Guildleader Chores - Group Behaviour Psychology

On Wednesday night, I went to bed with a heavy heart,  thoughts about multiple scenarios and outcomes swirling around in my head. It didn't affect me going to sleep however - I am one of those nauseatingly lucky people who not only need little sleep, but can fall asleep at the drop of a hat when tired.

I was mortified on Wednesday when one of my guildies said very LOUDLY in raid chat "Who the F is X?" thinking, that X might have been the alt of someone in the guild. Or maybe it was an over exuberant greeting? It was not. The guildie started to criticise that the new guildie was in PvP gear and that they would be watching them to make sure they weren't stuffing up. I immediately said that the comment was dreadfully rude and that an apology should be made. I apologised in their stead, and whispered the person to make sure they were ok, which they seemed to be, but I myself was feeling uncomfortable. This is NOT the kind of guild attitude I aim to foster and it had to be dealt with swiftly.

The raider apologised to me later for their outburst, and said that they might stop doing alt runs because they found it difficult to play with people who were continuously making mistakes and having to carry them.

It was like having déjà vu.

3 guildies, good players, who feel like they are above the rules because they are better players and feel like they are carrying everyone else... and that they don't have to bother with mechanics because everyone else is just stuffing up anyway by making mistakes so why should they put in maximum effort when others are not? Same story, different names!

From my perspective, I am trying to teach casual players to be better players. I have experience, the patience and also the officers to tank because they have an understanding of what I would like to achieve. I have also reassured casual players that we are a tolerant guild where hurling abuse and racist comments are against the guild rules.

And then I get THIS.

It's not that I don't understand their frustration. From their perspective, they are doing their best, they are carrying these players who aren't as experienced or geared as they are, and it frustrates them that they can't do those simple things and just not be bad players. However, some people are not bad players, just undergeared. When some of these guys were undergeared, we brought them along to raid and geared them up and most people would have looked at them and though they were bad but actually were good players. It's a shame they can't do that same thing for others.

The reason it concerns me is because individually I think all of the 6 players (both groups of 3) are great people and players when they are not part of a mini pack. But when they get into a group, their behaviour changes.

Rebecca Saxe, an associate professor of cognitive neuroscience at MIT had an explanation for this:

"Although humans exhibit strong preferences for equity and moral prohibitions against harm in many contexts, people's priorities change when there is an 'us' and a 'them.'"

In a study published in the journal NeuroImage, the researchers measured brain activity in a part of the brain involved in thinking about oneself. They found that in some people, this activity was reduced when the subjects participated in a competition as part of a group, compared with when they competed as individuals. Those people were more likely to harm their competitors than people who did not exhibit this decreased brain activity.

There is also the hypothesis that when people are in groups, they "lose touch" with their own morals and beliefs, and become more likely to do things that they would normally believe are wrong.

In psychology, group behaviour is influenced individual decision making in a variety of ways, with terms such as groupthink, groupshift and deindividualisation. Most of these are describing the anti-social aspects of group behaviour.

Groupthink, a term coined by social psychologist Irving Janis, occurs when a group makes faulty decisions because group pressures lead to a deterioration of “mental efficiency, reality testing, and moral judgment”. Groups affected by groupthink ignore alternatives and tend to take irrational actions that dehumanize other groups. A group is especially vulnerable to groupthink when its members are similar in background, when the group is insulated from outside opinions, and when there are no clear rules for decision making.

Groupshift is a phenomenon in which the initial positions of individual members of a group are exaggerated toward a more extreme position. When people are in groups, they make decisions about risk differently from when they are alone.

Deindividuation is exactly what the word implies: a loss of one's individuality. Instead of acting as individuals, people experiencing deindividuation become lost in a group. Also, people actually don't REMEMBER their actions or moral thoughts very clearly during those periods, so it appears that the behaviours and attitudes are temporary.

It's actually rather depressing when you read these things and they all say that we degenerate to our worst behaviour when in a group or a mob. Surely we can rise above that and create a positive group behaviour? However, it's not ALL bad.

While groupthink is generally accepted as a negative phenomenon, it has been proposed that groups with a strong ability to work together are able to solve problems more efficiently than individuals or less cohesive groups. To prevent it from spiralling downward you need strong leadership, diversity and a desire to function as a cohesive unit.

There were some thoughts going around that it is the increased exposure our guild has been having with other guilds that has caused some of these behaviours. It is true that I run a tighter ship than other guilds in terms of behaviour - which actually isn't very tight, it's no different than what you would expect if you worked in hospitality or some other customer service based employment. However, abusive and racist comments are immediately reprimanded (quietly at first and more publicly if people continue to be ridiculous) and we have had no incident for a while. However, when we start to spend more time with other guilds whose behaviour is more lax than ours, it does feel like players think "Well, if we can be like that over there, why can't we be like that here?". Yet the converse is also true - some of the others don't want to play with outsiders and withdraw to their own social groups and only want to play with guildies, not a bunch of other people.

I sound like such a stick in the mud and a party pooper. However, I really do believe that it is up to us to set a good example. However, here's the stickler: I've always believed that exposure to a positive environment with a heterogenous mix of players (varying races, ages, sex and sexualities) will rub off and there will be tolerance and acceptance that will permeate into behaviour outside the game also. However, if this group psychology is to be believed, then behaviour and attitudes exhibited within the group are rarely recognised or adopted when an individual is on their own - as they revert to their own moral standards (stronger feeling of self). So all the good work we try to institute is all gone the minute they step out of the guild group!

I feel like there are some success stories in this venture. I wonder if anyone remembers how childish Tye and Splatz were when they first joined? I felt like it was EVERY OTHER WEEK I had to talk to Tye about things he said or did. And now? Well, the infamous buyer of Challenge mode runs (and making some of our guildies mad because his "paid carry" got him the fastest guild time for a few of the challenge modes) to me are now an integral part of the guild. Well, Splatz is. He and Tye made so many pots and flasks and food for the guild bank that I got tired of dealing tons of mail from him full of mats and gave him access to the guild bank - which he tidied up and organised, and kept restocked. Splatz is even raiding now, and Tye raids occasionally when he's not playing sillybuggers gquitting every other week (because he thinks it's funny). And they both are around to PvP so that has bulked up our Friday PvP days. And helped with achievement hunting. Koda is a delight to have in the guild and is well liked by everyone, and Yuuda (when he is playing) is also liked and respected by everyone.

I really should be more positive - after all, every success story should be celebrated, right? And I won't give up. I will keep trying to make a difference - because we are Frostwolves. I'll keep trying to keep everyone pulling their weight, run with the pack and play and fight as one because that is the Frostwolf way.

Source: Boundless. “Group Behavior.” Boundless Psychology. Boundless, 26 Apr. 2016. Retrieved 05 May. 2016 from


  1. I think the environment you provide in Frostwolves definitely has an influence on people's behaviour outside of guild/game. Yes, people do have a stronger sense of self on their own, but morals and behaviour is shaped by the sum of one's social environments. So, if the guild is the only environment where someone is expected to be tolerant and accepting, and their other environments don't, then yeah you probably aren't going to see much change.

    But the fact that you have such an environment means that you expose people to those values. The more leaders and groups who provide such spaces, the more people will be influenced, and it will start some positive feedback loops. So, it is definitely not the case that your hard work is all gone the minute they step out of the game!

    Keep the faith, Navi! It is good work.

  2. Wow, that's some deep profundity for a Saturday afternoon's reading. :)

    Maybe it's different in your guild than ones I've been in, but we've always seen alt raids as an opportunity for some of the senior raiders to uplift some of the less experienced members. To the point: carrying others through the raid was kinda the point. Well, the secondary point. The primary point was to bring new members closer to being viable raiders on the front lines. After all, even the most experienced raiders have to have a FIRST time for every encounter. But the idea was, good raiders will continue to learn so suck it up, teach them well, and everything will be fine.

    Of course, that's because everyone on the team bought into those rules. Sure, some left, not interested in making the guild better overall, but for the most part we did well and had a group of people that genuinely enjoy and respect each other.

    Granted, I've never been part of guild that reached the Mythic raiding levels yours has, so there might be a kind of 'jock' mentality that us dirty casuals don't understand. Which is fine, I already have a job :)

    Hope it smooths out. People do get cranky in between expansions, don't they?


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