They Make the Decisions

American Idol

Year after year, I never fail to catch the auditions of American Idol. From amazingly captivating auditions to the downright hilarious, every contestant hopes to hear the magical words, “You’re going to Hollywood!” But the fate of every single contestant is determined by one group of people – the judges.  

In virtually every competition, there are always a panel of judges. Have you ever seen a lone ranger do the judging before? Rarely. Having a group of expertise to critique the performance of contestants adds credibility to a programme, ensuring the quality of the contestants that make it. Each judge’s opinion is important in formulating certain decisions that make or break a contestant.  

The judges in American Idol are an example of a group, having a minimal size of three. In previous seasons, the panel comprised of Randy Jackson, Paula Abdul, Simon Cowell, as well as Kara DioGuardi, who joined the eighth and ninth season. But the departure of Abdul, Cowell and Dioguardi as judges in 2010 meant that new replacements had to fill up those empty slots. These new members came in the form of Aerosmith member Steve Tyler and the ever famous music icon, Jennifer Lopez. When the organizers were sourcing for potential judges, Tyler and Lopez were prospective members. Having strong credibility and background in the music industry, these individuals soon became new members in the judging group for the latest season. 

Original Judges. From left: Randy Jackson, Kara DioGuardi, Paula Abdul and Simon Cowell

Current judges. From left: Randy Jackson, Jennifer Lopez, Steve Tyler and host Ryan Seacrest

As a group of judges, their specific roles in the initial stage of the competition are to give comments on an audition and decide individually whether he or she should “go to Hollywood”. Discussions are seldom involved between each judge. In subsequent stages of the competition, collective decisions have to be made and we see how the judges interact progressively with each other to determine the fate of each contestant.

Season 10 of American Idol revealed the top 24 this week. At the final stage of auditions, the judges have to agree together as a group who they want to stay or leave. The following clip is an example of a contestant, Jovany Barreto, receiving news from the judges regarding his fate.

Tying all these back to concepts relating to group communication, we identify firstly that the judges in American Idol are a group because of their task interaction, which is one of the two components in group interaction. Task interaction involves communication and behaviour around a task which is important to the group. In this context, their task as judges is simply to decide who’s in and who’s out. They have to effectively convey their opinions to one another and come to a conclusion pertaining to who they want to see in the top 24.

The next element that identifies them as a group is goal-orientation. These judges exist with the purpose of providing feedback to improve the quality of future contestants, apart from making important decisions as mentioned above. The group revolves around collective goals, and it is clear how the judges are structured for a particular purpose.

In our lives, every one of us belong to a group in some way or another. Your clique of friends in school, your project work group, your teammates and so on. We establish ourselves as belonging to a group based on the characteristics that defines one.

Food for thought:

How have particular groups in your life influence you and your behaviour?

Do share (:


February 26, 2011. Uncategorized.


  1. Shar replied:

    Yup definitely! In school, the cliques that you are in play a role in influencing you behavior, such as how you speak, act, dress etc. Much of the influence from our friends might rub onto us subconsciously too, such as dressing style etc. The friends in your clique are more than likely to have common interests and likings as you. I guess this counts as a “goal orientation”, such as supporting the same celebrity or football team. Though a clique might have diverse personalities and interests too..

    • Valerie replied:

      Our clique of friends are definitely influential people in our lives! Our behaviour, paricularly in terms of our speech, are usually formed through constant interaction with each other. People usually conform when they are placed in groups, leading to similar behaviour in many aspects. I suppose that’s why the term “Birds of a feather flock together” exists (:

  2. Jael replied:

    The group that we usually hang out with will shape how we behave and act together in the future. Often, we started being together with people we find comfortable with. Slowly, as time passes, we subconsciously imitate each other’s habits and it becomes a groupthink instead. I think it is important for everyone to belong to a group because it is one of the fundemental needs as human.

  3. Lina replied:

    Interesting take on group communication! I would never view the American Idol judges as a group with collective goals. But I guess there are groups that exist in every step of our lives, whether we are conscious of their presence or not.

  4. Ces replied:

    The most significant groups in my life that affect me are probably my family and friends because I spend time with them and their opinions matter to me. Of course, there are times where I am affected to give into their opinions even though I do not agree, because i value their input or I do not want to disappoint them. There are times when I do stick to my beliefs and views because I am sure of them. I suppose we are all individualistts in a collective culture.

  5. Shermin replied:

    Other than family and friends, the people that we look up to also influence the way we behave. Celebrities, musicians, actors can also be groups of people who affect our behavior. Since we look up to these people, we tend to observe and imitate their behavior. People dress and speak like celebrities that they look up to. Some people even go for plastic surgery to alter their appearance to look like their idols. We also tend to subscribe to our idols’ beliefs and values.

  6. Ben Tay replied:

    The extent of being influence is dependent on the level of cognitive maturity one has.

  7. Li Yin Low replied:

    Hey! Perhaps the extent to which a group has influence on our thoughts, feelings and behaviours has to do with our culture as well. In individualistic societies like North America, people are encouraged to think for themselves and be independent. On the other hand, for collectivistic societies such as India, the opinions and actions of the groups we belong to (be it in school, work etc) influence us more. These cultural differences in group communication can be seen through the following idioms:

    From North America (individualistic): The squeaky wheel gets the grease.

    From Japan (collectivistic): The nail that sticks out gets hammered back.

    • Valerie replied:

      Good point! Our culture definitely has a part to play when it comes to group influence. Particularly in Singapore’s culture, I have noticed how people like to do things in groups (even simple things like going to the toilet!). This is a result of a collectivist culture, in which people in a group influence each other in terms of their behaviour and the way they think.

  8. carol replied:

    Besides people whom we are in constant contact with, acquaintances can have a great influence on our behavior too. These groups may include our social circles that we were forced into e.g. our lecture groups. In such a scenario, the lecture group can influence the way we react in class and hence determine the culture of that particular lecture group.

    • Valerie replied:

      Hi Carol! Good point there. Besides primary groups, secondary groups like what you mentioned, acquaintances, are definitely integral people in our lives that influence our behaviour at different points in time. If a lecture group was more lively, I believe the students would be more inclined towards participating and interacting in class as well.

  9. Patrice replied:

    I definitely agree that groups in our lives influence our behaviour. One of the earliest influences one receives since young is that of the family, when habits and character traits are formed due to extended time spent together. As time passes, the influence from the family is gradually shifted, or expanded, to include friends and the broader social network. Peer influence is a force that cannot be underestimated as well.

  10. Elle replied:

    I guessed we are still considered a collectivist society hence group communication is really important in our social lives which will in turn affect how we work as well. We are easily influenced by the societal perception of others which affects the way we look at ourselves. We become more conscious and may tend to conform to the norm or the common way of doing things which could lead to groupthink. I think that’s how a group is being categorized: common vision, common way of working with one another and a common characteristic of people.

  11. Jennifer replied:

    Just to share some personal experience..My group of friends have definitely influenced me in terms of my way of speech. As hard as I try, I find myself ending up using the same language as them so that I wouldnt “stand out” too much. I noticed how the rest of the people in my clique have also started using terms that they have never used before as a result of constantly hanging out with each other. I guess one really cannot underestimate the power of peer influence.

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