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Thread: Swarm Theory & Group Psychology

  1. #1 Swarm Theory & Group Psychology 
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    Swarm Theory & Group Psychology

    Scientists are studying and trying to develop an ability to emulate the actions of animal swarms. The birds and the bees can do it; why cannot humans emulate their behavior to our advantage?

    The collective behavior of animal swarms displays advantageous collective actions without the guidance of organized leadership. Ants, as individuals, are not clever—as a collective ants, bees, birds, caribou, etc. are amazingly clever—there seems to exist something one might label as swarm intelligence—simple creatures following simple rules equal swarm intelligence.

    Computer engineers attempt to emulate swarm intelligence to solve complex human problems.

    Compare animal swarm intelligence with group psychology. What is the nature of the ‘group mind’, i.e. the mental changes such individuals undergo as a result of becoming a group?

    A bond develops much like cells which constitute a living body—group mind is more of an unconscious than a conscious force—there are motives for action that elude conscious attention—distinctiveness and individuality become group behavior based upon unconscious motives—there develops a sentiment of invincible power, anonymous and irresponsible attitudes--repressions of unconscious forces under normal situations are ignored—conscience which results from social anxiety disappear.

    Contagion sets in—hypnotic order becomes prevalent—individuals sacrifice personal interest for the group interest.

    Suggestibility, of which contagion is a symptom, leads to the lose of conscious personality—the individual follows suggestions for actions totally contradictory to person conscience—hypnotic like fascination sets in—will and discernment vanishes—direction is taken from the leader in an hypnotic like manner—the conscious personality disappears.

    “Moreover, by the mere fact that he forms part of an organized group, a man descends several rungs in the ladder of civilization.” Isolated, he may be a cultivated individual; in a crowd, he is a barbarian—a creature acting by instinct. “He possesses the spontaneity, the violence, the ferocity, and also the enthusiasm and heroism of primitive beings.”

    There is a lowering of intellectual ability “pointing to its similarity with the mental life of primitive people and of children…A group is credulous and easily influenced”—the improbable seldom exists—they think in images—feelings are very simple and exaggerated—the group knows neither doubt nor uncertainty—extremes are prevalent, antipathy becomes hate and suspicion becomes certainty.

    Force is king—force is respected and obeyed without question—kindness is weakness—tradition is triumphant—words have a magical power—supernatural powers are easily accepted—groups never thirst for truth, they demand illusions—the unreal receives precedence over the real—the group is an obedient herd—prestige is a source for domination, however it “is also dependent upon success, and is lost in the event of failure”.

    Perhaps human groups cannot develop in a similar manner as does swarm intelligence but the existence of such successful ways of handling complex problems indicates that some critical thinking regarding human group behavior is certainly in order.

    Questions for discussion:

    Do you think it is possible for humans to significantly improve performance within a group?

    Do you think that we can find a way to make group behavior to be smarter?

    Sources for ideas and quotes in this OP come from “Swarm Theory”--an article in the July 2007 edition of “National Geographic” and from “Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego” by Freud.

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  3. #2  
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    I would argue that there is nothing effective about swarm behaviour. To suggest that the solution of ants finding the shortest route amongst a great complexity of waypoints is in any way effective is to be ignorant of the learning method employed by those ants.

    At the most I think we can conclude that ants and other swarm animals have developed complex modes of collective thinking in absence of higher cognitive function and that this would quickly dissipate if they had these higher cognitive functions that allowed more effective problem solving.

    One of the most succesful enterprises of human swarm behaviour is indubitably the war effort. Only there and in the most Machiavellian forms of government and business are individuals perceived as having strategical rather than individual importance.
    This negation of individuality I perceive a harmful and hardly to be strived for. As for its lack of leadership in animals, in our contemporary understanding, ants are primarly driven through genetic 'instinct'. I very much doubt the possibility of instilling a comparable 'meme' in humans, since that would itself imply an act of leadership.
    All attempts at circumventing the instincts of hierarchy in mammals is - I feel - doomed because it is a requisite for our advanced form of culture.

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  4. #3  
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    The Economy—The Market—Family Values—War on Terrorism—War on Drugs—Support the Troops—Freedom—Democracy—Under God—Pro-life—Pro-choice--Universal notions concocted to maneuver and to manipulate by appearing to represent the interest of the whole mass of the people.

    What is the source for these Universal Notions? Do these notions grow like wild flowers? Do these notions form like raindrops and fall to earth to nourish and to refresh all citizens? Are these notions universally benign and beneficial?

    Such Universal Notions have a human source and are devised to promote the interests of that source. I suspect that all such notions and many others more mundane have a common source—ideology.

    Ideology makes the world-go-round and we know less than nothing about ideology because knowing only that which is erroneous is equivalent to knowing less-than-nothing.

    Of special interest to me is the college course outline and content placed on the Internet by the college professor for students of a particular college course. At no significant financial cost one can, through the Internet, take advantage of a college course outline at home. One particular example of such a course “Ideology & Discourse” can be found at

    I can think of few domains of knowledge more important for a person attempting to understand her or his world than ideology.

    I suspect many people confuse the content of ideology with the content of philosophy. It is not unusual for someone to question another’s philosophy or worldview when in fact it is the ideology of the person that is the correct question.

    Psychology and sociology have generally decided to use the word ‘belief’ to replace a more ambiguous word ‘idea’ and ‘thoughts’ of any kind; I shall follow that same practice in this thread.

    In keeping with this attitude and the course of study “Ideology and Discourse: A Multidisplinary Introduction” I shall use the following definition:

    Ideologies are the fundamental beliefs of a group and its members.

    This definition was chosen by the author to replace an often used meaning of ideology as ‘false consciousness’ or ‘misguided beliefs’. This more general definition will permit a more rational consideration of this domain of knowledge identified as ‘Ideology’.

    The word ‘ideology’ has a very negative connotation in political discourse and thus in discourse in general. This apriori negative attitude makes it impossible to give rational consideration to this very important concept. Perhaps the first thing that a person must do to gain knowledge about this important concept is to erase this negative attitude, which has been a result of social osmosis in so many people.

    Social discourse plays an essential role in why we adopt ideology, what we know about it and how ideology becomes the most important sociocentric influence in our life. Discourse plays a fundamental role in the nature of ideology and thus discourse is an important consideration in the study of the nature of ideology.

    Ideology and discourse is a multidiscipline subject of study. One must approach it from most of the domains of knowledge in the humanities and the social sciences. “However, we shall reduce this large number of potential disciplines to three main clusters, namely those involved in the study of Discourse, Cognition and Society.”

    Virtually all people agree that ideology is about the beliefs of a collective of people. “Ideologies consist of shared, social beliefs, and not of personal opinions…Ideologies are about life and death, birth and reproduction…they are about people and their health in relation to their environment…they are about class...about having power…about the redistribution of wealth and resources…they are about gender…about race and ethnicity.”

    There is an enormous amount of knowledge accepted by an enormous number of people without any consideration. This vast domain of beliefs has been labeled sociocultural ‘common ground’ of a group or a culture. There are also a great number of beliefs that are not shared by all and need to be asserted or defended.

    Ideologies are considered to be ‘basic beliefs’ in that these beliefs form the foundation upon which other beliefs are accepted or rejected. Norms and values are considered to be basic beliefs; they organize our attitudes and actions. Some of these norms and values that are part of every community become translated into basic beliefs of an ideology, therein lies there strength. It is these “group-related and interest defined interpretation of values that form the building blocks of ideological beliefs.”
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  5. #4  
    WYSIWYG Moderator marnixR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by coberst
    The Economy—The Market—Family Values—War on Terrorism—War on Drugs—Support the Troops—Freedom—Democracy—Under God—Pro-life—Pro-choice--Universal notions concocted to maneuver and to manipulate by appearing to represent the interest of the whole mass of the people.
    my eyes hurt from the unwarranted use of capitalisation - there is nothing special about your listed values to make them universal, they're just local, parochial rules of thumb developed by human beings to get through life
    "Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away." (Philip K. Dick)
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