incorrect due to various reasons. Cognitive appraisal is a process where a physiological arousal is assessed in the brain and processed for the appropriate physiological and psychological coping strategies. It has nothing to do with the juror situation. Informational influence is a group effect arising from a group’s desire to be correct and to understand how to act best in a given situation. While this may play a role here—because the jury may be trying to be correct and act in the interest of justice—it has split into two opposing camps and one group will not “act correctly." Social categorization is the process by which people sort themselves into categories. This may be happening in this situation when the jury broke into two camps—those who believe the defendant is guilty and those who believe the defendant is not guilty—but it is not the primary effect. The self-serving bias describes the attribution of positive experiences to our own character and actions but negative experiences to factors external to our own character and actions. While this may affect the jurors’ interpretations of their own opinions and actions, it does not explain why they are more entrenched in their beliefs after discussing the matter with others who believe the same thing they do.

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