Pop Psych in WoW

“A failure is not always a mistake, it may simply be the best one can do under the circumstances. The real mistake is to stop trying.”
B. F. Skinner

Pop Psych in WoW

Pop Psychology is something that usually has its roots in something pretty strong but then has gotten over-simplified. Fads come and go. Reading others body language is a good example. The Tao of Pooh said that all of the characters in Winnie the Pooh were personality types; which one are you?

It is fun. There is some truth in it. The experts would say “yeah, but…”

Today, I’d like you to play a game next time that you are raiding or in a small group. Small Group dynamics are studied all of the time in colleges: here is one template.

One small group theory is that groups form roles like a family unit.

Father: quiet, stays in the background, voice of authority.
Mother: nurturing, supportive, vocal
First Son: the dreamer, ambitious, has that lofty goal
Second Son: a clown, bad boy, artist

The theory is that these roles must exist and that they are flexible. If you walked up to three friends, you might suddenly find that you are the funny one. Everything you say is funny. You, yourself, have not changed; it is the dynamic of the group.

It is the mark of a healthy personality to be able to slip into any of these roles. Some people can not do that; you know the type that force their love on you or are always discontent no matter what – inflexible personalities are tough on a group.

There can be surprises to the group. Some quiet person may believe he is the quiet voice of authority while the group instinctively knows otherwise and will over-rule him. Or that spoiled Second Son having a temper tantrum out of the blue; forcing himself into that role if only temporarily.

Next time you are in a raid group on headset, I believe that at first you will hear many voices. Within 10 minutes, the roles will be settled in and you will hear four voices. Over the several hours, some may fade and others will (and not know why) will rise up. I tell ya, that clown has to fill a vacuum!

Constant will be the Father role. He might step in and call it a night or make a decision that everyone will follow. The Mother role is fairly constant, look to see who does the invites, puts up the calendar, is up-to-date on the patches, greets everyone. That First Son can have his eye set on the stars and we all want to make his dream come true. The clowns rise and fall, those rascals always go over the line a little too much.

Look at your own brothers and sisters, the family model is pretty solid in psychology. If you are a Middle Child, you’d be amazed at how they nailed your personality. Flipping that family model onto the group dynamic in raiding is fun to watch.

Even in Pug Groups, quick brief encounters, you can bet that first guy who says “hi all” in chat is a Mother. Cheerful and positive and working to hold the fragile group together. Without chat to support the dynamic, you can still see it in action. That clown who has to do Gamin Will Save Us or trolls the group is a Second Son.

The best part is the first ten minutes of grouping up. Many times the roles are set so solidly that the entire group will wait (happily, patiently) for one member to arrive and tell them to start. Watch the group settle down into a rhythm in language. See who the clown will be tonight and notice that he is “funny” because of his role more than his humor.

Play a game tonight in raid and see if you enjoy this idea of small group/family group dynamics as a pop psychology exercise. If you can recognize your own role, know that it is supported in our herd or family mentality and you can do what you need or want to do.


If you will indulge me for a moment longer.

My own Mother had a masters degree in Special Education and was an expert at Behavior Modification. She was brilliant at setting expectations.

“I know that I can count on you to take care of yourself. Not like your sisters who need to be told to do the dishes.”

Yep, I did the dishes and took out the trash and was a dutiful son. Not realizing that all of the kids were doing the same! I was being the special one for my Mom.

Setting expectations by an authority figure is powerful stuff.

“I know that I can count on this raid group to be prepared with their own flasks and potions. I never have to worry about that.”

“I love how organized this group is, everyone has gotten their Bonus Rolls already.”

It is a group dynamic and people want to fit into the group, to belong, to be part of the identity. Rules can feel too strict in a game but expectations allow people to rise to those expectations and feel pride in their activities.

Setting expectations is more positive and powerful than, say, public shaming.

“Okay, who did NOT read the strategy on the next boss?”

That is all I have to say about that.


4 thoughts on “Pop Psych in WoW

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