My biggest curiosity has always been about groups and how they form. This curiosity led me to learn more about group thinking and team work, to observe, explore and analyze different groups. I did the group’s psychoanalysis naturally, because I have been hurt by groups, I even tried to fit into certain groups, I succeeded to be part of a group, yet I was never satisfied with being in one explicit group, and I questioned why. First I questioned my abilities to understand the group’s psychology, then I questioned my skills to adapt to group mentality, then I started to question why those groups were formed and why individuals join them. For this reason, after stopped blaming myself, I looked to understand the reasons that motivate people to join a certain group.
As I changed the subject of my intention it did not take much to understand that groups are formed momentarily by individuals who have one common goal at that particular time, and this common goal motivates them to form that specific group. Since goals and motivations can be endless and can constantly change then so should the groups change too. Yet, something remains untouched: The stereotyping and the prejudice that follows that stereotyping. It may seem easy to explain that groups have one common motive and that’s why they work towards one common goal but what we CANNOT explain without stumbling is the fact that every group needs a leader and also followers need constant motivation to stay in that group and do as they’re asked. So why is that? It seems to me that any group suffers one “little” thing: Struggling to staying connected and motivated.
So, if we accept that group members can easily lose their interest in the common goal and team work they’re supposed to do, then we can say that in order to keep the group together and focused on their task we need a leader and we need constant motivation. Once we accept this fact we can understand then why stereotyping is unavoidable and how it become a necessity for any group’s existence. And here is how: Since group members can lose the motivation on pursuing a goal or completing a task, then in order to keep the motivation going we would need some strong emotions in order to keep group’s action going. But what emotion is the strongest and the easiest to induce and produce? Two are the strongest and the easiest emotions to manipulate and that can generate lots of action in masses: Hate and the illusion of Hope.
Therefore, we can say that the leader of the group must inspire some form of hate and/or hope for a better life in order to get the group members’ attentions. Hence, to inspire hate, there must be a target, an enemy to defeat or fight. In the same way to inspire hope there must be something to defeat that is not allowing group members to achieve what they need at this moment. So if there is hope that once the group completes a task, or that once a group defeats the “enemy” things will change for better, and group members will obtain what they deserve, then there will be action.
It is obvious now that to be able to manipulate the masses of people to take actions and do what the leader inspires them to do, then these masses must be led to a common target, to a common enemy of some sort, which will be labeled as an obstacle, or bad, wrong, dangerous, and many, many other stereotyping labels needed to inspire the group members to take actions against the target. This perspective on stereotyping as a need to keep groups motivated can open new grounds on understanding group thinking and aggression as means to an end of the leader or the master minds behind the leaders.
One latest research on person-group fit (Pierro, Livi, Sheveland and Kruglanski, 2015), argues that the need for cognitive closure (NFCC) can be a predictor on job performance of the individual within a group. This research and many others, also supports the point that I raised above that the central function of groups is a shared reality that they dream to build, a goal or even an illusion. The firmer this shared reality, the more this group seeks individuals with high NFCC. NFCC is not something that was just recently discussed. Kruglanski for example, in his study in 1989, defined NFFC as a desire for a definitive answer to an epistemic question over the alternative of prolonged uncertainty or ambiguity, (Kruglanski, 1989). This definition simply and clear explains the reason why group members need that constant motivation to keep them focused on the common task. It is this fact, just as Kruglanski pointed out, that as common tasks or goals become questionable, fogged by doubts and ambiguity this then requires members to seek cognitive closure, a good enough reason to keep them motivated to perform the task as a group. As this research found out, the higher the NFCC, the better the performance of individuals in the group was. In contrary to groups formed by individuals with high NFCC, groups formed by individuals with low NFCC were open to different opinions and ideas, were more open to different realities other than one reality or dream bestowed on them by the group leader, but also more flexible toward completing a group project.
From these findings we can conclude that groups that are formed by members with a high NFCC will be more prone to aggression than groups with low NFCC because it is easier to manipulate individuals with high NFCC into believing that a threat is eminent and violence is the only solution.
It is a fact that stereotyping can be used to encourage both positive and negative attitudes in groups. Therefore, there are two factors that can affect one’s performance in a group when stereotyping takes place: 1) the manner in which the stereotypes are activated, implicit or explicit, and 2) the valence of stereotyping, positive or negative. In a recent research, along the same lines as NFCC research, Shih and his colleagues discussed that explicit stereotyping always leads to an impaired performance of the individual, no matter what type of valence (positive or negative), (Shih, Wout, Hambarchyan, 2014). Then, if this is in fact true, we can say that stereotyping is the easiest but the ultimate weapon against an opposite group because, once the stereotyping becomes obvious to its members then no matter in what context stereotyping takes place, it will impair the group’s performance. Therefore, the stereotyping must be obvious and easy to distinguish it. Hence, it must be something that it is easy to capture our attention. What better than the way we look, skin color, gender, race, the clothes we wear, the way we walk or talk, can capture one’s attention?
If we agree with this study (Shih, Wout, Hambarchyan, 2014), then we must also agree with another research about assessing the stigma-by-association effects on leaders (Hernandez, Tonidandel, Smith, Avery, Hebi, and McKay, 2015). As this research points out, a leader will be appraised more positively and therefore will become a better inspiration for the group members if the leader shares the same skin color or race as the members.
The above conclusions from these recent researches lead us to seek better ways of stereotyping when it comes to promoting a good leadership and positive performance in a group. It is a necessity for humans to work in groups, to cooperate with one another on performing common tasks and achieving common goals. To belong in a group, so that one would feel loved is one of the most common and basic human needs, right after physiological and safety needs, as Maslow described it in his Hierarchy of Needs. Aristotle pointed out that humans are social animals, and how could we not? We cannot individually perform all the tasks and even own all the resources, and manage these resources wisely. Therefore, we need others and the spirit of team work to perform such tasks in order to survive basically, as simply as that.
Therefore, since group work and group formation is a necessity for our existence, and since stereotyping is a necessity to motivate the members to stay on task, but since the most obvious features to target lead to negative stereotyping then wouldn’t it be better to look for better ways of stereotyping that can lead to positive outcomes rather than negative outcomes? Perhaps, instead of stereotyping by race, nationality, culture, gender, body shape or skin color, wouldn’t it be better to use the type of skills and the level of expertise for this categorization?
I tried imagining a world where it is impossible to distinguish people by their skin color, culture or language. In such imaginary world, the only useful stereotyping to motivate members to stick together and complete a given task would be location (us and those on the other side) and their skills. To make this idea easier to understand, I would suggest the following thought experiment: Imagine group E on the East side of an auditorium and group W on the West side of the auditorium. Members of both groups are wearing the same mask to disguise their gender, racial, age and cultural identity. Both groups are given some tasks to perform. The winner group will receive a certain reward. As within every group, members would need some motivation to keep them focused on the task and to not give up midway. Without having any obvious, visual distinction to target on the members of the opposite group, how can a leader motivate his/her group members to hate the opposition’s members and then bring hope that they will win the prize? We can say now that differences among people due to color, race, nationality or gender are very easy targets to point at, and because of the pressure to perform on time then these clues become motivators/targets. However, these easy targets are not the true indicators of our differences, because the level of competency and expertise of the group members is what effects the completion of a task successfully.
Then at this point, I can’t help it but ask, these leaders and Master Minds behind all this group formation based on separating us through religions, nationalities, skin color and so on, don’t they know this simple truth that skills and education can help groups in completing their tasks successfully, not the obvious visual clues from our appearances? But, of course they do, since they were smart enough to create such confusion in the first place. So the answer might be shocking for some, but it just seems to be the most reasonable answer to this argument, that these Master Minds used stereotyping to motivate group formation based on visual differences on people’s appearances, because they wanted to hide the true motivation behind such group formations. This true motivation was to create a massive distraction to prevent the most success group to complete their task successfully. The question is, what were they afraid of? What task were such individuals supposed to complete?
It is obvious now that the Visual differences in our appearances and the negative stereotyping that derives when these features become the target of an opposite group composed of ignorant, uneducated people, and easy to manipulate them to fear the differences, is only used to delay the completion of that specific task. It is this the main reason why Christian church is against abortion. Isn’t that obvious now? They need solders, lots and lots of them, to use them as the front-line, and if they get killed (like in Christian Crusades) or ridiculed like in our days, church doesn’t really care because these people were born with one purpose only, to create a distraction, a mass distraction. And Christianity is not the only religion that uses its solders in such way, and care less for masses even though they are very good at hiding their motives, other religions too, were created for the same purpose, to create a mass distraction, to keep people busy with searching for clues about which of the religions or gods is the true one. Well, in fact none of them is, because they are all tools of the same master mind behind all this mass confusion. Need I say more?