The hypnotic attraction of groupthink

The hypnotic attraction of groupthink

by Thandazani Mhlanga | April 22, 2022 |

My image of hypnosis, because of the film trade, contains an extremely comfy sofa, a swinging pendulum, and the hypnotist’s persuasive and mild voice counting backwards. However this idea all the time calls the thinker in me to arms to defend logic.

So I are likely to dismiss hypnosis as refined quackery. (Medical health insurance corporations are likely to agree: Many see it as a substitute remedy and don’t cowl it.) His 18th-century origins with German doctor Franz Mesmer did not assist his case: he believed in an invisible fluid that flows between folks, animals, and issues usually. He has referred to as this liquid animal magnetism, and in line with Mr. Mesmer, it could possibly be manipulated to affect human conduct. It’s no shock that animal magnetism joins historical past’s lengthy line of discredited and largely forgotten concepts.

Though the topic does not come up usually, Adventists had been rightly suspicious of hypnosis, seeing it as a type of thoughts management. (Ellen White’s feedback on “mesmerism” and thoughts management are conflicting relying on when in her life she wrote.)

Nonetheless, one thing much like hypnosis can occur in organizations just like the church, and that is what I wish to speak about.

suggestibility and thoughts management

The English phrase hypnosis comes from the Greek phrase hypno, which suggests sleep. That is only a descriptive definition of noticed state of consciousness in the course of the hypnotic course of, nevertheless it considerably deceives the fact.

Accordingly an article revealed within the peer-reviewed journal,Neuroscience and Biobehavioural OverviewS,Hypnosis includes each induction, the method that brings in regards to the state of hypnosis, and suggestion, ie what the practitioner causes the topic to be in that state. The induction technique is hotly debated within the skilled group, nevertheless it appears clear that medical hypnosis just isn’t as glamorous as Hollywood’s model.

The second half, hypnotic suggestibility, is the power to expertise proposed modifications in physiology, sensation, emotion, thought, or conduct.” What strikes me about this definition is that it implies that any Altering an individual’s emotions, concepts, and conduct by way of suggestion, with or with out consent, would possibly simply be an train in hypnosis. Below this definition, the potential for hypnosis comes uncomfortably shut: it weaves hypnosis with promoting, politics, and (sadly) preaching.

And it additionally sounds lots like a phenomenon I see with disturbing regularity within the Church and wish to discover: groupthink.

Is Groupthink Thoughts Management?

A chunk in psychology right now defines groupthink as

A phenomenon that happens when a gaggle of well-intentioned folks make irrational or sub-optimal choices, pushed by the urge to evolve or the assumption that dissenting opinions are unattainable. The problematic or untimely consensus that characterizes groupthink might outcome from group members emphasizing concord and coherence over vital considering.

So, with that definition in thoughts, I ask: May suggestion, much like hypnosis, be the rationale for the lengthy listing of sub-optimal choices that organizations usually make?

Groupthink primarily will get you to desert vital considering for the great of the group. Then it arms you with a brand new vocabulary that displays the group’s ideologies. Constant and strategic use of this vocabulary turns it right into a hypnotic (if you happen to use that time period loosely) cycle that results in extra groupthink.

Let’s take a look at using the phrase blood, a charged phrase that non secular and political leaders usually use. Think about the next statements:

  1. “The tree of liberty must be refreshed infrequentlybloodof patriots and tyrants; it’s its pure fertilizer.” (Thomas Jefferson)
  2. bloodalone strikes the wheels of historical past. (Martin Luther)
  3. The large questions of the time will not be determined by speeches and majority choices, however by iron choicesblood. (Otto von Bismarck)
  4. Thebloodthe martyr is the seed of the church. (Tertullian)
  5. If you happen to shut your eyes and put your finger anyplace on the map, Christian will bleedblood. (Nameless)

There’s a likelihood that a few of these statements evoked emotions in you. The query is, was it rational considering or simply piety or patriotism? Think about the quotes rationally: Should the tree of liberty be watered with the blood of patriots? Is it actually its pure fertilizer? Was the blood of the martyrs actually the seed of the Church? (You would possibly even suspect that I’m not non secular or loyal sufficient if I query using these statements as motivators for missions or for patriotism.)

One may argue that the phrase blood meant to disarm rational thought and lead us to what can solely be described as groupthink, the place patriotism or piety obscures rational thought.

Our personal imaginary psychologist

Many profitable establishments, from Fortune 500 corporations to sports activities groups, have psychologists on their payroll. I ponder if together with a behavioral psychologist within the day-to-day functioning of the church would assist us notice the risks of groupthink? May a psychologist assist us not lose sight of our logical aspect once we are tempted to let the group management our choices?

Or what if we had psychological counseling earlier than membership? Though I am not a behavioral psychologist by coaching, I think about how the dialog with a behavioral psychologist would possibly begin:

Look, my imaginary psychologist would possibly say, now that you’re turning into a member of this group, there are pure psychological processes that you will need to watch out for, or else you could possibly harm your self and others within the title of perception:

  1. You could suppose that you just belong to a particular group of people who find themselves the one ones who acquired Christianity proper. If you happen to entertain this thought, you might be flirting with non secular groupthink.
  2. If you end up grouping those that share your concepts and those that do not into saints and misplaced souls respectively, you are neck and neck in groupthink. Bear in mind, all are human beings in want of a Savior.
  3. While you lastly really feel in a position to say, “The Bible is all about Scriptures versus the views of others, you might be in your method to groupthink.
  4. While you imagine that you’ll be able to full the assertion, “You aren’t a real follower of Jesus till you (fill within the clean)” reinforces the state of emergency attribute of groupthink.
  5. If you end up indulging in an apocalyptic interpretation of the whole lot round you with out harboring any doubts about your interpretations, tread rigorously: disappointment, anger, and resentment is probably not far behind.

The right way to cease groupthink

However I am not a behavioral psychologist.

And I imagine there may be knowledge within the multitude of counselors (Proverbs 11:14; 15:22; 24:6); An outdated African proverb says {that a} fly that does not heed recommendation will all the time comply with the corpse to the grave.

However I additionally imagine that merely going alongside uncritically with what everybody round you is considering, or what the church or our household or our nation desires us to suppose, is a type of socially acceptable hypnosis. Groupthink is one other kind of thoughts management. We should in fact hear to at least one one other and respect one another’s concepts, however by no means assume that simply because everybody in my church thinks the identical means, I have to suppose the identical means.

And so I ask: would a group of behavioral psychologists assist cease us from hypnotizing ourselves with groupthink into believing we all know greater than we do? And what higher place than this to deliver up such a complicated topic? I’m assured that this group’s wealth of concepts and expertise will assist us unravel this drawback and uncover its parts.

Thandazani Mhlanga is a pastor, educator, speaker and creator at present learning Historical Close to Jap Civilizations on the College of Toronto. Pastor Thandazani and his spouse Matilda have been blessed with three lovely ladies who’re the fun of their lives. His web site is

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