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5/21/2020 11:49 am  #1

Group Dynamics & EBS

Jill LaPlante: Group Dynamics & EBS

Sociology provides insight into how patterns of behavior within a group function together to achieve a shared goal. We call this collection of interactions cooperation. Sociology also explores how patterns of behavior within a group function to achieve surface consensus, while group members holding divergent perspectives silence themselves. We call this conformity. Cooperation is typically cast as desirable, pro-social behavior, while conformity is cast as undesirable. However, incorporating an EBS perspective opens a new angle of inquiry for me.

Consider this: While in our modern society, we pride ourselves with our ability to be self-sufficient (to not need other people), our brains evolved in an environment where lack of social connection was fatal. There is mounting evolutionary evidence that human beings require social connection and belonging. This explains why researchers are finding evidence that pain from social rejection shows up in the brain in some of the same ways as physical pain. Sociological research on group dynamics would be incomplete without an understanding of how human brains link social belonging with survival.

Our evolved predisposition to view belonging to a group as necessary for survival shows up as a drive motivating us to “go along to get along.” This singular underlying motivation is manifested in a myriad of ways depending on a plethora of other factors that include other individual characteristics, the behavior of others, environmental parameters, and so on. This drive can be expressed both in ways that are classified as ‘cooperation’ as well as other ways that are classified ‘conformity’ – yet the motivation for both comes from the same evolved mechanism. What more can be learned about cooperation and conformity within groups, with the understanding that we are all equipped with the motivation to “go along to get along”?
To learn more, see Matthew D. Lieberman’s book Social: Why our Brains are Wired to Connect:


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