Culture and groupthink.
March 25, 2012 8:00 AM   Subscribe

Is there a cultural dynamic to groupthink?

Take any two cultures that have markedly different values and norms when it comes to social interaction, in a groupthink situation, given that both groups are dealing with the exact same problem/crisis, would both groups come to a decision that reflects their cultural background (in other words, having a "cultural signature")?

Of course I realise that regardless of differing cultural backgrounds any two groups would arrive at different decisions, I just want to know whether if those differing decisions are affected by the cultural upbringing of the individuals involved.
posted by espada0 to Society & Culture (7 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I can't speak to your exact question, but I would guess that even the extent to which "groupthink" happens at all would vary from culture to culture. cf Hofstede's cultural dimensions theory.

If you think there is some validity in that theory, a likely consequence would be that in some cultures people would be more willing to speak up against an emerging group view (i.e. "groupthink") than otherrs, that some cultures would typically take a longer term view of a problem than others, that some cultures would be more likely to choose a forceful or confrontational approach, and others a more conciliatory one, and so on.

You might find some specific information about your question in Hoftede's books or on his website. Since he has a focus on how culture affects people's ideas of what it means to participate in a group, it's at least likely to be a good starting point for exploring the field.
posted by philipy at 9:08 AM on March 25, 2012

Pretty much yes, nearly always? Culture is extremely pervasive in the way we think, act, and behave--pretty much like the story of what water is like to a fish (the fish is so used to the water, it doesn't realize it's there.)

Of course in each culture there are subcultures, and subcultures within cultures.

Very basic things like our perception of time is cultural. When certain words don't exist in a person's language, certain solutions may not be apparent.

I guess I could point you to any cultural anthropology textbooks or history books that show how different cultures approach problems differently, or how misunderstandings about a certain situation led to huge conflicts between different cultures. But this pretty much every anthro book out there.

May I ask about the particular reason why you are asking this question, so I could better direct you to an article, example, or text?
posted by The ____ of Justice at 2:38 AM on March 26, 2012

I was very fortunate to attend a training with Fons Trompenaars last week.

He has some good theories regarding culture and management. I am currently reading Riding the Waves of Culture. One of the problems he discussed in detail is how to reconcile different ways of resolving problems between several culture.
posted by Che boludo! at 6:42 AM on March 26, 2012

This UCBerkeley Sociology lecture covers selected topics of Conformity: GroupThink and Breaching. This whole semester is pretty good, actually, and it's all free on YouTube.

The lecture offers references to prior works, with citations, so you can read up on cross cultural instances of this.
posted by bilabial at 7:26 AM on March 26, 2012

Response by poster: I ask this because throughout the vast wealth of literature writing on the processes of policy making and the factors that affect policy making do not really consider the cultural dimension. That is, there is very little that looks at how cultural values play a role in political decision making. Yes political psychology is certainly a field that is similarly devoted to questions like these but it focuses much more on personalities and the individual on a case basis, rather than taking a step back and looking at the whole.

It's clear and obvious to look at decision making from a rational, realist, and non-constructivist point of view. As rational human beings making decisions of such enormity, our cultural values and other subjective sociological factors should not affect political decision making.

This is odd to me, because I tend to think that culture, as one of the fundamental and inherent elements of society, must play a role in all forms of decision making. Perhaps precisely because its so ingrained and unconscious that we tend to think that it does not play a role.

As The ____ of Justice said, even basic things like our perception of time is cultural, so in some way it must affect everything we do. Perhaps the effect is so miniscule, insignificant and immeasurable that these kinds of fundamental factors tend to be ignored by academics, but is culture as an aggregate not incredibly salient?
posted by espada0 at 10:02 AM on March 28, 2012

Response by poster: Just to make things clearer: this goes beyond and deeper than identity politics. What I'm trying to get at is, for example, how does being American (or Canadian, Mexican, British, Spanish, French etc) affect the way you make decisions?
posted by espada0 at 10:19 AM on March 28, 2012

Thanks for answering my question, espada0.

Edward T. Hall is one of the more well-known writers of cross-cultural differences and the pervasive effect of culture in our lives. I've found his books to be both fascinating and informative.

The Dance of Life: The Other Dimension of Time

The Hidden Dimension

Beyond Culture
posted by The ____ of Justice at 12:12 PM on March 28, 2012

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