Group myth and its functions in complex social situations
Experience of complex social situations leads to narrowing of individual consciousness and weakening of the critical thinking abilities. At the same time the role of myth as an instrument of comprehending the reality is growing. The concepts of collective and personal myths are well known in psychology, whereas that of group myth is only getting its scientific status. Social interaction takes place primarily within a small group, and group myth facilitates group identity development and increases group coherence in case of a threat to its existence, despite how paradoxical this may be. In other words, in problem situations myth helps group members to adapt to social reality by consolidating them. It also promotes activities to overcome the social difficulties. Myth develops spontaneously in the process of the group members’ communication, reflection and assessment of the situation by means of the available psychological resources. If the social situation improves, myth turns from a means of adaptation into a means of maladaptation: from the live myth into a collective narrative which contains rigid social attitudes, group stereotypes and other illusionary group interaction phenomena. They distort the social reality and have a destructive influence on the group development. In this case myth has a dysfunction, i. e. its functionality for the group is conventional. Therefore, group myth can have the functions of adaptation, maladaptation to complex social situations and the function of their active overcoming transforming the complex situations into simple, resolved and past ones. These general functions include the partial ones: adaptive functions comprise socializing, integrative, and consolidating ones; maladaptive functions – illusionary, compensatory and destructive ones; and proactive and creative functions – emotional and facilitating, value and reflecting, acting and overcoming ones. The protection functions of myth may serve adaptive, maladaptive and creative transformation purposes, which depends on the type of the psychological defense (compensation, displacement, projection, rationalization, repression, etc.) used by the group in the process of the myth creation. The identification of the functions of myth in a small group will make it possible to define the markers of its identification and develop new methods of investigating the behavior of an individual in social situations as well as the impact of group phenomena on its peculiarities.