Sunday, 30 October 2011

A reality of all club committees , including those from the world of bridge , is that elected group members often fall victim to self-justification, self-serving bias , and a " we " mentality invoking conformity and the suppression of dissension .
The mode of thinking that committee members adopt is one of concurrence-seeking , which becomes so dominant in a highly cohesive " in-group ". Not surprisingly, in this situation there is an unshakable desire to over-ride any minority points of view , appraisal of a situation and alternative courses of action.
The starting point of this phenomenon is the initial belief of the ruling majority that " might is right ", which is then followed up by a belief in their own morality. The next stage comes when the committee begins to discount challenges from a dissenting member by collectively justifying their decisions. Following this basic rule to conform , group members soon recognise the need for self-censorship , accepting the illusion of unanimity, and putting up the necessary mind guards. Ultimately, there will be a failure to seek and discuss contrary information and alternative possibilities, because when the leader promotes or endorses an idea the rest will extricate and distance themselves from any dissenting views.
Within any committee all types of bias will undermine the decision making process. Gender bias is all too evident when the group is predominantly all male , or all female. Then there is the in-group bias where there is a tendency to favour one's own group. Also group members might fall victim to self-serving bias , compelling them to adopt the superior identity of " we " , in order to maintain a lofty position from where they can look down on the ordinary rank and file members with an air of distain and contempt.
Inevitably, in situations where committees have to deal with troublesome members already labelled as " undesirable ", then the risk of a collective and deeply entrenched prejudice is all too apparent. Indeed, wherever there is prejudice there is prejudgement , and prejudgements serve only to guide their memories, attention, and interpretation of the evidence down a particular path. Social psychologists have long recognised the presence of confirmation bias, where there is a compelling tendency to search for, and unearth only damning information , thereby confirming their own preconceptions or prejudices. However, if these prejudices were present at the outset, then the errant members are likely to be hung, drawn and quartered long before the rubber stamp disciplinary process gets into full swing .
All too often , when a troublesome member fits their negative stereotyping, these prejudicial attitudes tend to surface with a vengence , completely undermining the manner and way in which the disciplinary process is carried out. Indeed, it is these prejudices which persuade or coerce wavering committee members to follow the party line for the sake of conformity, appeasement and co-operation.
Is it therefore possible for committee members , if asked to discipline an unpopular and disliked club member , to step outside themselves and act independently with a blank or open mind ? I think not , and especially so when the evidence against him or her is ambiguous. We are all shaped by our genetic flaws, upbringing, and life's experiences. We are all prone to wanting power , only to abuse it when given the opportunity to rule . The shocking reality of all club committees simply reflects the shocking reality of The Human Condition and " The Beast In Man " .

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