Sunday, October 11, 2009
Groupthink. A good thing or a bad thing? (5th entry)
The cartoon illustration above gives you an idea as to what group think refers to. Irving Jarvis defines groupthink as "a mode of thinking that people engage in when they are deeply involved in a cohesive in-group, when members' strivings for unanimity override their motivation to realistically appraise alternative courses of action"
The URL above is a link to an article which lists the 8 symptoms of groupthink.
They are basically:
1) Illusion of invulnerability
2) Believe in group's own morality
3) Shared stereotypes
4) Collective rationalisation
5) Self censorship
6) Illusion of unanimity
7) Pressure on dissenters
There are loads of examples and situations where groupthink exists.
The link above provides a few examples of groupthink. I think the thing that is most interesting about this particular write up is that the author seemed to equate groupthink to intellectual laziness. While I do not think that groupthink can ALWAYS be equated to intellectualy laziness, it definitely does hold some truth when one is talking about groupthink in terms of everyday life in the social context. The write-up talks about a mini experiment carried out to prove the existence of groupthink.
"The experiment is very simple. A group of 10 college students were recruited to perform a taste test on a new yogurt. They were asked to determine the new flavor of this yogurt. However, unknown to the test subject, 9 of the 10 students are part of the experiment. They were told to repeat a predetermined response when asked about the taste. Only the one test subject was the actual unknown. When given the yogurt to taste, each was asked to give their impressions. The test subject was to go last.
The yogurt given was strawberry flavored (but not made known to the test subject).
After hearing the responses of the other 9 subjects claiming to taste vanilla instead of Strawberry, the test subject in 8 out of 10 cases went with the majority and said he tasted vanilla instead of saying it is strawberry. When repeated with many subjects, only about 20% of the subjects stuck to their guns."
In these sort of scenarios, groupthink does show a sense of intellectual laziness, but the effects of adhering to group think is generally harmless. However, there are instances when groupthink can prove to be very harmful and dangerous. One of these instances would be when religious extremists adhere to the groupthink phenomenon. Take Islamic terrorists as an example. The illusion of invulnerability makes them fearless and the belief in the group's own morallity, their shared stereotypes and their collective rationalisation not only makes them feel more bonded, but it also somewhat validates their views and the actions that they feel are necessary in order to support their cause. In other words, it only servers to encourage the use of violence to get their message across.
Groupthink does not always have to necessarily have to be considered a bad thing. However, the members of the group have to be open to alternative decisions and raviews and they should always be aware of the spymptoms of groupthink, and there should always be a devil's advocate in order to provide alternatives perspectives for the group.