Group Polarization: Meaning & Applicability

"Group Polarisation" refers to how people inside a group become increasingly unified in their views while having begun from diverse perspectives. This happens because group participation magnifies the effects of individual engagement, further skewing attitudes and views toward social norms.

What is the Meaning of Group Polarization?

When groups make decisions, they often go to the most extreme positions. Members of a group will exhibit a change toward a more cautious attitude about a choice when they debate it as part of a similar group, compared to when they make the same decision alone. Others are more likely to take risks when making judgments in groups with people who share their values if they are less conservative before the conversation. This kind of polarisation inside a group is rather dangerous. When choosing a group, people tend to revert to the more extreme positions taken up before making a decision.

The Factors of Group Polarization

Masters' theses on "dangerous shift," which gave rise to ideas on choice shift, were rejected due to growing division among groups. The choice shift is required by group polarisation but not by it. The impacts of group polarisation, whether good, negative, or neutral, may be seen in situations as diverse as online gambling and social media. Minority members compromise their beliefs to conform to the will of the majority. Several experts on the subject have proposed three distinct explanations for the phenomenon: separation, comparability, and persuasion.

Separation Opinions

Members of the group shift their opinions because they believe these are the kind of choices that should be made collectively.

Comparability in Opinion

Some group members may shift their position because they must conform to the group's norms. This kind of social comparison is commonplace in the workplace. Before a group decision, everyone has their thoughts and frequently thinks theirs are more important than their colleagues. As a result of the group's deliberation, its members realize that their opinions are more similar than they had previously imagined. People's opinions are likely to gravitate toward the more extreme perspective of the group as the debate moves in that direction.

Persuasion Behaviour

As a result of hearing logical arguments from others around them, some group members abandon their original opinions. After hearing the views of others, group members may develop a more radical perspective. Such persuasion may cause a switch in behavior, which may be harmful or safe, depending on the circumstances.

Participation in the Airwaves

To increase polarisation toward the extreme member's perspective, a group must have greater participation from the member at either end of the spectrum. As a corollary, people with more extreme, polarised viewpoints are more likely to be biased in their information processing. Their arguments are more likely to be one-sided and supportive of their position.

Probabilistic Group Interaction

There were major debates about whether argumentation could explain the polarization of different groups. It has been shown that the persuasive argument effect and the social comparison effect may occur simultaneously or separately. Theories of group polarization may be further subdivided into two broad classes: normative impact and informational influence.

Normative Way

According to the theory of normative influence, individuals adjust their beliefs to gain social acceptance and a better reputation. New members can join a group with an even more radical viewpoint, and the rest of the group agree with them so that they may feel accepted. The book club members read the novels together before the event and then debate them. Most book club members may share the opinion of the person who thought the book was excellent but not the finest book they would ever read. The beneficial points of the novel are highlighted throughout the book club meeting, and everyone leaves with a more favorable impression of the book than they had before. The group's opinion polarised from "the book was good" to "the book was exceptional," indicating an increase in the intensity of that opinion.

Communication's Power to Influence

Those who start a group debate with facts on both sides are expected to vote with whatever provides the most convincing evidence. If there is sufficient evidence to support a claim made in a group discussion, then that claim must be true, even if not all group members share that belief. It is only sometimes that the impacts of polarization within a group are harmful. Consider the case of an emergency relief group coordinating with the government to decide how much help to send to a hurricane-ravaged area. The organization's members might like to provide more help than the government would. Because of their conversation, the group's normative value of providing help is magnified. Members of the organization and the government groups may feel compelled to distribute even more aid than before.

Extremist Movement

It is possible that an individual would tone down their views before entering a group setting for fear of being labeled overly radical. A person may adopt a more socially acceptable stance and feel liberated to look more extreme after learning that the group members were more radical than expected.

Prescriptive Account of Group Polarisation

The group members, according to the prescriptive account of group polarisation, want to have a positive self-concept and show themselves positively to the group. Before the group discussion, everyone has a skewed understanding of the situation and may incorrectly think that the remaining group members share their perspectives.


Since members of the group will socially compare themselves and gravitate towards the stance of the most extreme member, the existence of such an individual is likely to increase polarization. Moreover, persuadable arguments theory states that participants in a group debate should bring reasons in favor of their stance to the table, with the expectation that each participant will provide at least one argument that no one else has considered before. Group members primarily focused on making arguments in favor of the option most members preferred before the debate began. Group members often shift their opinion and polarise in favor of new arguments that support the previously chosen position. Therefore, organizations with extreme members should polarise farther from the mean of the group's pre-discussion ideas based on peer comparison and persuasive reasons.

Updated on: 29-Dec-2022


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