Group Minds

Dismissing your own individual opinions to reach group consensus, now that’s negative peer pressure! Peer pressure will always be a problem and can affect anyone. I say that because no matter where you’re from or who you are, peer pressure is lurking about. Anytime you’re pressured to do something and your conscience is telling you not to do it, and you follow through with the task anyway, that is dismissing your opinion just to please other group members. Not wanting to be ostracized by others is the basis of conformity.

Peer pressure doesn’t discriminate against race, nationality, or social class. It’s like a plague waiting to spread like wildfire throughout your school, your workplace, even your home-life. Some may think that’s too dramatic, but I envision it as the horrid truth. The article “Group Minds,” written by Doris Lessing, comes from her series of the 1985 Massey Lectures.

Lessing declares “When we're in a group, we tend to think as that group does: we may even have joined the group to find "like-minded" people. But we also find our thinking changing because we belong to a group.” I believe that no one realizes that their opinions are at risk of becoming dismissed just because they want to fit. The new-comers insist on becoming accepted, and as a result of that, we tend to forget about our own opinions, whether we agree or not.

The article “Group Minds”, explains that humans are biologically wired to find groups of “like-minded” people. According to Lessing, once a person has found a group and begins to create bonds with other group members, a person are likely to be subjected to the untold truth of having their opinions changed. Lessing points that group members find the need to be obedient to the others and never question the group leader.

Some may say that Lessing exaggerates her portrait of the people living in the west, although; several experiments: including the Milgrim test proved that people in the minority group would give in to the majorities. Lessing declares that no one wants to be ostracized by the other group members so they are pressured to be obedient. Lessing asserts that whether its religious, political, or social groups, they’re all made of the same obedient mechanism.

Everyone is submissive to authority. Most people obey a higher authority, it’s just human nature. Doris Lessing, states, “This mechanism, of obedience to the group, does not only mean obedience or submission to a small group, or one that is sharply determined, like a religion or political party.” What Lessing means, is that people find the tendency to conform to not only those large, collective group, but those groups that seem minor. Those minor groups can be social cliques or clubs that behave in the same manner.

People’s obedience applies in both majority and minority groups. People go about their lives every day, never stopping to ask themselves if dismissing their own individual opinion is justified. I stated earlier that dismissing your own individual opinions to reach group consensus is negative peer pressure. For instance, if the “popular” high students are in a group/clique, and a so-called “unpopular” student wants to be part of the “popular” group, the “popular” group hazes the “unpopular” student for entrance into the “popular” group.

The hazing consists of the “popular” students producing negative peer pressure towards the “unpopular” student; furthermore, the “unpopular” student will dismiss their individual opinion, to have social acceptance. To the “unpopular” student, acceptance is everything and they refuse to be ostracized by the other group members; thus, unfortunate events can occur, such as: fatality, injuries, and/or mental distress. I agree with Lessing, she points out that a group-minded person’s opinion is never challenged; therefore, we must begin the long road ahead and bring an end to conformity, for everyone needs a voice that won’t be ostracized for its differences.

Lessing describes a typical test, or experiment about a group of people deciding whether or not a couple of boards are the same length. Lessing pronounces “the majority in the group-according to instruction will assert stubbornly that these two shapes or lengths are the same length, or size, while the solitary individual, or the couple, who have been so instructed will assert that the pieces of wood or whatever are different.” I am completely on one-accord with Lessing’s example. Lessing demonstrates that the majority will intimidate the minority group and have the minority group strayed away from their opinion, hence conformity.

That is typical human behavior and Lessing clearly proves her point. For example: Four people are determining whether or not the color of a flower is pink or fuchsia. The majority group says the flower is pink, while the minority group says the color is fuchsia. The majority group is stubborn, and refuses to accept that the color is fuchsia and insist that the color is pink; meanwhile, the minority group soon after conforms, leading up to the dismissal of their own individual opinion.

In consequence, Lessing is a remarkable writer and role model. She demonstrates eye-opening evidence about typical human behavior. I predict that the negative effects of peer pressure will never change for the better unless; more people want to make a change.

Creating organizations like “Live above the Influence” will always fight a never-ending battle, and they will continue to bring awareness to negative peer pressure. Lessing makes a marvelous point when she makes it evident that humans are group animals and usually give into peer pressure. We could take Lessing’s information and transform it into a worldwide movement, making everyone aware of their mistakes (giving into peer pressure), and educating others either through institutions or social media.

This may not eliminate negative peer pressure and conformity completely, but it will definitely make another step closer to a better world. Again, no one realizes that their opinions are at risk of becoming dismissed just because they want to fit. The new-comers insist on becoming accepted, and as a result of that we tend to forget about our own opinions, whether we agree or not.

------------------------------------------------- WORK CITED: Lessing, Doris. “Group Minds.” (1985 Massey Lecture Series.) Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. 1985. Web. 30 June 2012.