Group psychology is the study of organizations and their behavior. It is a realm of psychology that explores the release of individual control within a group setting. Social, organizational and group psychology are all powerful areas of study that look at the many factors that drive group behavior and the decisions that a group makes. Depending on the group’s influence, individual consent is often completely relinquished for the greater good of the group. It is the role of group psychology to uncover why this release occurs and what effects it has on society.
Many groups are formed based on strong religious or cultural tenets. The beliefs these societies hold have a finality about them that becomes inextricably linked in participants’ minds. The concepts become both truth and reason, and eventually the individuals in the group no longer question anything related to these beliefs; they simply accept them without question. Group members will sometimes reach a point where they will do anything to defend the ideas held to be unquestionable by the group.
In some cases, group psychology can uncover a healthy attachment to a group or foundation. Belonging to a religious group is often a positive, uplifting thing that enhances a person’s lifestyle rather than inhibiting it. However, the line can be easily be crossed where obsession with practices or beliefs of a religious sect can become destructive. Terrorist groups typically start out as nothing more than a welcoming collection of individuals who have similar beliefs concerning the world and a higher power. Group psychology concerning terrorists has uncovered an unbreakable bond to ideas that seem crazy to ordinary people, but to the group members who have spent so long attempting to ingratiate certain beliefs into their lifestyle, there is nothing at all abnormal about them.
Individual members of terrorist groups give up their individuality for the purposes of the group. A collective identity is assumed rather than individual personas, which becomes unhealthy. A group psychologist looks at the socio-cultural context in which the group operates to determine the extent to which each person can be held accountable for their actions. Additionally, criminal psychology looks at the same areas that define terrorist groups. Some terrorist groups have gone so far as to promote self-sacrifice that members will commit suicide on a mission for the group.
Group therapy looks at the balance between individual and collective identity. Natural elements of solitude and yearnings for belonging are present in everybody in varying degrees. Group psychologists look at the balance of these conflicting feelings in individuals and then analyze a group to see which areas have been compromised and which ones dominate.