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In 1972 social psychologist Irving Janis coined the term "groupthink" to describe a psychological phenomenon in which a person accepts irrational decisions in the name of group loyalty. Put another way, some collectives make bad choices when their members value group harmony over expressing unpopular positions. This is particularly the case when the most vocal elements are also the least intelligent.

While the basic idea sounds plausible, I'm troubled by its usage. Janis used it to attack major military decisions, such as the Bay of Pigs invasion and not protecting Pearl Harbor in WW2, which he considered monumentally stupid and clear examples of "groupthink" at work. It seems like the word "groupthink" is typically used to disrupt or stop consideration of other explanations for such bad decision-making. In fact the label "groupthink" is applied based on an assessment of the final outcome and not on the persuasive arguments and choices made by those originally involved in the decision. And if someone begins talking about those arguments and choices, he is accused of wasting his time on "groupthinkers." It smells like an anti-concept to me.

There is also this belief that engaging in debate with "groupthinkers" is not productive. But this assumes that all of the members in the opposing group are happy with their group. I submit that the most intelligent ones are probably not very happy if they have to submit to the dumb ones. And it might be worth trying to find and recruit them.

Edited by MisterSwig

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I use groupthink to mean: Passive acceptance of the loudest, longest, or most socially acceptable ideas with little to no consideration nor care about the actual truth, independent of whether discovering the truth would be easy; Lack of consideration with no care. It doesn't matter from whom the ideas stem, the key is that they fall on deaf ears. Effort to convince with new ideas is futile, because the groupthinker is not interested in consideration.

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In the battle for the mind, how does "groupthink" factor in?

Each individual mind needs to do the work independently to arrive at a valid conclusion. The exchange of ideas can help to reduce the amount of time to discover valid conclusions, or conversely it can hinder reaching a valid conclusion.

In order to streamline the process, those committed to such a task need establish the veracity of their idea(s) prior bringing them to the table. When a valid conclusion is served properly, it can then be consumed on the basis of its own merits.

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2 hours ago, JASKN said:

Passive acceptance of the loudest, longest, or most socially acceptable ideas

Is it actually passive acceptance if you have to identify the loudest, longest, most socially acceptable idea? How do you determine what's socially acceptable if you don't care about the truth? And why bother if you're not even interested in consideration?

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10 minutes ago, MisterSwig said:

Is it actually passive acceptance if you have to identify the loudest, longest, most socially acceptable idea? How do you determine what's socially acceptable if you don't care about the truth? And why bother if you're not even interested in consideration?

Those are good questions. "Groupthink" is just a version of what Rand termed "blanking out." If we could figure out how to get people to stop doing that, the world would be even more amazing than it already is.

57 minutes ago, dream_weaver said:

When a valid conclusion is served properly, it can then be consumed on the basis of its own merits.

...kind of. It still needs to be checked in some (or many) ways against what you already know from your own experiences and thinking. If you find a source of information with a great track record, you still only know the conclusions which you can prove to yourself. In fact, you had to prove to yourself the reasons the source has had a great record.

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How about this.... "Groupthink" suggests that a man's opinion is not worth taking seriously because the group to which he belongs is deemed irrational. Since he is part of the irrational group, he must be irrational too and not open to reason. The term "groupthink" would therefore function as a replacement for moral evaluation of an individual's mind. Indeed the social constructionist would need such a concept in order to judge another's rational faculty, because being a subjectivist he has no way of knowing what that other individual is thinking in his own head. But that person's thoughts are clearly manifested in his group's actions. So if his group acts irrationally, that means he's no good too. 

Edited by MisterSwig

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48 minutes ago, JASKN said:
1 hour ago, dream_weaver said:

When a valid conclusion is served properly, it can then be consumed on the basis of its own merits.

...kind of. It still needs to be checked in some (or many) ways against what you already know from your own experiences and thinking.

Presumably the server of a valid conclusion has already integrated the material properly, and presents it in such a way that the recipients can integrate it on the basis of their own experiences and thinking.

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40 minutes ago, MisterSwig said:

How about this.... "Groupthink" suggests that a man's opinion is not worth taking seriously because the group to which he belongs is deemed irrational.

I don't think of "group" as identifying anything other than "non-individual." "Group" is only used because more than one person is required to create a big enough buzz to influence passive acceptance.

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9 hours ago, dream_weaver said:

In the battle for the mind, how does "groupthink" factor in?

It seems that the social psychologists in the '70s were puzzled by groups of very intelligent men who made seemingly horrible, stupid decisions. Note that, originally, "groupthink" applied to the best and brightest professionals in the government and military. We're talking about CIA agents, military intelligence officers, President Kennedy and his advisors, etc. And later it was applied to smart and successful businessmen responsible for catastrophes like Enron. There was never an assumption that the "groupthinkers" were mouth-breathing, bottom-of-the-barrel, non-thinking idiots. Janis was dealing with a real conundrum: what went wrong with the decision-making and how do we solve it? Unfortunately, I suspect that his solution was to evade objective inquiry and focus on another construct called "concurrence-seeking," which apparently people do when they want to feel group solidarity. The implication, I suppose, is that group members don't realize they are "concurrence-seeking," so regulations must be put in place to counter this psychological tendency. For example, army intelligence employs a practice called red-teaming, which is a separate group whose purpose is to attack the main group's position. Kind of like a required devil's advocate.

As an Objectivist, I believe the root problem is most likely the collectivist-altruist philosophy driving every move the group makes, not some imagined notion of "concurrence-seeking."

Edited by MisterSwig

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13 hours ago, MisterSwig said:

As an Objectivist, I believe the root problem is most likely the collectivist-altruist philosophy driving every move the group makes, not some imagined notion of "concurrence-seeking."

While Janis recognized the positive role that concurrence-seeking played in the development of group cohesiveness, he argued that it was possible to achieve sufficient group cohesiveness without risking the negative consequences on decision making caused by excessive concurrence seeking.

Imagined or not, how would this break the chains that bind a collectivist-altruist-mystic mentality to a group? A collectivist-altruistic mentality is going to resort to collectivist-altruistic means and tactics even if engaged in some "imagined notion" of concurrence seeking.

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Whether or not an idea is held by one man or the same idea is held by many men in a group, does not change its validity. The idea itself should be evaluated on its own merits. I think that is what you were criticizing in your original post. In that sense, using "oh, that's just groupthink" as a justification for dismissing the validity of an argument is fallacious. But it doesn't make groupthink an invalid concept.

Reasoning must be done by an individual... each individual must reach his own conclusions through his own reasoning process. We all must think for ourselves. In that sense, "groupthink" denounces those who submit their own judgment to whatever the collective says. I think when used in that way, it is a valid concept because it stands for individual reason. None of us should desire to be a groupthinker.

Edited by CartsBeforeHorses

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1 hour ago, CartsBeforeHorses said:

"groupthink" denounces those who submit their own judgment to whatever the collective says.

And how do you determine which members of the group are doing that? Do you ask each one: did you submit your own judgement to whatever the group said? Or do you just denounce imaginary people?

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3 minutes ago, MisterSwig said:

And how do you determine which members of the group are doing that? Do you ask each one: did you submit your own judgement to whatever the group said? Or do you just denounce imaginary people?

Neither. I determine who is using groupthink by how similarly their arguments sound to one another. I've ran into Leftists, in particular, who seem to read off the same sheet of music without critically examining what it is that they're reading. DailyKos, Mother Jones, ThinkProgress, and other leftist rags will put out some article, and then I'll hear leftists in real life, and see them on the internet, parroting back whatever the article said, and they never bother to dig deep.

The left's anti-Russia hysteria is one such example of groupthink. Despite absolutely zero evidence found of any Russian connection to the Trump administration, they keep insisting that one exists. Why? Because their leaders do, not because they've done any independent research or independent thinking on the matter.

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3 hours ago, dream_weaver said:

Imagined or not, how would this break the chains that bind a collectivist-altruist-mystic mentality to a group? A collectivist-altruistic mentality is going to resort to collectivist-altruistic means and tactics even if engaged in some "imagined notion" of concurrence seeking.

I'm not clear on what you're asking. But I think the point of "concurrence-seeking" is that it explains things like the altruist-collectivist mentality. As a psychological phenomenon, it innately influences decision-making, including the choice to become an altruist-collectivist. My position is that there is no such psychological phenomenon. People have to be taught to evade their own mind and acquiesce to authority.

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34 minutes ago, CartsBeforeHorses said:
39 minutes ago, MisterSwig said:

People have to be taught to evade their own mind and acquiesce to authority.

If "groupthink" is not an adequate term to describe this phenomenon, then what would you propose?

Slavery. People think of slavery as physical possession of another human being. But it begins with mental possession of another human being. This means indoctrinating someone with a philosophy of evasion and submission.

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1 hour ago, CartsBeforeHorses said:

I determine who is using groupthink by how similarly their arguments sound to one another. I've ran into Leftists, in particular, who seem to read off the same sheet of music without critically examining what it is that they're reading.

Fair enough. Though I don't think that's the original view of "groupthink," as I described in my post about Irving Janis and the decisions made by professional intellectuals.

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31 minutes ago, MisterSwig said:

Slavery. People think of slavery as physical possession of another human being. But it begins with mental possession of another human being. This means indoctrinating someone with a philosophy of evasion and submission.

You can use the word "slavery" for this if you want, but I don't think you'll get much traction when talking to others.

18 minutes ago, MisterSwig said:

Fair enough. Though I don't think that's the original view of "groupthink," as I described in my post about Irving Janis and the decisions made by professional intellectuals.

I think the word stands apart from its originator, and has developed a usage in the wider English language apart from the few bad examples initially used to support the concept.

Say, haven't we had this conversation before? :thumbsup:

Edited by CartsBeforeHorses

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24 minutes ago, CartsBeforeHorses said:

You can use the word "slavery" for this if you want, but I don't think you'll get much traction when talking to others.

Maybe not with white people. But blacks are very familiar with the slave mentality.

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2 hours ago, MisterSwig said:

I'm not clear on what you're asking. But I think the point of "concurrence-seeking" is that it explains things like the altruist-collectivist mentality. As a psychological phenomenon, it innately influences decision-making, including the choice to become an altruist-collectivist. My position is that there is no such psychological phenomenon. People have to be taught to evade their own mind and acquiesce to authority.

Individuals choose what they learn.

One of the adages I grew up with was: Your actions speak so loudly that I cannot hear what you are saying.

It was pretty powerful medicine, if you ask me. Properly administered, the symptoms might be mistaken for those of an anesthesia.

As near as I have been able to discover, teaching is a psychological phenomenon.

 

Edited by dream_weaver

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