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Psychology in Lord of the Flies

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Ailis Thornhill

on 2 December 2015

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Transcript of Psychology in Lord of the Flies

The Bystander Effect
Thank you!
Psychological Concepts
in Lord of the Flies

The Bystander Effect
Abilene Paradox
Group Polarization
Psychology in Lord of the Flies
Have you encountered any of these psychological concepts in your life? What situations in your past are you seeing in a new light due to this new knowledge?
How have you seen these concepts at play in Lord of the Flies so far? If you haven't seen them at play, what predictions can you make about what might happen in the novel?
Is the behavior of humans justified by using these concepts? Can morality and this kind of human nature coexist?
Psychology in Lord of the Flies
Honors English 9
Group Polarization
The Experiment
Group Size
85% reported within 125 seconds
(in 2-person groups)
31% reported within 125 seconds
(in 6-person groups)
100% reported in 2-person groups
62% reported in 6-person groups
95% of responders did so within 3 minutes
Reports were not made after 3 minutes
Subject reactions during the experiment
Non-responders' reaction after the experiment

The Kitty Genovese Murder
Kitty Genovese, a 28-year old woman living in New York was brutally murdered in the middle of a residential street in 1964.
Why is this significant? This was just one of 636 murders that occurred in NYC in 1964.

"A person witnessing an emergency situation, particularly such a frightening and dangerous one as a stabbing, is in conflict. There are obvious humanitarian norms about helping the victim, but there are also rational and irrational fears about what might happen to a person who does intervene." -Darley & Latane
There were 38 witnesses to Genovese's murder.
She screamed audibly and made it very clear that she was in distress.
Nobody intervened, and nobody called the police.
It took Genovese's attacker over 30 minutes to kill her.
Inaction usually results from fear of the following:
Physical harm
Public embarrassment
Involvement in police procedures
The potential for lost work days or jobs
Other unknown dangers
The presence of other witnesses weakens the likelihood that any one bystander will intervene
Diffusion of Responsibility
With only a single witness, any help the victim receives MUST come from that person
In a situation with multiple witnesses, any person may choose to ignore the situation for personal safety reasons, or the desire to stay uninvolved
The pressure to intervene is diffused from a single person to a group of people
Diffusion of Potential Blame
There is a desire for a person's moral behavior to be separate from considerations of personal reward or punishment--not usually the case
With a single witness, any potential blame would be focused on that person
In a group of people, that potential for blame is spread, and no one person is responsible
Possibility that Help is Already on the Way
People tend to assume that someone else will deal with the problem
They believe their intervention or report to the police could make the situation worse or create confusion
Details of the Experiment
Students were only allowed to speak one at a time
Only one student tested at a time--other voices are prerecorded
Students believe survey administrator's voice was prerecorded to keep the discussion uninhibited
The seizure was allowed to go on for the duration of the allotted time for each student (~125 seconds)
Response timing begins when seizure starts
The experiment ends when the subject either left the cubicle to find help, or until six minutes had elapsed without incident
Group Sizes
(one victim, one subject in each)
Two-person groups
Three-person groups
Six-person groups
Variables in the Experiment
Group Types
(one victim, one subject in each)
Female bystander (recorded voice)
Male bystander (recorded voice)
Male premed bystander (recorded voice)
Group Type
No difference in response between male/female subjects
Skill or gender of observer made no
difference in subject response
Two kinds of emergency intervention:
Direct: breaking up a fight, extinguishing a fire, saving someone drowning
requires skill, knowledge, physical power
may be dangerous
males most often
Reportorial: calling police in case of emergency
no special skills required
both genders equally

Explaining the Phenomenon
People are eager to explain away the fact that this happens by saying bystanders are:
alienated by industrialization
dehumanized by urbanization
depersonalized by living in a cold society
This allows them to explain the phenomenon as well as deny that they might behave the same way in a similar situation
Group limits discussion to a few courses of action (usually two) without considering other options
Group fails to reexamine course of action after discovering drawbacks
Group members spend little or no time discussing things they've overlooked
They make little or no attempt to get information from experts
They show positive interest in support of decision and ignore facts and opinions that do not support
They spend little time deliberating about possible setbacks or failures
1. Leader should make each member a critical evaluator, encouraging open airing of objections and doubts
2. In a decision making group, members should remain impartial instead of stating preferences and expectations at the beginning
3. Existence of outside policy-planning and evaluating groups, deliberating under different leaders
4. Group should invite experts in to encourage challenging the views of core members
5. At least one member should play devil's advocate
6. A group should be devoted to consider fallout of any decisions made
7. Groups should separate to discuss feasibility and effectiveness and then come back together to discuss
8. After a decision is made, the group should hold "second-chance" meeting so members can express residual doubts--rethinking entire issue
"How could we have been so stupid?" -JFK
Sticking with established group policies, even
when the policies are obviously working out badly and have unintended consequences which disturb the conscience of each member
comes from the desire to seek agreement
tends to override the realistic appraisal of other courses of action
comes from the desire to be non-judgmental
These softly-critical groups are often hard-hearted when dealing with "outgroups" or enemies
They find it easy to resort to dehumanizing solutions
They are unlikely to pursue the more difficult or controversial issues that arise when alternatives to harsh military solutions arise
They are disinclined to raise ethical issues that might mean the group is capable of doing something inhumane or immoral
One would assume that with more group cohesiveness, members would be more willing to speak up about their beliefs and opinions
Increased cohesion often results in non-deliberate suppression of critical thought due to internalization of group norms
The more cohesive the group, the greater the inner compulsion to avoid creating disunity
members are inclined to believe whatever the leader/majority believes is correct
All groups have a tendency towards groupthink, displaying one or another symptom from time to time
It is not necessarily dominant enough to influence the quality of a group's decision
Group decisions are not inherently harmful or inefficient
A group whose members have defined roles and traditions about procedures they follow are capable of making better decisions than individuals working alone
Main Principle:
The more amiability and "esprit de corps" that exists among the members of the policy making group, the greater danger that independent critical thinking will be replaced by groupthink, which is likely to result in irrational and dehumanizing actions directed against the "outgroup."
The Story
A family of four, relaxing on the porch on a hot day, decide to take a four-hour trip to Abilene. Every person is asked and every person agrees that they want to go.

Underlying Psychological Dynamics
Action Anxiety
- We go along with the problems we know out of fear of the problems that might occur if we object
Negative Fantasies
- We build up scenarios in our head about what will happen if we disagree--belief that there is no good solution
Real Risk
- We cannot predict or control the outcome, and the outcome might actually be worse
Separation Anxiety
- We are afraid of being isolated or shunned because of our disagreement
Psychological Reversal of Risk and Certainty
- Not acting out of fear of isolation and separation virtually ensures that we will experience it
Relation to Broader Existential Issues
They ended up having a terrible time--it was hot, the food wasn't good, the trip was very long.
Once they return...
: It was a great trip, wasn't it?
: Well, to tell you the truth, I didn't enjoy it much, I would rather have stayed here. I just went along because the three of you all were so enthusiastic.
: What do you mean "you all"? I was happy to do what the rest of you wanted to do. I didn't want to go, I just went to satisfy the rest of you. You're the culprits.
: Don't call me a culprit. You and Daddy and Mama were the ones who wanted to go. I just went along to be sociable and to keep you happy. I would have been crazy to want to go out in the heat like that.
: I never wanted to go to Abilene! I just though you might be bored. You visit so seldom, I wanted to make sure you enjoyed it. I would have preferred to play another game of dominoes and eat leftovers.
The inability to manage agreement rather than conflict is a major source of organization dysfunction
Organizations frequently take actions in contradiction to what they really want to do and therefore defeat the purposes they try to achieve.
The Abilene Paradox stem from the inability to manage or cope with agreement rather than conflict
Group members agree privately about the situation
For the Abilene Group: all individuals agree that they enjoy sitting on the porch, playing dominoes, and relaxing.
Private Agreement on Steps Required
The group members agree privately on what steps would have to be taken to cope with the situation
Abilene Group: "more of the same" would satisfy the situation
Failure to Communicate
Group members fail to accurately communicate their desires and/or beliefs to one another
They do the opposite and lead one another into misunderstanding the collective reality
Abilene Group: communicated inaccurate data-- "Yeah that's a great idea! Let's do that!" Nobody wanted to do that.
Experiencing Negative Emotions
Group members feel frustration, anger, irritation, and dissatisfaction with the group
They form subgroups with trusted friends and blame other groups, the authority figure, and one another
Abilene Group: "culprit" argument
Repetition of Cycle
If group members do not deal with the issue of agreement management, the cycle repeats itself with greater intensity
Abilene Group: became conscious of the process and so did not reach this stage
Private Agreement on Situation
Collective Decision Making
With inaccurate data, group members make collective decisions that lead them do the opposite of what they want to do
They often arrive at results that are counterproductive to their mission
Abilene Group: went to Abilene when they didn't want to
Full transcript