Published: 02nd January 2021
E-Canteen Fundas: Don’t let the group do all the talking for you
Pro Tip: Groups influence your views. Be aware, question assumptions and verify facts to make better decisions
Bhaiyya,’ said Rinku. ‘Rahul’s part of a WhatsApp group with strong political views. I know Rahul doesn’t subscribe to their views but he gets influenced.’
‘Ah,’ said Rakesh. ‘Groups influence our decisions more than we think, many times with serious consequences.’
‘But, bhaiyya,’ said Rahul. ‘Our group is quite large and knowledgeable. They cannot all be wrong.’
‘Be aware of Social Proof bias or Groupthink bias, Rahul,’ said Rakesh. ‘The more people that believe in an idea, the better we tend to believe the idea is. We go with consensus even though we may feel different because we feel so many smart people cannot be wrong. But even if a million people say something foolish, it’s still foolish. It’s better to speak our mind and question the assumptions in our own interests. No point committing suicide just because the group is.’
‘But why do we believe information without verifying facts, bhaiyya?’ asked Rinku. ‘Why do even smart people believe lies?’
‘There’s something called the Sleeper Effect which was used to good effect while engaging in propaganda during the Second World War,’ said Rakesh. ‘People forget the source of the message which is not credible, but remember the mischievous message. Over a period of time, after hundreds of messages from various dubious sources, we forget the source but retain the message. It happens on social media these days where a lie repeated by many sources becomes the truth. Add the Authority bias where we tend to believe anyone in a position of authority without questioning them and even smart people tend to fall for lies.’
‘But why do we identify with a group, bhaiyya?’ asked Rahul.
‘We form groups to secure ourselves from exclusion and find strength,’ said Rakesh. ‘In earlier days, it made sense to join groups for survival, but now it’s clear that groups distort your views. Groups harm in other ways too. When in a group we hide behind the group and work less in a phenomenon called Social Loafing. Research proves that when two people pulled at a rope, each one put in 93%, when three people pulled, each contributed 85% and when eight people pulled, individual contribution fell to 49%. This cannot be good for the individual or the group.’
‘So how do we counter these biases, bhaiyya?’ asked Rahul.
‘Be aware to begin with,’ said Rakesh. ‘Verify facts, form your own ideas and decisions and challenge dubious assumptions of the group. Be visible. Don’t sign on blindly because the group says so, because you are responsible for the consequences.’
‘Thanks, bhaiyya,’ said Rinku. ‘I’m glad to be aware of these biases in these times of social media.’