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Individualism Versus Group Cognition in Psychology Essay

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Updated: Sep 13th, 2020

Position Paper


Leadership is a quite an essential topic for psychologists. Scholars have come up with different ways to explain various behaviors of leaders within the organization. Personal attributes including both conscious and unconscious attributes have a significant impact on a person’s behavior. As such, leaders are a product of their inner selves. The leadership style that a person portrays to the outer world is a representation of inner personal values.

Various debates on leadership in psychology have become the basis of the different approaches to organizational leadership. One of the leadership issues that have raised many concerns around the world is the debate on individualism versus group cognition in management (Malott, 2011).

The aim of this paper is to analyze the debate on individualism versus group cognition. The debate is a rather logical one, especially in the twenty-first century where the idea of teamwork is much welcome. However, some people still advocate individualism, mostly the Western nations because of increased modernization. As such, the debate becomes an essential topic of discussion seeing the conflicting ideas from different schools of thought.

On the other hand, the choice of the topic was influenced by the fact that individualism and group cognition are principles applicable to a wide range of fields. Leaders from every field can embrace either individualism or group cognition in operations (Forsyth & Hoyt, 2011). In the political realm, the idea of individualism and group cognition determines the success of a candidate during elections. For this reason, individualism, and group cognition are basic to leadership, hence the choice of the debate.

The idea of individualism and group cognition has a cultural perspective on it. Traditionally, people existed in groups, and the group would determine group members’ behavior and actions. The group dictated how people interacted with one another, thus de-individualizing personal perception. However, following the changes in the economic status of the world and the growth of technology, people began to move away from the group perspective.

Modernization has contributed greatly to the idea of individualism as people focus on personal improvement (White & Saunders, 2014). In the leadership realms, however, the idea of individualism is the traditional approach to management. Leaders used to impose rules on their subordinates because people did not have the wit to make ideal decisions. As such, leaders operated as the directors guiding people to the truth that they could not acquire by themselves. However, things have changed in the last few decades.

The technological improvements and the desire for self-enhancement have made people quite knowledgeable. As a result, leaders employ a collective approach in decision-making to ensure that people support their ideas. To limit the chances of rejection, leaders engineer the idea of group cognition where the group assumes an entity capable of making decisions and running things within the organization. Some individuals still prefer the individualistic approach of leadership while others argue that it is time to move to group cognition. The shift from individualism to group cognition is not an easy one, and the resistance from the concerned parties has made it a topic of discussion in the psychological fields.


The debate on individualism and group cognition has two sides. Some of the people support the idea of individualism in leadership while others believe that group cognition is the best approach to leadership. Proponents of individualism argue that the approach gives a person freedom to operate which further results in higher productivity. In addition, proponents of individualism argue that the approach is faster and quite essential in handling matters that require swiftness in organizations. Individualism supports the idea of self-reliance. A self-reliant community is stable and has higher chances of success than one that is dependent. For this reason, proponents of individualism view the approach as an empowering mechanism to improve the performance of a society.

On the other hand, proponents of group cognition argue that the approach limits chances of biases and eliminates selfish desires of individuals. Organizations and societies fail if leaders propagate their desires at the expense of the society. As such, embracing group cognition in leadership can help foster transparency between leaders and enhance the effectiveness of organizations. Additionally, group cognition produces better results than that of any single individual (Malott, 2011).

In organizational leadership, group cognition ensures that the leaders receive great support from the followers. The group must favor the leader to achieve organizational success. Group cognition focuses on the greater good by prioritizing the group over any individual.

Both ideas are valid and sustainable in the current world. Different situations require different approaches. In leading a highly trained group of professionals, a leader must use group cognition to achieve the required support from the team. However, it is advisable for a leader to use individualism approach to managing a group of unskilled workers. A leader can use both approaches to handling different groups of people.

Allowing skilled and highly knowledgeable people to act individually is a rather risky move. Unhealthy competition among professionals can derail the process of decision-making or the entire running of an organization. In such cases, group cognition becomes essential. Group cognition dictates the behavior of the members of the group, thus making it easy to control the activities of the group (Daniels, 2008).

The leaders’ responsibilities are practical in both situations. In individualism, the leader assumes all the responsibilities of decision-making. In a group cognition setup, the leader controls the final decision of the team by integrating every person’s idea in decision-making. Although the leaders using the group cognition approach carry fewer burdens in decision-making, they put significant effort in achieving the group members’ confidence and trust. On the other hand, the individualistic leader assumes all the responsibility for decision-making and the subsequent running of the team. Such a leader does not require his or her followers’ confidence or trust; therefore, they do not invest any effort in that course.


Group cognition is a much better way to run organizations in the current world. Teamwork has become the core business principle in all industries. People achieve better results while working as a team rather than individuals. The cohesiveness of a team determines the success of a group. The use of group cognitions helps build the ability of the people to interact with different people around the world. Globalization has made the world a single entity; therefore group cognition in organizations helps to make people more receptive to different views from other people (Rudy & Grusec, 2006).

One of the important requirements of a leader is people skills. A leader must be able to handle different people in different situations without causing disunity. In addition, group cognition provides a better avenue for leaders to offer equity to their followers. The achievement of equity in every aspect of life has become a common phrase. Equity is also the measure of effectiveness in organizations. Individualism propagates the inequality in many ways.

First, the leader disregards the contributions and the feelings of the rest of the team thus causing biases. Additionally, individualism fosters discrimination, which is a major cause of organizational failure. On the other hand, group cognition enhances unity, equity, and fair distribution of resources within the firm hence the best approach to leadership.

A group represents a unified idea and dictates the behavior of the people within the group. Research indicates that organizations that use the collectivism rather than individualism enjoy harmony in business operations. People learn from one another in life, thus making every aspect of life a social affair. In addition, human beings are social beings, and they work well in a social setup. For this reason, the group cognition approach in leadership is the best approach for the 21st century organization.

Opponents of group cognition and collectivism argue that the idea devalues autonomy. Rather than magnifying an individual’s uniqueness, group cognition uses different, unique ideas from the group members to create a better product (Forsyth & Hoyt, 2011). Therefore, group cognition does not devalue autonomy, but it builds on it for the greater good. Group cognition supports the psychology of cooperation. People are a product of their surroundings; therefore, bringing that cooperation in the organization setup will enhance peace among people. Additionally, working for the common good is more ethical than pursuing one’s self-interest.

The group cognition approach of leadership values the human need for socialism, thus making the approach more humane. In general, the use of group cognition in leadership and the running of organizations is an ideal course of action.

Literature Review

The literature review provides more information on a topic by focusing on the already available material. The purpose of this literature review is to provide a detailed account of the debate on individualism and group cognition. Scholars have published a wide range of material supporting either one side or both sides of the debate, thus making it possible to conduct a comprehensive literature review. The review of the literature provides an ideal basis for one to determine which side of the debate is reasonable enough for the current world. Additionally, the review of the literature will help persuade many leaders’ and psychologists to follow the position of the debate as indicated in the position paper.

The Role of Collectivism in Leadership and Teamwork Performance

The article supports the group cognition side of the debate. The article uses great literature to support the idea that collectivism and group cognition improves teamwork performance in an organization. The literature provided here supports the claims of great psychologists who argue for group cognition in leaders. In comparison with Daniel’s article on the importance of cognitive behavior in handling socially impaired patients, both articles argue that group cognition and collectivism helps unite people in a group (Ricarda, Imcharoen & Wilma, 2007).

The similarity between these articles is a clear indication that group cognition cuts across professional boundaries and can benefit all industries. On the other hand, in changing the patients’ behavior, group cognition helps influence the social aspects of the group members. However, in teamwork, the social nature of the members is what brings about cognition.

The objective of the article is to provide a detailed account of how collectivism can improve the performance of a team. The article uses different teams under different kinds of leadership to show the effect of group cognition in teamwork performance. Collectivism produces positive results on team performance regardless of the leadership style employed. Transformational and transitional leadership styles have different impacts on the performance of a team, especially where the leader uses an individualistic approach.

The research presented in the article indicates that both leadership styles are dependent on the collectivism. In other words, the level at which the leader and the followers choose to integrate collectivism in their operation has a significant impact on the team’s performance (Ricarda et al., 2007). Teams that embrace collectivism produce high-quality work and at a lower cost. The authors’ conclusions are quite valid and valuable because he bases his argument in real life situations. For this reason, the material is quite instrumental in the support of the group cognition approach in leadership psychology. The article provides some positive impacts of group cognition that can help support the position paper.

Interactive-Behavioral Training Effects on Patients

The article supports the idea of group cognition in handling patients with social impairments. Interactive-behavioral training is a psychological approach that clinicians use to reach out to persons with social disorders. The unity of the group helps patients develop ideal social skills and improve the negative symptoms associated with the illness. The paper supports the ideas presented in the previous article that collectivism has a significant impact on an individual’s cognitive ability.

The collectivism for leadership article indicates that collectivism helps the group develop trust and respect for its leader. Similarly, in the interactive-behavioral training article, the author emphasizes on how group psychotherapy helps patients stay calm, thus giving the health practitioner a humble time (Daniels, 2008). Collectivism and group cognition benefit both the leader and the followers in both cases.

The article’s objective is to examine the effectiveness of group psychotherapy in patients with poor mental health or social impairments. The group approach improves patient’s social competence, thus making the patient easier to manage. Additionally, the approach helps reduce the negative symptoms and effects that result from poor treatment. Mental health patients make it hard for practitioners to administer the required care. In some case, patients become quite violent, thus affecting the consistency of treatments. As a result, the patient develops negative symptoms because of the poor treatment, which can further accelerate their health condition.

The group psychotherapy helps to improve the social stability of such patients, thus improving chances of better health care. The article indicates that people are capable of learning social skills in the group psychology (Daniels, 2008). Leaders in organizations can modify the behavior of their patients by using a simple group psychology techniques. The information provided in the article is quite useful in the support of the position paper. The article is in favor of group cognition, thus making it valuable to the position paper.

Authoritarian Parenting and Collectivism

Authoritarian parenting has negative impacts on child development. Children from authoritarian families have low self-esteem and poor self-development mechanism in comparison with their counterparts. However, according to this article, parents who use both authoritarian parenting and collectivism achieve much better results in child development. The paper is in support of collectivism, which supports the group cognition side of the debate.

Authoritarianism in collectivism is quite different from that used in individualistic approaches. Parents in an individualistic approach who use authoritarian parenting risk damaging the self-esteem of their children. However, in collectivism, the authoritarian parenting helps children to respect the group values and accept the standards set by the society. Collectivism provides children with options while individualism limits the child’s actions to a singular approach (Rudy & Grusec, 2006).

The article supports the ideas presented by the other two articles discussed earlier. Group cognition has a positive impact on a person’s cognitive ability. The positive impact of group cognition explains why children who grow up in a collectivistic society under an authoritarian parent have higher self-esteem than those that grow in an individualistic society. However, the article differs with other proponents of group cognition by stating that parents should adjust their leadership style once they move to an individualistic society.

The objective of the article was to inform parents about the best parenting techniques depending on the nature of society in which they live. Authoritarian parenting is ideal when the society allows collectivism. However, in an individualistic society, authoritarian parenting produces negative impacts on the children. Authoritarian parenting slows down the development of a child’s cognitive ability. Additionally, children who grow up under an authoritarian leadership in an individualistic society develop social issues that hinder their interaction with other people.

The authors’ conclusion of this paper is quite relevant and of great value to the society because it provides basic guidelines to parenthood (Rudy & Grusec, 2006). Parenting is a rather hard task in the current world where technology runs every operation. Additionally, the information presented in the article helps in supporting the position paper in many ways. The paper advocates for group cognition in family leadership, thus promoting the use of group cognition in leadership.

The Multilevel Selection Theory

The theory focuses on different selection methods that are useful in an individualistic and group approach. The theory presents the group approach as a weaker approach. Individualism allows people to develop personal skills that make an individual successful in life. On the other hand, the group value approach encourages people to be lazy, and dependent on one another. The fact that the group can make decisions for the group members encourages people not to think. Additionally, group cognition breeds enmity in the society. The in-group mentality treats the other people as enemies (Wilson, Vugt & O’Gorman, 2007). Therefore, the in-group and out-group mentality is dangerous to the society. The paper is in support of the individualism part of the debate.

The article differs with the first three articles discussed in this paper in that; it supports individualism as the best approach to life in the 21st century. Additionally, the article differs with the three articles in the significance of group mentality in improving the thinking capacity of people. According to this article, group cognition prevents people from thinking critically while the other three articles argue that group cognition enhances the cognitive ability of group members.

The objective of the article was to present the views of a group as a single entity while pointing out the dangers of that approach. The unifying nature of the group limits individual operation, which is dangerous in the current world (Wilson et al., 2007). Psychologists argue that the ability of a person to operate freely gives one power to determine their destiny. The value of the author’s conclusion is relevant to the field of psychology, and the author uses reviewed material to support the work. Although the information in this article does not support the position of the debate that this paper presents, it provides an ideal basis for counter arguments in the position paper.

Individualism in the Social, Behavioral, and Biology

The article presents a detailed account of individualism in science and psychology. The power of cognition lies within the individual. The interaction between the soul and the mind of a human being produces the cognition. The information in the article supports the individualistic part of the leadership psychology debate. The author has used extensive material from the field of psychology and science to support his claims. In addition, the combination of both scientific and psychological materials makes the conclusion of the author quite valuable. The objective of the article was to explain the process of individual cognition by explaining how psychology and science relate in determining human behavior (Wilson, 2004).

Although the article is not in support of the debate position chosen for this paper, it provides the necessary information that can be used to make substantial claims in the group cognition debate. For instance, according to the article individual cognition results from sharing and competition (Wilson, 2004). The principle of sharing is applicable in the group cognition process. Additionally, for one to make an ideal position defense, they must have the facts on the other side of the debate. Therefore, the resource was necessary for this study.


Daniels, L. (2008). A group cognitive-behavioral and process-oriented approach to treating the social impairment and negative symptoms associated with chronic mental illness. J Psychother Pract Res, 7 (2). 167-176.

Forsyth, D. & Hoyt, C. (2011). For the Greater Good of All Perspectives on Individualism, Society, and Leadership. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Malott, C. (2011). Critical pedagogy and cognition an introduction to a post-formal educational psychology. Dordrecht New York: Springer.

Ricarda, B., Imcharoen, A. & Wilma, K. (2007). What does collectivism mean for leadership and teamwork performance? An empirical study in professional service firms. Journal of international business and economics, 7 (2), 67-73.

Rudy, D & Grusec, J. (2006). The Authoritarian parenting in individualist and collectivist groups: associations with maternal emotion and cognition and children’s self-esteem. Journals of family psychology, 20 (1), 68-78.

White, M. & Saunders, C. (2014). Leadership. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Wilson, D., Vugt, M. & O’Gorman, R. (2007). Multilevel selection theory and major evolutionary transitions: implications for psychological science. CDIR, 17 (1), 534-538.

Wilson, R. (2004). Recent work in individualism in the social, behavioral, and biological sciences. Biology and Philosophy, 19 (1), 397-423.

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