January 27, 2012

Group polarization and professional communities

Psychologist David G. Myers (photo) gave an interesting answer to this year's Edge question which was: "What is your favorite deep, elegant of beautiful explanation?" Meyers mentioned the phenomenon of Group Polarization which can be summarized as: Interaction in groups of kindred spirits tends to amplify people's initial inclinations. In isolation from moderating influences, group interaction becomes a social amplifier. This phenomenon might explain why people who 'self-segregate' around certain values or views may radicalize and, in extreme cases, form sects or terrorist groups. (Read Meyer's piece here). What I wonder is what group polarization means for professional communities.
In this age of mailing lists, LinkedIn groups, internet forums, blogs other dedicated websites, and Facebook groups it is easier than ever to form professional groups in which information is exchanged easier than ever before. These professional groups seem good examples of groups in which group polarization should happen. There is some degree of self-segregation, there is interaction so people's initial views and values should run the danger of becoming amplified or radicalized.

Question: What do you think? Is the mechanism of group polarization a threat for professional communities? If so, do you see a solution?

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