intentional process of radical social change demands
continual tension or crisis. These may be spontaneous or
manufactured. This book helped lay the foundation for the psycho-social
strategies that have transformed education and culture around the world.
Based on the research begun at Tavistock (England), continued at the
Frankfurt Institute (Germany) then moved to MIT, Columbia University,
Stanford and various tax-funded "Educational Laboratories" after World War
II, it established the strategies for brainwashing that now permeate our
schools, media and organizations. See
Brainwashing in America
The Objective of Change.
...It is important that a social standard to be changed does not have the
nature of a “thing” but of a “process.”...
planned social change will have to consider a multitude of factors
characteristic for the particular case. The change may require a more or
less unique combination of educational and organizational measures; it may
depend upon quite different treatments or Ideology, expectation and
organization. Still, certain general formal principles always have to be
2. The Conditions of a Stable Quasi-stationary
The study of the conditions for change begins appropriately
with an analysis of the conditions for “no change,” that is, for the state
From what has been just discussed, it is clear that by a state of “no social
change” we do not refer to a stationary but to a quasi-stationary
equilibrium; that is, to a state comparable to that of a river which flows
with a given velocity in a given direction during a certain time interval.
A social change Is comparable to a change in the velocity or direction of
number of statements can be made in regard to the conditions of
(A) The strength of forces which tend to lower that standard of social life
should be equal and opposite to the strength of forces which tend to raise
its level. The resultant of forces on the line of equilibrium should
therefore be zero.
(B) Since we have to assume that the strength of social forces always shows
variations, a quasi-stationary equilibrium presupposes that the forces
against raising the standard increase with the amount of raising and that
the forces against lowering increase (or remain constant) with the amount of
lowering. This type of gradient which is characteristic for a “positive
central force field” has to hold at least In the neighborhood of the present
(C) It is possible to change the strength of the opposing forces without
changing the level of social conduct. In this case the tension (degree of
3. Two Basic Methods of Changing Levels of Conduct.
any type of social management, It is of great practical importance that levels of quasi-stationary equilibria can be changed in either of two ways:
by adding forces in the desired direction, or by diminishing opposing forces. [See
analysis] If a change from the level L1 to L [the present to a new level]
brought about by Increasing the forces toward L2 (the new level] the
secondary effects should be different from the case where the same change of
level is brought about by diminishing the opposing forces.
In both cases the equilibrium might change
to the same new level. The secondary effect should, however, be quite
different. In the first case, the process on the new level would be
accompanied by a state of relatively high tension; In the second case, by a
state of relatively low tension. Since increase of tension above a certain
degree is likely to be paralleled by higher aggressiveness, higher
emotionality, and lower constructiveness, It is clear that as a rule the
second method will be preferable to the high pressure method.
The group decision procedure which
is used here attempts to avoid high pressure methods and is sensitive to
resistance to change. In the experiment by Bavelas on changing
production in factory work (as noted below), for instance, no attempt was
made to set the new production goal by majority vote because a majority vote
forces some group members to produce more than they consider appropriate.
These individuals are likely to have some inner resistance. Instead a
procedure was followed by which a goal was chosen on which everyone could
It is possible that the success of group
decision and particularly the permanency of the effect is, in part, due to
the attempt to bring about a favorable decision by removing counterforces
within the individuals rather than by applying outside pressure. ...
4. Social Habits and Group Standards.
Viewing a social stationary process as the result of a quasi-stationary
equilibrium, one may expect that any added force will change the level of
the process. The idea of “social habit” seems to imply that, in spite of the
application of a force, the level of the social process will not change
because of some type of “inner resistance” to change. To overcome this inner
resistance, an additional force seems to be required, a force sufficient to
“break the habit,” to “unfreeze” the custom.
Many social habits are anchored in the
relation between the individuals and certain group standards.... If the individual should
try to diverge “too much” from group standards, he would find himself in
increasing difficulties. He would be ridiculed, treated severely and
finally ousted from the group. Most individuals, therefore, stay pretty
close to the standard of the groups they belong to or wish to belong to. In
other words, the group level itself acquires value. It becomes a positive
valence corresponding to a central force field... keeping
the individual in line with the standards of the group.
5. Individual Procedures
and Group Procedures of Changing Social Conduct.
the resistance to change depends partly on the value which the group
standard has for the individual, the resistance to change should diminish if
one diminishes the strength of the value of the group standard or changes
the level perceived by the individual as having social value.
This second point is one of the reasons for the
effectiveness of “group carried” changes’ resulting from procedures which
approach the individuals as part of face-to-face groups. Perhaps one might
expect single individuals to be more pliable than groups of like-minded
individuals. However, experience in leadership training, in changing of food
habits, work production, criminality, alcoholism, prejudices, all indicate
that it is usual easier to change individuals formed into a group than to
change any one of them separately.
As long as group standards are
unchanged, the individual will resist changes more strongly the farther he
is to depart from group standards. If the group standard itself is
changed, the resistance which is due to to relation between individual and
group standard is eliminated.
6. Changing as a Three-step
Procedure: Unfreezing, Moving, and Freezing of a Level.
change toward a higher level of group performance is frequently short lived:
after a “shot in the arm”, group life soon returns to the previous level.
This indicates that it does not suffice to define the objective of a planned
change in group performance as the reaching of a different level. Permanency
of the new level, or permanency for a desired period, should be included in
the objective. A successful change includes therefore three aspects:
UNFREEZING (if necessary) the present level . . .
MOVING to the new level .
. . and
FREEZING group life on the new level.
Since any level is
determined by a force field, permanency implies that the new force field
is made relatively secure against change.
The “unfreezing” of the present level may
involve quite different problems in different cases. Allport” has described
the “catharsis” which seems to be necessary before prejudices can be
removed. To break open the shell of complacency and self-righteousness, it
is sometimes necessary to bring about deliberately an emotional stir-up.
The experiments on group decision reported
here cover but a few of the necessary variations. Although in some cases the
procedure is relatively easily executed, in others it requires skill and
presupposes certain general conditions. Managers rushing into a factory to
raise production by group decisions are likely to encounter failure. In
social management as in medicine there are no patent medicines and each case
demands careful diagnosis.
One reason why
facilitates change is illustrated by Willerman... . [His study dealt
with an eating cooperative that sought to change from white to whole wheat
bread] When a change was simply requested, the degree of eagerness varied
greatly with the degree of personal preference for whole wheat. In case
group decision, the eagerness seems to be relatively independent of personal
preference; the individual seems to act mainly as a group member."
by the Dialectic Process and
Dissatisfaction (a crisis) for social transformation and