Individual Vs. Group Values In The American Family And Society As A Whole

In her essay, "Thanksgiving," Ellen Goodman suggests that the group dynamics of an American family dissolve the ego of each individual to create a loving group that cares for one another. However, Carol Tavris contends, in her essay "In Groups We Shrink" that a group of random individuals in our society behave in an apathetic, ignorant, and uncaring manner. Goodman maintains that the family accepts each individual not on merit, but on unconditional love, and that each individual acts on this love for others in the family. On the other hand, Tavris says that in society, groups do not think collectively to help an individual in despair, but each individual in the group fears to take action because of what others will think.
In her essay, Tavris gives examples of groups people in experiments sitting by idly while a room fills with smoke or someone in the hallway screams in agonizing pain. A person from the group who heard the woman in pain said, "I didn't want to embarrass her." However, individuals who experienced smoke in the room or heard the same woman in pain acted on these situations, calling for help. In illustrating the love of a family, Goodman would contend that a family would act immediately when there is smoke in the room or when someone is in pain. These examples prove that there is a big difference between helping a member of one's family, and helping a stranger.
Goodman also says the family dissolves the hero factor of the individual and focuses on the we. Tavris would agree with this statement because people in groups apparently don't want to be singled out. They don't want to act differently from the group and be the one to help. In families, everyone wants to help the person in need, in random groups, no one wants to help.
Goodman also says that the family offers a group shield or protection. Everyone acts in a loving manner and cares for each individual. That is not so in groups in our society, say Tavris. In a group in our society, if something is going awry, for example the eleven police officers who watched four of their colleagues assault Rodney King, no one acts to protect the person who is being assaulted, even if it is wrong. The family does not allow these assaults to happen, the random group in society does.
Ellen Goodman and Carol Tavris present a question for each individual in America. Should we act the same in random groups in our society as we do in our families? The answer is obvious, that each individual in a group should help a person in need, like a family would. But, according to the information presented by Tavris, we simply don't.