The Power of the Group: beyond mob rule

Nov
6
2009
by
Lynne McTaggart
/
49
Comments

Because I am interested in the power of the group and the power of group thought, lately I’ve been investigating why and under what conditions this occasionally goes horribly wrong. Why do large groups of seemingly civilized, kindly and moral people perpetrate acts of inhumanity?
Under what mindset did many ordinary German people agree to be, as Daniel Goldhagen put it, ‘Hitler’s willing executioners’? What can be conditions under which inhabitants of the Balkans feel justified in carrying out systematic rape and the destruction of entire communities? Is there a mob psychology that takes over, prompting an otherwise loving person take up a machete and use it to slaughter women and children in Africa?
What, Joan Didion famously asked, makes Iago evil? Is evil inherent in the person or inherent in the social context?
During the 1961 trial of Adolph Eichmann. the American historian Hannah Arendt concluded that far from being a dysfunctional psychopath, Eichmann was, to all intents and purposes, shockingly ordinary.
Evil, she posited, is utterly banal, capable of being committed not by the crazed and lunatic but by the unremarkable: even the most civilized among us — the happily-married, two-kids-and-two-cars regularly-churchgoing neighbor — can turn into a sadistic crazy when given social support and a legitimatizing ideology, such as Nazism.
Shocking findings
One of the people fascinated by Arendt’s then explosive thesis was Yale University social psychologist named Stanley Milgram who created one of the most famous experiments examining this question. He’d created a study in which an actor, posing as the ‘Learner’ in an experiment, was subjected to memory tests. If he got any answers wrong, the participants in the experiment — the Teachers — were told to deliver shocks of increasing severity to the participant.
In actual fact, the Learner did not receive real shocks, nevertheless he responded convincingly as though he had. The extraordinary finding of his experiment was that every last one of the 40 Teachers had been willing to administer shocks of 300 volts and two-thirds prepared to order the full voltage of 450-volt shocks, even though the Learner was heard to scream out in agony, complain of a bad heart condition and repeatedly demand to be released from the study.
Milgram had designed the study so that his participants were both repeatedly ‘ordered’ to continue meting out ‘punishment’ and absolved of any blame for what happened. The experimenter would take ultimate responsibility if the Learner got ill or died.
Milgram concluded that Arendt was right: ordinary people would placed obedience to authority (‘I was just following orders’) above their own moral values under certain circumstances.
Mob rule
Perhaps the most famous study of in relation to the dynamics of groups and ‘mob rule’ was carried out in 1971, the Stanford Prison Experiment. Stanford University psychologist Philip Zimbardo created a mock prison in which a group of nice, middle-class university students, especially screened to be the most psychologically stable of all those who’d volunteered, were assigned the roles of guards or prisoners, with Zimbardo taking in the role of prison supervisor.
The Palo Alto police were cued to ‘arrest’ the students and fingerprint them, and they were given humiliating clothing to wear, referred to only by number and made to follow endless arbitrary orders and punishments in order to mimic the dehumanizing aspects of prison.
The experiment quickly got out hand. The student guards became more and more sadistic, refusing to allow the prisoners to urinate or defecate, or to empty the sanitation bucket, forcing them to sleep on concrete, placing them in a closet deemed to be ‘solitary confinement’, and finally subjecting them to degrading and pornographic violence. What’s more, the prisoner students accepted their humiliating treatment. At least one third of the guards were judged to have exhibited true ‘sadistic’ tendencies; many of the prisoners were left emotionally traumatized by the experience.
Although it had been planned for two weeks, the study had to be halted after six days.
Zimbardo’s conclusion was that his prison experiment had all the hallmarks of mob rule: that when people assemble into groups and are given power over other groups, they cannot resist behaving sadistically.
These two pivotal studies have been cited in all the decades since in psychology classes as proof positive that groups have an automatic Lord-of-the-Flies effect, causing people to shed their moral judgment, even their humanity.
The BBC Experiment
In 2002, Alexander Haslam, a professor of social psychology at Britain’s University of Exeter and Stephen Reicher, social psychologist at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, wished to revisit these ideas and recreate the Stanford University experiment.
Funded and filmed by the British Broadcasting Company (and eventually shown on TV as The Experiment) the two researchers created an elaborate prison, and again randomly divided a group of men into two groups as either prisoners or guards.
Nevertheless, this time, unlike Milgram or Zimbardo, the experimenters did not in any way attempt to influence the participants’ actions. So crucially they did not provide the defining ideology – or justification for cruelty.
Over eight days, the experimenters were witness to stunning developments. Although the prisoners, the ones with less power and privilege, were initially demoralized, over time the group dynamics shifted.
As the prisoners developed a sense of shared identity, they began to function effectively as a group and also increasingly enjoyed improved morale and mental well-being.
Shared identity
Shared identity ultimately led to improved effectiveness and even health, with low levels of cortisol – the hormone pumped by the body in times of stress. As time wore on, the prisoners became stronger, happier and empowered.
The guards, on the other hand, who had not bonded as a group, became increasingly dispirited and powerless, exhibiting high levels of cortisol.
Eventually the prisoners staged a breakout and the authority of the guards collapsed. After the coup, everyone — guards and prisoners — spontaneously agreed to form a system of greater equality: what they termed a ‘self-governing, self-disciplining commune’.
The experiment would have ended on a happy note, but the idyll didn’t last. After the group began doubting their ability to enforce the commune, the organization of the group soon began to fall apart.
Tyranny re-established
At this point, some members of the guards and prisoners began to plan a new ‘coup’ in which they would take over, re-establish a line between prisoners and guards, and establish more authoritarian order. They even requested black berets and black sunglasses to reinforce their images of a you-talkin-to-me bad ass.
Those in the commune didn’t fight back, but were in such disarray that they, too, were willing to agree to a system of tyranny again. At this point, fearing another Stanford experiment situation, Haslem and Reicher ended the experiment.
Haslem and Reicher are very clear about what they observed.
Nevertheless, tyranny was not inherent once people formed a group; it was displayed because of the failure of the groups, first the failure of the guards to form a collective bond and then the failure of the entire group to create the equalitarian commune they’d imagined.
While the prisoners had successfully fought off some relatively minor inequalities at the start of the experiment, by the end they were willing to embrace and even support tyranny because they did not enforce their collective utopian ideal.
Although the researchers believe tyranny is a product of group processes, not individual pathology, they disagree about the nature of it.
“From our standpoint, people do not lose their minds in groups, do not helplessly succumb to the requirements of their roles and do not automatically abuse collective power. Instead they identify with groups only when it makes sense to do so.’
The individual inside the group
Groups — our neighborhoods and towns, our religious affiliations and political parties, even our countries, in every sense — determine and justify what we do.
Cohesive groups are extraordinarily strengthening — indeed necessary for our survival.
Even as a beleaguered group, the BBC prisoners remained robustly immune to treatment by the guards — so long as they could connect with others in the same boat. In fact, the more they were oppressed as a group, the stronger they became.
The bottom line is that every group creates a collective culture — whether of hate or love — but every individual in the group helps to create that culture and has a responsibility.
What is important is establishing and maintaining the we’re-all-in-this-together cohesion of the group, but then taking a good long look at its values to ensure that it does not stand for oppression of anyone.
Because you are a Republican does not give you the right to behave badly to a Democrat. Because you are Israeli does not absolve you from humane treatment of a Palestinian — and vice versa.
And that’s where your individual responsibility takes over.

Lynne McTaggart

Lynne McTaggart is an award-winning journalist and the author of seven books, including the worldwide international bestsellers The Power of Eight, The Field, The Intention Experiment and The Bond, all considered seminal books of the New Science and now translated into some 30 languages.

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49 comments on “The Power of the Group: beyond mob rule”

  1. When I was at boarding school (more years ago than I care to remember) I recall being egged on to kill a cockroach. It wasn't something I wanted to do, but I submitted to the pressure of the group. All these years later I can still hear the crunch, and still feel guilty!

  2. Groupthink has many facets. Often people will simply not want to appear foolish to others even though they disagree with whats going on.
    So seems to me their is a bit of ego involved.
    If people could truly see that they are both sides of the same coin maybe they will realize being inhumane to others does so themselves.

  3. hooray for a really worth while topic,about a subject which has plagued,and still does.
    There are a plethora of theories,and conjectures,and whys and where fores,
    and all amount> So a recognition an unpleasant recogition,and one which has longterm consequences for us all, were not so homogenius nor sapiens as we like to think, our colloective genius as genus is subverted into disfunctional acts of attritions, which attrocite and those acts are not all on the other side,as with renditon they are ours.
    We like to think we are,all filled with light, and popularise such motions constantly,as salves... we know collective hatreds masquerade under guises of concern.
    Unpleasant as it may be ,the facts show shows ,even when suppressed,were still
    incapable of dealing with the industrialised complications to savagery.
    and on an ever greater scale as one billoin people are already living in starvation,and suffering..as sandra g said there is ego involved,and mass disfunction too..and also social economic structures and policies which have brought such results to oppress and pressure and cause mass harm.

  4. Could it be possible that one aspect of this serious threat is the absence of love? If a person respects its creature and loves himself, he will be strong enough to bend to these terrible phenomena.

  5. When I was in a high school sorority I was suppose to make the pledges do things that were mean and sometimes silly. I just couldn't do it. I had become friends with many of them and it felt wrong and made my stomach hurt watching this behavior. I went outside to escape the escalating harassment in the name of sisterhood.
    I have never forgotten that day. No one was hurt physically but I am sure there were hurt feelings.
    When I had been a pledge there was a member who went after me viciously and humiliated me every day. Members who adored me and who were my closets friends stood by paralyzed like deer in the headlights and did nothing to help me! This girl was so mean and she was rarely challenged by anyone because she seemed so drunk with power to the other teenage girls!
    I saw first hand at 16 what a powerful and dominating person can do to others while rendering those around them scared or helpless to challenge them. Power in just one person is a force that can paralyze a group into doing or not doing the right thing which is very scary.
    Now that I am older and come upon these power hungry adults--I steer clear and if I have to I challenge them. There is something in some people-not all, which drives them to try and control others. Maybe these control genes are left overs from a time when they were needed long ago.
    I call it the Dictator genes and I know a few people who have them and they try and manipulate everyone to do what they want in every situation. I am always surprised at the intelligent people who give in to them!

  6. The opposite of love is not hate but rather it is fear. There is no reason to hate anything unless you fear it for some reason.
    It is always error to identify with any specific group since our real self, or spirit is everything, or all that is. All the horrible things that have ever happened have come about from denial of this and seeing the evil "out there", rather than examining our own beliefs and thinking and seeing that we are, or have been, in some way or other, that evil.
    I believe that evolution can no longer be thought of as just a physical thing but has now entered the realm of the mental and as a result the thoughts and beliefs we have individually and as a species, and the actions that result from them, will determine our survival. The obvious direction for survival is love, not fear or hate.

  7. and theres more theorising is an excercise which displaces the focus, into discussions which actually distract,the fact is event which attribute terror do occur,with devestating results,and no amount of theorising changes that,so the events show.attrocity continues

  8. Lyn, I have read both your books and find your work fascinating and useful, but I am disappointed that you need to charge money to participate in what basically is a spiritual enlightenment experiment. I am retired on SS and cannot afford to pay the minimum amount to participate, even though I feel it would benefit the world and me greatly. It is my hope that you will allow participation without charges to attain that much more "intention power."
    Doug

  9. Dear Lynn, despite the fantastic enthusiasm, I'd like to draw again the attention to the history in social responsibility (like I did for the peace intention experiments concerning the 50 years of history behind the Sri Lanka civil war concerning the government and the rebels). By no means to offend, rather than to provide you deeper ground of thinking. You only mentioned countries and people outside your home country, UK. However documented similar acts have been undertaken by the british colonial forces even in the 19th-20th century turn; or US forces and corporate bodyguards in Iraq still to date. Please be careful how you mention examples as it appears that you think people in the Balkans or Africa are somehow worse than people in Western Europe. Generalization is a difficult wave to ride by public celebrities...
    So that love overrides fear and power _everywhere_.

  10. I like to think that I would not be part of a mob. However, I don't want to be put to the test, thank you very much.
    What I am amazed at is how easily the public is manipulated. Here in Canada (and the US), the hype and hysteria over H1N1, or swine flu has resulted in controlling the masses to demand the flu shot. The government, the press and the pharmacy companies seem to be united in a conspiracy to immunize everyone, no matter what the science says of its safety. Anyone speaking out against the flu shot is quickly attacked at irresponsible. Check out the Dr. Mercola video we posted on our blog to see what I am talking about.
    The ability to stand for what you believe in when all those around you are saying the opposite seems to be quite rare. Whether it is the flue shot, Rwanda, or Nazi Germany.

  11. A really good article, thanks, though think it doesn't extend far enough. The mindset 30-50 years ago was bent more toward cruelty and seeing any 'other' as outside and separate from ourselves. Today, not as much, as a higher percentage of individuals have come to conscious awakening in their personal responsibility in thought, word and deed, both as individual, and in ANY group they might be associated with, knowing that the 'other' is only a mirror of 'us' in different shoes. As we approach the 100th-monkey tipover point, we look forward to a group consciousness planet-wide which will be empowered to make 'heart-centered' choices independent of the duality we currently exist in (hate-love, dark-light, good-bad, etc.) Once the 'frequency' of this consciousness is strong enough, all we need do is decide that this is what we want and consciously move toward it. ---- On a personal note, the genocide in Burundi-Rwanda was horrific and devastating (we were in Peace Corps-Burundi just preceding the worst outbreaks and heart-breakingly, most of our fish-farmers and their families were annihilated in the early years of the war). But the media misleads the masses in implying that being hacked to death by a machete is any worse than being cut in half by an AK-47 or starved to death by politics. And mass hypnosis by charismatic individuals (Nazi Germany) appears much different than the extremely-repressed-culture-of emotions prevalent in Burundi-Rwanda which build like a pressure cooker until it explodes into violence. While mass genocide was still the result in each case, the former was a voluntary belief pattern, the latter a result of reaction, lack of choice and extreme repression. Rwanda is being healed and brought forward by opening that culture to a wider world of choice, freedom and accountability in everyday life, and we are grateful and hopeful that future generations will choose to avoid genocide as a response to life.

  12. I wonder what went through the mind of the leader of the Gadarene swine when in the last moment before they all went to their doom he realised what he'd led them to. Of course he could thought "This is all Christ's doing."
    And he'd have been right, wouldn't he!

  13. It's interesting that even though the prisoners were able to create a bond which improved their health and standing, they were unable to have faith in that bond as a "governing" force. That shows a dismaying strength in the propaganda all humans are fed daily by all governments, a propaganda which insists that light/love and generosity are very nice ideals for families and neighbors but which cannot be trusted at larger levels. The people in the experiment, who had *experienced* the positive effects of a certain kind of relationship with others, were still only able to believe that those positive effects were possible within a larger system of oppression--that's so bizarre, and yet so widespread...!
    That said, I'm very happy to hear about the positive beginning of the Haslam experiment.. The Milgrim and Zimbardo ones are the ones I always hear of, so depressing.

  14. Hi Everyone,
    Fabulous posts with thoughtful answers. Keep them coming!
    Nadine, I'm delighted for you to post this blog's link elsewhere so people come to read it here.
    Doug, participation in the Intention Experiments is free. Everyone can participate. The only condition is that you sign up to is be part of this community and then register again for the experiments when we ask you to do so (so we can have exact numbers and locations of all participants).
    I do charge for books, teleseminars and the like, which then enables me to afford to do the Intention Experiment for free.
    And finally Marton - no offense taken. The UK is actually not my home - only my current transplanted residence. I'm an American - New Jersey girl, actually — living abroad. It gives me an interesting mid-Atlantic perspective on both the US and Europe.
    Warmest wishes,
    Lynne

  15. You all never learn!!! I know the the experiments you have mentioned Lynn. Once again your research is flawless. So here is something: In the movie "Playing for Time" Vanessa Redgraves' role says to her fellow inmates "(referring to their Nazi camp guards) "....You're wrong, they are not animals, they're ppl. And we've learned something about the human race, and its not good news"
    When are you guys gonna learn this. Sorry, the race is a loser. Lord of the Flies doesnt end. It never does. Only a rare few know themselves and touch or have been touched by the Creator. Thats all, just a few. Most are just "animals", deserving of slaughter.
    BTW - I am not being cynical, duh!!

  16. Re: "And that’s where your individual responsibility takes over. " I would have preferred to read, "And that’s where my responsibility takes over."
    Kerry

  17. I don't think the experiement is as much a reflection on people in general as it is the conditioning that takes place in public schooling. At least in this country, children are herded into rooms, given no freedom to explore, told to sit still and shut up for the most formative years of their lives. The experiment you should be looking at is the one that took place after WW1. Bismarck decided that if he was given children to work with in the schools, he could force them to be the kind of citizens he wanted. The United States decided with Dewey that his experiement was worth emulating. Of course, we would do it differently--or would we?

  18. “PLACE YOURSELFS IN 'THE GLOWING HANDS OF CHRIST'. SEE HIS VISIONS OF LOVE AND LIGHT. TAKE A WALK THROUGH OUR GARDEN OF LOVE, 'THE GARDEN OF EDEN', YOU MIGHT EVEN SEE OUR WHITE DOVE. YOU CAN EVEN PICK EACH FLOWER ON YOUR WAY… IT’S OK.! FOR WE WON’T MIND, IF YOU TAKE ALL THE MANY ROSES YOU MAY FIND. REALLY, IT’S TRULY FINE.! BUT WALK, ENJOY EACH PATH YOU MAY TAKE. IT’S TRULY OK, FOR HEAVEN SAKE.! EVEN SIT FOR A SPELL, WE WON’T TELL. FOR YOU CAN TAKE ALL THE TIME YOU MAY NEED, WHILE SIPPING SOME OF OUR TEA. IT’S FOR YOU, SO ENJOY THE VIEW. YET KEEP IN MIND; ALL THINGS WILL BE FINE, KNOW THAT WE ARE ALL, WALKING ALONG SIDE OF THEE.! AS YOUR NOT ALONE, NOT AT ALL. FOR WE WOULDN’T DARE LET YOU FALL.! REMEMBER THAT WHITE DOVE.? IT’S FILLED WITH LOVE… FOR IT’S ‘THE GLOWING HANDS OF CHRIST’, SURROUNDING YOU IN ALL HIS LOVE AND LIGHT.!”
    BY ELIZABETH KLUKEN
    KEEP SHARING THE LOVE… Elizabeth~HopesB4u2~”The Garden Of Eden” http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=28144907869

  19. The Rape of Nanking by the Japanese soldiers in WW II were worse than the Holocaust. They just went berserk thinking that it is a Heaven's Mandate, not unlike the Jihadists of radical Islam. The scary thing is, this could happen to everyone, individually or collectively.

  20. Here in Britain during the 70`s and 80`s this group negative-social, behaviour manifested in supporters of Football(soccer) clubs.What set them apart were the different coloured shirts and scarves,banners and the type of songs they chanted.The police and government of the time found that keeping the supporters isolated from one another in groups of three or less solved the violence at the games.Humans are socially programmed creatures who seek to fit in and belong, so as to be considered "normal."A survival mechanism; the optimum way to find a mate;these all drive us to seek out and join groups.Perhaps,we are still genetic slaves to our animal natures.If that`s true, then at least we are now aware that the group mentality may be benign or malign;constructive or destructive.
    The sooner we remove these perceived differences and all become one group;one world, the quicker we will be able to evolve a more moral maturity allowing us all to grow up as a species.The realisation that we are all connected at the fundamental level of reality,one entity,shows how important it is for humanity to lay down the most beneficial structures the will create the most stable and life enhancing traits of this new world order.Years away;or centuries away.It`s up to us.Each and every one of us to come together and visualise this new paradigm of our reality, and see it take form around us......May that day come soon!

  21. A very good article. For many years, looking at people from a psychological view point, I was wondering what was meant when I heard people were asleep or as sheep. And what I noticed as for religious faith, followers, some more devote to do unmoral things than others, there had to be a reason for people following others as authority figures. I always wondered at what point do we give up freedom of thought to act as organic robots under the command of others. The scariest part is how so many live within a system of control without ever really noticing it in the media, as in commercials, movies, books and other sources. I think there are those who understand quite well how the human mind and the majority behave.

  22. I watched the British version of the prison experiment and decided that the experimenters were blind to the obvious possibility that the subjects were taking the piss out of the experimenters. If the prisoners planning a coup
    were really serious about it, would they have really asked for uniforms and dark glasses?

  23. ''As in the careful thought before the action, can have a billiard ball effect on -ALL- it comes in CONTACT with no matter the intent of heart's mind. This is the simplicity of the creator's wisdom and his intentions which brings history and the repetitions OF IT... BECAUSE OF OUR MISUSE of wisdom.

  24. Could someone help me with this time zone of GMT? If it is 5:00 pm in London, (understanding this is where Lynn is), ...... what time would it be EST? Thanks for you help.

  25. Don't overlook the role that leadership plays in this issue. After working at several large business organizations for over 30 years, I have seen over and over how the leadership defines the moral environment of an organization. The same seems to be true of nations. We need to be very careful who we elect to public office.

  26. I see this as a further illustration that we are social beings with the desire to fulfill the needs of the group, whether we perceive it to be morally right or wrong. Especially as we have been, and are continually conditioned by society, and its prevailing rules and laws to conform.
    Any-one not doing so is labelled as anti-social, and/ or eccentric, and whilst the latter may well be tolerated, the former is definitely considered as being the basis for restraint, imprisonment and some form of punishment and restriction of liberty.

  27. In regards to the "group energy" - it is always in tune with what is currently occurring in the immediate environment. The person who is closely in touch with their own sense of purpose and strengths will never get drawn into an alien idea (one that is not in their blue-print). regards to all Lezley from OZ

  28. Fabulous post, Lynn! These are issues I too wrestle with-- and in fact, in the wake of Fort Hood, I think we have to ask: Was the shooter just one bad apple? Or was this an unbearable context likely to breed such incidents? Looking into the context as you do and as has been done in these experiments, does not excuse individual choice.
    But all too often our emphasis on individuality, and individual choice, overlooks the conditioning role of context. I address this in a HuffPo blog on Fort hood at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/alison-rose-levy/fort-hood-exit-strategy_b_348718.html
    Thanks again! Alison

  29. Beautiful item!
    We all know people are different, not only in gender, physical shape, intelligence, but also in level of consciousness. Couldn't it be that these experiments only show that the willingness of going along with such an experiment shows that the level of consciousness that most of us have is still not that high?
    No one is to blame, it's only experience! As well for the participants as for us as readers. Reading and knowing will not really help any of us when forced to act in an actual situation. In the end a person can only act according to his/her level of consciousness and bear the consequences as experience, as a learning device.

  30. well what a lot for consideration,including hermes durrr dont get it the research is.....the anatomy of human destructiveness, theres sure enough arround,to provide occupations and it does..which begs a question, are we fataled to be subjects subjected to such? Either as leaders followers,or witnesses, trapped by it and its consequences? or is there some possiblity? and what form is the possible and how can it be?
    the explanations may impress but, for change,what change changes perceptions suficiently to see out of the multiple dilemmas,to beyond,to some new break clarity with intent to end the stae which hold s us trapped in its thrall

  31. and of course no amount ot words can really give more than some differnet angle on an age old.......stylisation....and ive posited there are non inevitables about such complicit behaviours,arent accidental,as lynne has indicated they happen routinely.......
    in todays news in the uk is aheadline about,failure to investigate, as applied to complaints made by outsiders to a group in this case the police ..but it could be any group....the cofromity closed ranks repsonse kicks in as stunned disbeleif..lynne refers to that too..oh no not us we couldnt possibly were keepers of the peace,it must be the others,they are the enemy....
    and so it continuesas conflict unresolved..and a scource of endless theories,and academic....
    butif youre subject of such the experience is very different from the description..its intense.

  32. We can see the behaviors described in the experiments in school yards where a leader will convince other students to pick, and even hurt, a weaker one.
    How do we deal with this?

  33. to Lynn McTaggart and all.....the answers to these question as you already know can lead down a very unexpected rabbit hole. there was a TV after-school special in the 80s based on a true story that really helps understand this question. i urge all to watch and spread around. it is on youtube and was called "the wave"...
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BVRXXbU-z7U

  34. We create our reality with our thoughts, beliefs, and expectations. These experiments seem to show it. They created a belief of a "bad" guy and a "good" guy. With this belief, they were at war with each other. The guards thought they were superior and acted accordingly. Even the expectation of getting shocked was created. As for Nazi Germany, they were deceived by power hungry individuals. They were made to believe Poland was out to get them creating fear and hate. They were also taught that they were superior.

  35. M Scott Peck's study of human evil was called People of the Lie. Denial(s) made by individuals as well as denial shared by a group - a comfortable collusion - is what leads human beings to commit atrocities.
    As someone who experienced atrocities at the hands of my own parents, who appeared to be the most reasonable of people, I can tell you if "there's an elephant in the room but no one's admitting it" you can bet they've been telling themselves a lie or lies to avoid the uncomfortable truth.
    Sometimes this process is so convoluted and the person so removed from their own heart's intelligence, perhaps because they learned such self-deceptions from so many others, a lie may be believed. In the story of The Emperor's New Clothes it was the innocent child who spoke the truth.
    People who are completely driven or ruled by their fears, whether conscious or unconscious, are most easily duped into denial. A polarised Us vs Them mentality pours oil on the fires of such collusion. Heartfelt awareness at such times is exceptionally difficult, especially en masse. However, the intention of a heart-centred group of people to bring about a positive change can be just as powerful.
    Let's apply such power to creating heart-centred humanity. Let's create an intention for the Copenhagen climate change summit to bring about a global healing for our Mother Earth and humanity as well.
    with Love and Gratitude to you all.

  36. Hi Lynne,
    Everyone requires approval, and what better way to receive approval than to become part of a group that recognises your efforts, no matter how twisted those efforts might be.
    I recall interviewing a neo-nazi skin head, who clearly pointed out that many of their members were previously ostracised individuals who didn’t fit in with their local peer groups, so by simply shaving their head, wearing combat boots and committing violent acts against the neo-nazi’s perceived enemies, they were immediately welcomed and fostered as important members.
    They were empowered by the violence as it gave them something they had never had before; acceptance.
    We all want to belong to something greater than ourselves. This is the root of religious congregations too, whether your god is Jesus, Allah or Buddha.
    And how many have suffered or died at the expense of these gods?
    You end your blog with the sentence, “And that’s where your individual responsibility takes over,” and my argument is your individual responsibility should be the first thing you consider, not the last.
    Write On!

  37. "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing".
    Edmund Burkes observation typifies much of the behaviours that these experiments highlight. The Groupthink dynamic can move strongly either way..Good or Bad. How many of the readers here have seen minor instances in organisations? Misguided leadership or domineering individuals directing things which many disagree with but dont speak up! A colleague who encountered this , often quipped " Do I stay quiet and maybe look stupid, or speak up and prove that I am!!" Classic organisational behaviour.
    This is the power of groups on the marginal. If the marginal are many , and sit on the fence ,the vaccuum gets filled . Stephen Covey in a Management book wrote that between stimulus and response is a space from which choice comes. Our identification of this space and the careful utilisation of this gift defines us as individuals. Our Listening and Thinking skills must be nurtured to see this .The trap is commonly sprung visible as 'kneejerk ' responses , often sadly too predictible.
    In the exercise of Individual Responsibility we all need to challenge ourselves.If we see ourselves as capable of making mistakes , very often repeating
    past behaviours, we can rise above the norming behaviours, and bring our real contribution to the fore. Think and Speak.

  38. Well, we all come from tribes, it is our heritage. It is in our genes to respond to our tribel instincts when provoked. In the world of antropology this "mob mentality" is simply or "tribel mentality" taking over. This is caused by our "fight or flight" which is controled by our "lower brain" being flooded with hormones, just like it was designed to do. Unfortunatley most people are tuned into this brain rather then the higher functioning reasoning brain.
    So, we are basically a lost species at the moment. In these high times of stress, let's just all be angry all the time and add to this energy, instead of thinking over our options and changing our mindset to something higher and helpful. Oh, it is just all so disappointing to me.

  39. Hello Lynne,
    I would like to thank you sincerely for not just doing what you've done but sharing with us all.
    My only son David was murdered during a burglary at his home last year and I virtually stopped living. You can not imagine the sheer disbelief and horror until you have lived through pain as terrible as this. I turned away from the Church and seriously questioned all my inner beliefs in a God who could allow this to happen to my beloved son. My son was born on Christmas Day so it's very difficult to escape this time of year. I was given a copy of Dan Browns book and through- it was led to you and your experiments, for the first time since I lost my boy I actually have some hope for Mankind. I know God didn't inflict all these terrible injuries....it was men.
    ....and so I thank you from the bottom of my heart for giving me this hope and sparked true interest you certainly have sown the seeds in what was surely a barren soil.
    Sincerely,
    Laraine Ward

  40. Thank all of you for your thoughtful comments. Each has been very helpful for our small group of family, friends and community. We all struggle as we endeavor to see humanity, indeed all life as it is, one whole indivisible being.
    Our prayer is to see our selves and to do unto others as we would have them do unto us. "AS WE BE THEE."

  41. When individuals develop a clear Knowingness and direct experience (even a little flavor) of the fundamental Field of pure consciousness, that Field, of which all things are a part, then the illusion of separation, of me versus you is not possible. You begin to Know the consequence of of one's actions
    as the Field responds in kind through the subtle, unmanifest, inherent Laws of Nature. One begins to automaticall act and think in a way which becomes more and more Life. Supporting, now and for the future, in the immediate environment and in the span of of the Cosmos; benefiting, uplifting all the livng and non-living. It would simply be impossible to act against one Self , which encompasses the others, as portrayed in these studies. This is how we are built to function. Anything less is abnormal.

  42. Great insight, but I am sure that in order to follow destructive orders blindly, one must be "searching to belong". Most of us have no clue of who we are and someone comes along and defines us (good or bad) and there we go. Being grounded , knowing thyself, understanding our own power is the essential ingredient needed to respond to any ,negative influence one would be sujected to. NOT ALL GERMANS FOLLOWED HITLER. The practice of self mastery, which could be "intended' by the way , and tought to our children will greatly diminish these inluences.
    My problem with all these studies is that once the conclusion is reached, we are told that it is the way we are . Well sorry, I am not going to be defined by some experiment, and neither should anyone.
    We are better, stronger, inherantly good and loving.
    The conscious practice of love will create that all around and fear which is the catalyst for cruelty will fall by the way side.

Why wait any longer when you’ve already been waiting your entire life?

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