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Sociocentric Thinking Is Unconscious and Potentially Dangerous

Sociocentric thinking, like egocentric thinking, appears in the mind of the person who thinks that way as reasonable and justified. Thus, although groups often distort the meaning of concepts to pursue their vested interests, they almost never see themselves as misusing language. Although groups almost always can find problems in the ideologies of other groups, they rarely are able to find flaws in their belief systems. Although groups usually can identify prejudices that other groups are using against them, they rarely are able to identify prejudices that they are using against other groups. In short, just as egocentric thinking is self-deceptive, so is sociocentric thinking.

Though the patterns of dysfunctional thinking are similar for egocentric and sociocentric thinking, there is at least one important distinction between the two. We pointed out in Chapter 10 that egocentric thinking is potentially dangerous. Through self-deception, individuals can justify the most egregious actions, but individuals operating alone are usually more limited in the amount of harm they can do. Typically, groups engaging in sociocenric thinking can do greater harm to greater numbers of people.

Consider, for example, the Spanish Inquisition, wherein the state, controlled by the Catholic Church, executed thousands of reputed heretics. Or consider the Germans, who tortured and murdered millions of Jews, or the "founders" of the Americas, who enslaved, murdered, or tortured large numbers of Native Americans and Africans.

In short, throughout history and to the present day, sociocentric thinking has led directly to the pain and suffering of millions of innocent persons. This has been possible because groups, in their sociocentric mindset, use their power in a largely unreflective, abusive way. Once they have internalized a self-serving ideology, they are able to act in ways that flagrantly contradict their announced morality without noticing any contradictions or inconsistencies in the process.

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