When one refers to the evaluation of groupthink and group polarization, the context of terrorism and the applications to that phenomena play an inevitable role from the behavioral and social perspective. Namely, while referring to the phenomena from the psychological perspective, the definition for group polarization should be provided. In fact, group polarization is often mentioned in discussions related to the fact, when “individuals’ views tend to become more extreme and in greater alignment with the average group member, compared to their initial judgments before the discussion” (Kaplan and Miller, 1987). In psychological theories and psychology, in particular, the definition also refers to the behavioral outcomes, which often represent risky decisions.
While referring to terrorism, one shall be aware that there are currently existing certain organizations that benefit from the phenomena in the way that they engage individuals in the group thinking, which later on results in group polarization. Given the fact, that in the current political climate group polarization belongs to some of the most vulnerable practices, where religious motives prevail, the fact of being recruited and involved without the awareness is quite high.
In most terrorist organizations, the leaders are commonly more engaged in the recruitment process and tend to evidence the comprehension of the existing challenges. What is crucial to understand is that terrorist organizations work through instrumentalizing social compassion. In the leadership concept, where groups are divided into those who lead and those who follow, the risk of being involved increases. On the contrary, the recent research illustrated that members of the organizations are less compassionate than their leaders(McCauley and Moskalenko, 2008). Yet, those who were recruited into the terrorist organization, often end up their careers in the extremist organizations, such as Islamic State. What plays a crucial role in that respect is the fact that social vulnerability, lack of education and willingness to sense as much importance as leaders sense, becomes a decisive factor. Therefore, group polarization belongs to some of the most dangerous and threatening phenomena these days in the global context.
No less important and influential in regards to comprehending terrorism is the phenomenon of groupthink. At first, Janis introduced the theory in 1971, which suggested that “groups have an inclination towards reaching unanimity at the cost of making reasoned and critical decisions (Laureate Education, 2014). In other words, when the group faces the fact of competition, the fact of searching for alternatives to prove the process of finding a unanimous decision is absent. Therefore, in the context of terrorist organizations, one many note only ruthless outcomes of the activities carried out, without looking behind into the context of the decisions taken. It is indeed unknown what are the strategies used by radical groups and what outcomes were at stakes during the discussions. Yet, it is detrimental to take into considerations such factors when it comes to terrorist activities evaluations that commonly occur in such large organizations as Islamic State. Therefore, regarding activities of the terrorist groups from the perspective of groupthinking would bring new perspectives to the analysis of the area of research.
While summarizing the outcomes of the groupthink, group processes as such should be put in place first. In the context of terrorist, where a lot of activities carried out depend on the actions of others, “the output equity”; people adhere to others’ low standards and reduced work ethic (Laureate Education, 2014). Thus, group thinking is often based on common predeterminations and prejudices of the involved actors in the process. What is the most crucial in that regard, is that group thinking influences variables, outside the involved actors, too.
- Hensley, T. R. and Griffin, G. W. (1986). Victims of groupthink. Journal of Conflict Resolution, 30(3), 497-531.
- Janis, I. L. (1971). Groupthink. Psychology Today, 43–46.
- Laureate Lens. (2014). Social Psychology. Week 5 weekly notes: Group influences.
- M. F. and Miller, C. E. (1987). Group decision making and normative versusinformational influence: Effects of type of issue and assigned decision rule. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 53(2), 306-313.
- King, A. (2008). The School governor – Consider rocking the boat. Times Educational Supplement, 4816, 30. Accessed at http://www.nexis.com.ezproxy.liv.ac.uk/search/homesubmitForm.do (19th November 2015).
- McCauley, C. 1998. Group dynamics in Janis’s theory of groupthink: Backward and forward. Organisational Behaviour and Human Decision Processes,73(2,3), 142-162.
- McCauley, C. and Moskalenko, S. Mechanisms of political radicalization: Pathways toward terrorism. Terrorism and Political Violence, 20(3), 415-43.