Most people tend to act morally and follow societal guidelines, except when groupthink takes over.
Groupthink occurs when people’s desire to maintain group loyalty becomes more important than making the best choices. People often find it hard to think and act independently in group situations. According to psychologist Irving Janis, groupthink is “a deterioration of mental efficiency, reality testing, and moral judgment that results from in-group pressures.”
Group members often suffer overconfidence and hold an unquestioned belief in the group’s competence and morality. Dissent by group members may be discouraged and even lead to expulsion from the group. Because people often want to avoid these punishments, they remain silent. This creates the illusion of agreement or unanimity in the group.
Groups may also reach decisions, including moral judgments, which are more extreme than any single member of the group originally supported.
Unfortunately, if groupthink takes hold, group members may not even question ethically dubious decisions and actions.
Morality often requires that people sacrifice their own short-term interests for the benefit of society. People or entities that are indifferent to right and wrong are considered amoral, while those who do evil acts are considered immoral.
While some moral principles seem to transcend time and culture, such as fairness, generally speaking, morality is not fixed. Morality describes the particular values of a specific group at a specific point in time.
Historically, morality has been closely connected to religious traditions, but today its significance is equally important to the secular world. For example, businesses and government agencies have codes of ethics that employees are expected to follow.
Moral disengagement is when people restructure reality in order to make their own actions seem less harmful than they actually are. Both ethical fading and moral disengagement help people minimize the guilt they feel from violating ethical standards.
Where do you stand morally? Do you have a moral standard or are you willing to go along with what everyone else for the sake of being modern?