Scientists Discuss How to Study the Psychology of Collectives, Not Just Individuals

About the Journal

In an era of increasing radicalization and polarization, psychologists are looking beyond the individual mind to understand how groups think and behave. In a set of articles appearing in Perspectives on Psychological Science, an international array of scientists discusses how the study of neighborhoods, work units, activist groups, and other collectives can help us better understand and respond to societal changes.  

“Psychologists must go beyond the traditional focus on the individual mind,” David Garcia, Mirta Galesic, and Henrik Olsson of the Complexity Science Hub Vienna, Austria, write in an introduction to the article collection. “This is even more pressing given the pace of the digital transformation of our society, as new information and communication technologies reshape how we interact, create new networked e structures of humans and machines, and provide a digital breeding ground for new kinds of collective behavior.”  

The authors cover the topic from a number of angles, including collective memory, group intelligence, and crowd behavior. Among other factors, they highlight how: 

  • groups form and evolve 
  • collectives can amplify or dampen individual emotions, beliefs, and decisions  
  • individuals can misperceive the accuracy of their group’s knowledge  

The contributing authors also discuss the need to integrate their research with their peers in other disciplines, such as anthropology, economics, neuroscience, and sociology. Some of the authors propose new approaches and perspectives for studying collectives.  

Topics discussed in the collection of 19 articles include collective intelligence, emotions, knowledge, and performance. The list of articles is below: 

The Psychology of Collectives
David Garcia, Mirta Galesic, and Henrik Olsson 

Group Formation and the Evolution of Human Social Organization
Carsten K. W. De Dreu, Jörg Gross, and Angelo Romano 

Polarization and the Psychology of Collectives
Simon A. Levin and Elke U. Weber 

Understanding Collective Intelligence: Investigating the Role of Memory, Attention, and Reasoning Processes
Anita Williams Woolley and Pranav Gupta  

The Emerging Science of Interacting Minds
Thalia Wheatley, Mark Thornton, Arjen Stolk, and Luke Chang 

Struggling With Change: The Fragile Resilience of Collectives
Frank Schweitzer, Christian Zingg, and Giona Casiraghi 

Motivated Cognition in Cooperation
Susann Fiedler, Hooman Habibnia, Alina Fahrenwaldt, and Rima-Maria Rahal 

The Spread of Beliefs in Partially Modularized Communities
Robert Goldstone, Marina Dubova, Rachith Aiyappa, and Andy Edinger 

Individuals, Collectives, and Individuals in Collectives: The Ineliminable Role of Dependence
Ulrike Hahn 

Communities Of Knowledge in Trouble
Nathaniel Rabb, Mugur Geana, and Steven Sloman 

A Network Approach to Investigate the Dynamics of Individual and Collective Beliefs: Advances and Applications of the BENDING Model
Madalina Vlasceanu, Ari M. Dyckovsky, and Alin Coman 

Maintaining Transient Diversity Is a General Principle for Improving Collective Problem Solving
Paul E. Smaldino, Cody Moser, Alejandro Pérez Velilla, and Mikkel Werling 

The Strengths and Weaknesses of Crowds to Address Global Problems 
Stephen B. Broomell and Clinton P. Davis-Stober 

Crowds Can Identify Misinformation at Scale
Cameron Martel, Jennifer Allen, Gordon Pennycook, and David G. Rand 

What Makes Groups Emotional
Amit Goldenberg 

New Forms of Collaboration Between the Social and Natural Sciences Could Become Necessary for Understanding Rapid Collective Transitions in Social Systems
Stefan Thurner 

Toward Understanding of the Social Hysteresis:  Insights From Agent-Based Modeling
Katarzyna Sznajd-Weron, Arkadiusz Jędrzejewski, and Barbara Kamińska 

Human Crowds as Social Networks: Collective Dynamics of Consensus and Polarization
William H. Warren, J. Benjamin Falandays, Kei Yoshida, Trenton D. Wirth, and Brian A. Free  

A Cognitive Computational Approach to Social and Collective Decision-Making
Alan N. Tump, Dominik Deffner, Timothy J. Pleskac, Pawel Romanczuk, and Ralf H. J. M. Kurvers 

Featured Research from Perspectives on Psychological Science

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