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People normally depend on one another starting from the time they are born. When a child is born, he/she has to completely depend on those people around him/her for a number of years. But still, even if people grow up and become mature, they do not progressively become independent from one another but they instead turn out to be interdependent.
In the course of living, people come to make up a large number of relationships which are set up on “give-and-take” basis with those around (the community, family and friends) as well as the culture. Human beings have turned out to get used to this for the reason that they are biologically formed in such a way that they live in groups and also work and grow in groups.
Doris Lessing pointed out in her article “Group Minds” that, a small number of people take joy in being alone and people are in constant search for groups to associate themselves with. In this paper, a critique of Doris Lessing’s article “Group Minds” is going to be carried by considering what other authors say about group mind.
Human beings are social creatures and this obviously gives them power to come together in order to set up something that is stronger as well as more adaptive and inspired than any individual human being and that is, the group.
The general concern that Doris Lessing has in her article “Group Mind”, is that human beings have a lot of information available to them but they are not ready to use it to bring improvement in their social structures as well as groups and thus, they live their own lives.
This author is right to a significant level. The moment human beings come to a realization of the exact level to which groups control their lives; they can now start examining how to set up group minds which boost just love alone and the well-being of the society in general.
There is a strong believe within the society that human beings are “free individuals” who engage in thinking and speaking for themselves each day. However, this is not true because people’s actions are, in an unconscious way, under the continuous influence of groups.
Whatever relationship that exists between two people, or even more, who have the same views in regard to a particular issue offers a good example of the way groups are easily and unconsciously formed among people. Human beings would like to think of themselves as individuals, but the question is, are they actually aware of their group minds?
Doris Lessing points out that, as on one hand human beings living in the free world present claims that they have the freedom to live as well as hold beliefs the way they wish, on the other hand, they are negligent in being aware of the way the opinions they have develop from the influences of other people (Lessing 333).
Having such social groups as the family and work groups among other social groups as being a quite significant part of the “American lifestyle”, Lessing points out that it is quite normal for human beings to stay in groups and gather together in groups.
This author presents an argument that a very small number of people are willing to live in absolute isolation and they are of course, in constant search for groups to identify themselves with. Lessing goes ahead to point out that, whereas each and every person has experiences of “group pressures”, people rarely depict themselves as “someone who lives and thinks similarly of those in groups” (Lessing 333).
According to Lessing, the moment a person joins a group, in most cases this person changes his or her way of thinking in order to go in line with the group and “there is nothing harder than trying to maintain your own opinions while being a group member” (Lessing 334). This author draws a conclusion that “the reason why an individual never challenges the opinions and affirmations of a group is because they are developed by the entire group mind, and challenging these might cause the entire group to collapse.
Human beings brand themselves as individuals, but they fall short of understanding the way groups exercise their influence over them. Even in the conditions under which people are aware that they are wrong and should not certainly go in line with the group they, in most cases, go on following through with the group mind.
Lessing pointed out that “it is almost impossible to stand firm on your beliefs while taking part in a group….some of our shameful memories are how often we might have said black was white just because other people were saying it” (Lessing 334). A most important example is given by another researcher, Stanley Milgram, who set out to carry out the determination of the level to which “traditional individuals” would have obedience for the evidently morally wrong order of an “authority figure”.
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Milgram carried out tests about the way particular individuals would give a response to imposing pain on to another individual for the reason that they were told to do so by another figure. He set up an experiment in which a person was required to engage in the studying of words that were paired in a list.
Another person was given instructions to ask the learner concerning the words in the list. Every moment the learner was not able to remember the paired words in the list, he was exposed to the electric shock as a way of punishing him. The strength of the electric shock was even increased every time this individual missed the “pairing word”.
The individual who had been assigned to inflict the pain (shocks), in a surprising manner, was not in any way very much disturbed at having to give out electrical shocks to the victim up to the time the victim turned out to be clearly uncomfortable, a point at which these individuals inflicting pain over and over again sought after “bailing the experiment” (Milgram 43).
But the “authority figure” in this experiment that was being carried out would give instructions to the one who was questioning the “learner” to go own regardless of what was happening.
Amazing enough, the one who was questioning would generally go on a few more times before they would stubbornly cease sending more electric impulses to the learner. Initially, the theory was that a large number of individuals would cease from carrying out the experiment having the awareness that the individual to whom they were sending the electric shocks was actually being inflicted but this notion was proved not to be true (Milgram, 43).
Those who were involved in the Milgram’s experiment held a belief that the scientist was very much aware of what he was doing and following this, the assumption they had in their mind was that they too, were doing a thing that was as well acceptable, although at the back of their mind, they knew this was not right.
The subjects surrendered the free will to choose that they had for the reason that an authority above them gave them instructions to do so. This is a clear illustration that gives evidence that going in line with an authority figure or a group in not the best choice at all times.
Lessing poses a question that “if we are truly individuals then why do we not stand up for our own morals and values?” (Lessing 334) This just gives out an indication that human beings hold a belief that the authority figures and large groups have all the possible answers and they have to act in a manner that goes in line with the ‘authority figures’ or groups’ wishes.
Although human beings can think for themselves, they ensure they conform to the authority’s decision and this is for the sake of the “group mind”. An explanation is given out by Milgram of his results in the experiment that “for many, obedience is a deeply ingrained behavior tendency, indeed a potent impulse overriding training in ethics, sympathy, and moral conduct” (Milgram 44).
A large number of human beings show obedience to the authority figures without much thinking. However, there are situations in which disobeying may be helpful to an individual in regard to achieving safety and maintaining one’s morals and values. Lessing, in her article, gives out a discussion about the dangers that come out from being obedient and these are also illustrated by another author, Shirley Jackson, in the short story “The Lottery”.
In this story, the villagers depict the observation that was made by Doris Lessing that “it is the hardest thing in the world to maintain an individual dissident opinion, as a member of a group” (Lessing 334). The villagers in “The Lottery” as well portray how lack of a vision as a member of a group can be quite harmful. Lessing observed that “the majority will continue to insist and after a period of exasperation the minority will fall in to line” (Lessing 334).
Solomon Asch in his article “Opinions and Social Pressure”, points out that “the assumptions are that people submit uncritically and painlessly to external manipulation by suggestion or prestige, and that any given idea or value can be ‘sold’ or ‘unsold’ without reference to its merits” (Asch 307).
What this author is putting across is that a large number of people do ignore their values as well as their virtues without ceasing to engage in thoughts about whether they actually needed to be ignored. Asch and Lessing “tie together” to give an illustration about the way a group can be very powerful and how considerably a group can have an effect on the mind of an individual within the group.
Human beings give in to the external pressure that comes from the authority figures as well as from the peers. Basing on what Lessing points out, there is actually nothing wrong for an individual belonging to a particular group. The problem comes in only when individuals do not understand the “social principles” which serve to control groups as well as control individuals. It is quite clear that groups are an integral part of the society.
In Jackson’s “The Lottery”, the group behavior was actually dangerous to each and every individual that was involved. Other than the clearly seen threat of the “lottery winner” dying after being stoned; this was a tradition of the village. Any individual who had thoughts that could not conform to the group was insulted and regarded to be foolish (Jackson 3). Following the mentality of this group, the direct effect that came out of this was individuals killing the fellow members in the society without any indication of he practice being stopped.
To avoid this practice, it could only require a single individual in the society standing up and protesting, regardless of whether this is a decision of the group or of an individual. By one person in the society boldly giving out his or her opinion, this will serve to change the way people in the group look at things or situations. Since human beings are conscience and aware of themselves, they have the power and ability to positively utilize the group mind in order for them to be able to renew the human condition.
People in the society depend on each other and they find themselves unconsciously forming groups with which they identify themselves. Human beings label themselves as individuals, but they fall short of understanding the way groups exercise their influence over them. It becomes hard for individuals belonging to particular groups to come up with individual decisions that may go against the group and therefore they end up doing what they might be aware that it is not right.
According to Doris Lessing there is actually nothing wrong for an individual to identify him or herself with a certain group. The problem comes in only when individuals do not understand the “social principles” which serve to control groups as well as control individuals. It is quite clear that groups are an integral part of the society. Once people get to find out the exact level to which groups control their lives; they can now commence on looking for ways to set up group minds which boost love alone and the well-being of the society in general.
Asch, Solomon E. “Opinions and Social Pressure.” Writing and Reading Across the Curriculum. Eds. Laurence Behrens and Leonard J. Rosen. New York: Pearson Longman, 2005. 306 – 312.
Jackson, Shirley. “The Lottery”. Writing and Reading Across the Curriculum. Eds. Laurence Behrens and Leonard J. Rosen. New York: Addison Wesley Longman, 2000. 1 – 9.
Lessing, Doris. “Group Minds.” Writing and Reading Across the Curriculum. Eds. Laurence Behrens and Leonard J. Rosen. New York: Pearson Longman, 2000. 333 – 335.
Milgram, Stanley. “The Perils of Disobedience.” Writing and Reading Across the Curriculum. Ed. Laurence Behrens and Leonard J. Rosen. New York: Addison Wesley Longman, 2000. 41 – 47.