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Group Polarization in Group Decision Making

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  • 0:06 Group Polarization
  • 1:34 Why Does Polarization Happen?
  • 3:07 Prevention of Polarization
  • 3:53 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jennifer Lombardo
Group polarization focuses on how groups usually make decisions that are more extreme than the original thoughts and views of the individual team members. There are two main reasons why group polarization happens within an organization.

Group Polarization

Messy Chocolates Candy Company just received horrible news from Wall Street. It seems that their stock price has plummeted to $10 a share. Why? It all has to do with some really bad group decision making by the marketing team.

The team voted to produce Chocolate Cricket Bars as their new product. Sales were abysmal as consumers rejected the product. Wall Street wondered what the team was thinking in their product selection. Let's go back in time to see why this bad decision was made at Messy Chocolates.

One of the biggest weaknesses in group decision making is when group polarization occurs. Group polarization focuses on how groups usually make decisions that are more extreme than the original thoughts and views of the individual team members. If the group members are cautious in nature, then the total group decision could be extremely conservative. If the group members have individuals who lean towards riskier behaviors, then the final group consensus could be an extremely risky choice.

It seems this weakness occurred with the marketing team. All of the members like to take risk (after all, that's why they are in marketing), and the final product idea is a risky one to proceed with. The persuasive group of marketing individuals selected a new Cricket Chocolate Bar made of actual insects. Supposedly it is extremely popular in the South and packs a lot of protein. This decision was disastrous. Why does group polarization occur?

Why Does It Happen?

There are two main reasons why group polarization happens within an organization. The first reason is due to the idea of social comparison. Before the group decision making occurs, most individuals approach the process feeling that their opinions are better than the other members. Once the group starts to discuss the issue, the members start to learn that their views are close to average and not unique. In response to this discovery, the individual tends to move to an extreme position (whether extremely conservative or extremely risky). The individual also enjoys the attention of the extreme position and hopes to be categorized as a leader in thought.

This is what happened in the Cricket Candy Bar situation. Each member of the group provided different chocolate bar ideas, such as Gummy Bear Chocolate Bar and Potato Chip Chocolate Bar. Everyone had similar thoughts and suggestions until John spoke up regarding the Cricket Bar. John is a tremendously outgoing individual and a great speaker. He was able to gain attention for his crazy idea.

The second reason why group polarization occurs is due to the persuasive arguments view. In this theory, as the group discussion starts to progress, members realize that the discussion is not progressing much past the initial thoughts and views. Individuals then start to offer more extreme views that can create polarized attitudes and thoughts through persuasive presentations. This did not happen at Messy Chocolates, but many groups run into these issues as well.

Prevention

There are some ways that companies can help prevent group polarization from happening. The first suggestion is to utilize a neutral facilitator to help navigate all of the different views and ensure that no one dominates the discussion. Another approach is to utilize an anonymous process to allow all individuals to provide solid opinions without outside influence. Lastly, the moderator can accumulate and present each of the ideas instead of allowing those individuals with a stronger personality or presentation skill to give their thoughts directly to the group.

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