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Author Topic: Groupthink
MaGlick
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From OSC's post on the patriot act.

"It is a perfect example of groupthink. What might be suddenly is and since "everyone knows it" then no proof is needed."

Just to be a smart-aleck, wouldn't religion fit quite well as the antecedent there? And really, doesn't almost all of our knowledge and/or beliefs?

In the end, we cannot discover everything for ourselves, and have to accept what we are told (or choose between different, contradictory things we are told). Even when something has been proven, we weren't there when it was verified, and have to take as truth that it was.

So while OSC is being contemptuous of those who have chosen to believe the current war is a fiasco, what are his sources that it is going well? Don't they have to be some collection of broadcasts and writings he has chosen to believe are superior to those that have shaped the opinions of his target of dirision?

I have a sneaking hunch individuals are highly over-rated. Maybe we are best viewed as groups, and thinking as them may not be all bad.

After all, we don't test our citizens to see if they versed in current events before they can vote. And we end up electing people on "values issues" and sound-bite zingers, which aim themselves at group thinking rather than individual contemplation. Yet this is held up as the best system out there.

I dunno. I leave it for the group to hash out (or ignore).

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mr_porteiro_head
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quote:
Maybe we are best viewed as groups, and thinking as them may not be all bad.
In general (as in, I'm not talking about any specific situation), I disagree.

I can't remember which fictional character said "No. A person is smart, but people are stupid." People do some of their worst thinking in groups, partially because it's so easy to assume that so many people cannot be wrong. But if most of the other people are going off of the same assumption, it's not a valid assumption.

In manufacturing, they've discovered that on an assembly line, two people working together trying to spot defects are actually less effective than one person doing it alone. While it makes sense for two people to catch more errors than one person, they don't because each one knows he has the other one to catch his mistakes.

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TheTick
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quote:
Jay: Why the big secret? People are smart, they can handle it.
Kay: A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky, dangerous animals and you know it.

This the one? It's from Men in Black.
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MaGlick
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There was an interesting book called:

The Wisdom of Crowds

http://www.randomhouse.com/features/wisdomofcrowds/

It's thesis is just the opposite, that groups tend to make better decisions than individuals. Has some research to back it up.

The group has to satisfy some conditions for this to hold true. Quoting the author from an interview:
"There are four key qualities that make a crowd smart. It needs to be diverse, so that people are bringing different pieces of information to the table. It needs to be decentralized, so that no one at the top is dictating the crowd's answer. It needs a way of summarizing people's opinions into one collective verdict. And the people in the crowd need to be independent, so that they pay attention mostly to their own information, and not worrying about what everyone around them thinks. "

And I suppose even if one accepted the thesis of the book,a case could be made that groupthink occurs when the above conditions break down or aren't present.

But my main assertion in the first post was that though OSC claims those against the war are often victims of "groupthink" in listening to the wars oppenents, his knowledge of the war is filtered as well, as it is for us all.

I don't know why those who disagree are "groupthinkers" and he is not. I don't know if having read history books makes this so for him. Or if he believes he thinks more clearly or deeply. Or if it is because he is he, and the fundamental attribution error is at play.

But isn't true, that almost everything we believe we take on faith, no matter who we are?

[ November 04, 2006, 11:25 PM: Message edited by: MaGlick ]

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MaGlick
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And the assembly line example is interesting, but I don't really think goes toward the intelligence of groups. It says more about individuals' tendency to shirk when they think they can get away with it.

I can imagine scenarios where two would be greater than one. What if they were told whoever found more defects would get a bonus?

Of course they might just strike a deal: let one find a single defect then play cards the rest of the day, then take the bonus down to the pub.

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Will B
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I think "groupthink" means "consensus we believe because it's consensus." If so, well, think about the times we can trust consensus: it's when we have other reasons for believing the same thing.
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BaoQingTian
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I dusted off my old Psychology 101 textbook to find the definition of groupthink. It quotes directly from Irving Janis' book [i]Groupthink{/i] published in 1982 (1st edition in '72). The term is actually political in origin and defined as "a mode of thinking that people engage in when they are deeply involved in a cohesive in-group, when the membersí striving for unanimity overrides their motivation to realistically appraise alternative courses of action"
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