Thanks for an excellent article! I vividly remember watching the films of the Asch and Milgram experiments back when I was an undergrad.
I've conducted thousands of group therapy sessions, and it's quite humbling to witness the pressure that the GroupMind has on a lone dissenter. It's a challenge to support and validate an individual's opposing thoughts or feelings in the face of the group's pressure to conform.
A therapy group is a powerful, wondrous organism. A cohesive group is truly a Gestalt, in that it is more than the sum of the individuals. Groups strive to maintain homeostasis. A dissenter threatens that homeostasis.
This is not to suggest that group members must all think and feel the same way in order for a group to be therapeutic. A certain amount of heterogeneity is desired, as it fosters a richer discussion and opens members eyes to different points of view.
If the issue is relatively benign, members will usually agree to disagree. But its another matter when the issue involves homicidal or suicidal ideation, medication non-compliance, criminality, domestic violence, child abuse or substance abuse. If one person persistently endorses these issues, the group will forcefully pressure the dissenter to conform to their healthier lifestyle.
Sometimes, the dissenter succumbs to the pressure and actually changes his mind and conforms to the groups view of a healthy life. In other words, he responds favorably to treatment.
Or, the dissenter verbally agrees with the majority in an effort to avoid feeling alienated, while secretly maintaining his unique view. He remains stuck.
Other times, the majority will label the dissenter as crazier than us and will tolerate or ignore his input, without trying to change his mind. He remains stuck.
In the most unfortunate case, the dissenter will leave the group, or behave in such an inappropriate manner that I have to kick them out. He remains stuck, or worse.
Fascinating stuff, indeed.