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"Groupthink"


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Symptoms of "groupthink".

In order to make groupthink testable, Irving Janis devised eight symptoms that are indicative of groupthink (1977).

-A feeling of invulnerability creates excessive optimism and encourages risk taking.

-Discounting warnings that might challenge assumptions.

-An unquestioned belief in the group’s morality, causing members to ignore the consequences of their actions.

-Stereotyped views of enemy leaders.

-Pressure to conform against members of the group who disagree.

-Shutting down of ideas that deviate from the apparent group consensus.

-An illusion of unanimity with regards to going along with the group.

-Mindguards — self-appointed members who shield the group from dissenting opinions.

Classic cases of groupthink

"Bay of Pigs invasion (1959-1962) - Another closely-studied case of groupthink is the 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion (Giddens 109). The main idea of the Bay of Pigs invasion was to train a group of Cuban exiles to invade Cuba and spark a revolution against Fidel Castro’s communist regime. The plan was fatally flawed from the beginning, but none of President Kennedy’s top advisers spoke out against the plan. Kennedy’s advisers also had the main characteristics of groupthink: They had all been educated in the country's top universities, causing them to become a very cohesive group. They were also all afraid of speaking out against the plan, because they did not want to upset the president. The President's brother, Robert Kennedy, took on the role of a "mind guard", telling dissenters that it was a waste of their time, because the President had already made up his mind.[2]"

"Ultimately, the failure of the Bay of Pigs invasion was the influence of groupthink, which nearly paralyzed the decision making process from criticism."

Preventing groupthink.

"According to Irving Janis, decision making groups are not necessarily doomed to groupthink. He also claims that there are several ways to prevent it. Janis devised seven ways of preventing groupthink (209-15)"

"Leaders should assign each member the role of “critical evaluator”. This allows each member to freely air objections and doubts.

Higher-ups should not express an opinion when assigning a task to a group. The organization should set up several independent groups, working on the same problem. All effective alternatives should be examined. Each member should discuss the group's ideas with trusted people outside of the group. The group should invite outside experts into meetings. Group members should be allowed to discuss with and question the outside experts. At least one group member should be assigned the role of devil’s advocate. This should be a different person for each meeting. By following these guidelines, groupthink can be avoided."

After the Bay of Pigs fiasco:

"John F. Kennedy sought to avoid groupthink during the Cuban Missile Crisis.[3] During meetings, he invited outside experts to share their viewpoints, and allowed group members to question them carefully. He also encouraged group members to discuss possible solutions with trusted members within their separate departments, and he even divided the group up into various sub-groups, in order to partially break the group cohesion. JFK was deliberately absent from the meetings, so as to avoid pressing his own opinion. Ultimately, the Cuban missile crisis was resolved peacefully, thanks in part to these measures."*

"Cognitive dissonance plays an important role in decision making, whether to hinder our reasoning, cause us to make decisions, or to determine the way we feel about the decisions we make."

"Cognitive dissonance is a psychological term which describes the uncomfortable tension that comes from holding two conflicting thoughts at the same time. More precisely, it is the perception of incompatibility between two cognitions, where "cognition" is defined as any element of knowledge, including attitude, emotion, belief, or behavior."

"The theory of cognitive dissonance states that contradicting cognitions serve as a driving force that compels the mind to acquire or invent new thoughts or beliefs, or to modify existing beliefs, so as to reduce the amount of dissonance (conflict) between cognitions."

*this characteristic of Kennedy can be seen by some as a weakness, however, when one realises that he was indeed without doubt The Man, The Commander in Chief, and he had shown this on anumber of occassions (in fact it charactersied his presidency from the beginning), one can see a degree of sanity there that displays a true trust in peoples ability to be rational. IOW his strength (and it was in this way quite extraordinary) is this very ability to let go. Thus the threat that he posed to those who relied on old structures was phenomenal. In a way he represented true democracy. In a sense, this is was what was assassinated in Dallas.

(I think this is also a thing to consider in this forum with the new 'leadership' format.)

Edited by John Dolva
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A very interesting topic, John, but I'm not sure the examples are accurate. The Bay of Pigs failed not so much because the Kennedy people engaged in "groupthink" as that the CIA engaged in "wishful thinking." After the Kennedy people changed the original plan, the CIA let the action go forward, even though their top planners--Hawkins, Esterline--believed it would fail. Apparently, they did this because they felt sure that Kennedy would order direct U.S. involvement before he would let the invasion fail. They were wrong.

Prior to this, of course, they'd strung Kennedy along with the idea that an underground would rise up in Cuba, blah blah blah. In fact, they didn't trust the underground, and failed to clue them in on the invasion. Security among the CIA Cubans was so bad, in fact, that Castro knew what was coming, and had had the bulk of the underground rounded up before the invasion began.

During the Cuban missile crisis, Kennedy did indeed try to avoid "groupthink," and welcomed the input of all types. Ultimately, the successful conclusion of the crisis fell on Kennedy's shoulders alone, as he basically ignored all the advice of the "experts" and listened to his own gut. He trusted that Khruschev was not evil, and would not be willing to let so many die over an issue that was not of importance to the Russian people. But he also felt that Castro would not hesitate to launch any operational nukes if we bombed his country, or tried a full-scale invasion. So he blockaded Cuba instead, and opened back door channels to Khruschev. Thus, he avoided the "groupthink" of the military, that an immediate strike was necessary, and handled the problem successfully in his own way.

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Pat, I think here are reasons to agree with what you say, particularly when it comes to the Bay of Pigs event, though, for Kennedy this was part of his 'education' from which he learnt things that matured through his Presidency. On the other hand the theories of 'groupthink' has an evolution. IE the people in this instance putting forth a 'conclusion' do so as part of an ongoing scientific process, and can't be taken as the final word on the matter. Wholistically there are elements in many assessments that together may give the full answer. The point here (and I know you recognise that) is a look at the process and its application.

When it comes to the Cuban Crisis, Kennedy fully came in towards the end of the process leading towards the desciscion and here I think (in reading Soerensens descriptions of the period) He did listen to, not ignore, the experts. His own 'wisdom' tempered the descisions and ultimately it was him that made the descisions. But the inclusiveness that led to the final descisions was empowering to many, and contributed to a united front. After some time (a few weeks) various people (who were traditionally his 'enemy' did start to pick apart this, but I think it showed that Kennedy really was a 'winner'. Therein a cognitive dissonance when contemplating the further Kennedy platforms. He had showed his 'power'. and when contemplating the implications of this when it comes to his confrontation of old embedded structures within the USofA itself one may very well see part of the road to Dallas.(IMO)

Edited by John Dolva
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Pat, I think here are reasons to agree with what you say, particularly when it comes to the Bay of Pigs event, though, for Kennedy this was part of his 'education' from which he learnt things that matured through his Presidency. On the other hand the theories of 'groupthink' has an evolution. IE the people in this instance putting forth a 'conclusion' do so as part of an ongoing scientific process, and can't be taken as the final word on the matter. Wholistically there are elements in many assessments that together may give the full answer. The point here (and I know you recognise that) is a look at the process and its application.

When it comes to the Cuban Crisis, Kennedy fully came in towards the end of the process leading towards the desciscion and here I think (in reading Soerensens descriptions of the period) He did listen to, not ignore, the experts. His own 'wisdom' tempered the descisions and ultimately it was him that made the descisions. But the inclusiveness that led to the final descisions was empowering to many, and contributed to a united front. After some time (a few weeks) various people (who were traditionally his 'enemy' did start to pick apart this, but I think it showed that Kennedy really was a 'winner'. Therein a cognitive dissonance when contemplating the further Kennedy platforms. He had showed his 'power'. and when contemplating the implications of this when it comes to his confrontation of old embedded structures within the USofA itself one may very well see part of the road to Dallas.(IMO)

We're on the same page, John. While I don't pretend to know who killed Kennedy, the argument by some intellectuals (notably Chomsky) that Kennedy (in the eyes of the military and intelligence elite) was not worth killing, is incredibly wrong-headed. With his stands on the Missile Crisis and Test Ban treaty, and his resistance to escalation in Vietnam, he had sent a clear message that it was his show, and that the career military and intelligence "experts" were but junior advisers. This undoubtedly ruffled some feathers. Some of these men might have believed it was a matter of national interest that this young upstart playboy be displaced, and democracy be damned. As much as I admire Kennedy, I'm not so sure their intentions were wrong. At the height of Watergate, Kissinger, Haig, and Schlesinger formed a coalition of sorts to keep an eye on Nixon. They feared he'd do something wreckless or insane. If he'd have refused to listen to them, and had attempted to do something insane--say, ordered a preliminary nuke strike on Russia--would it have been wrong for them to have him killed? I'm on the fence.

I believe too much power rests in the presidency, as proven by our latest tyrant.

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A very interesting topic, John, but I'm not sure the examples are accurate. The Bay of Pigs failed not so much because the Kennedy people engaged in "groupthink" as that the CIA engaged in "wishful thinking."

Actually,

Two of the primary reasons for the failure of the Bay of Pigs landing was due to:

1. The landing sight was progressively changed from an area in which landing ships could have gotten close to shore without fear of becoming grounded on solid ground, to an area in which any such attempt at close in landing would have insured grounding.

2. The landing sight was changed from an area in which, had the invading force failed to achieve military superiority, they could have escaped into the surrounding terrain, to an area in which the landing force was relegated to escape into mangrove swamps in which only the most adept and experienced survival expert could even "survive", let along continue to fight.

And, considering the full extent of the hydrographic information as well as local terrain information of the Bay of Pigs area was long previously known, figure it out for yourself as to why this became the landing sight.

And, this does not even bring into play the availability of access roads into the area in which enemy forces, to include armor, could be easily and rapidly deployed.

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Good to see you 'back in action', Tom.

==============

There is also the Cuban side of the story which includes a foreknowledge that something would happen. Further, there was (IMO) a misunderstanding of who or what the Cuban defenders of the revolution were. Meaning, devoted and motivated.

Nevertheless, certainly the terrain in this particular instance, was major factor in a rapid Cuban victory.

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  • 3 weeks later...
Good to see you 'back in action', Tom.

==============

There is also the Cuban side of the story which includes a foreknowledge that something would happen. Further, there was (IMO) a misunderstanding of who or what the Cuban defenders of the revolution were. Meaning, devoted and motivated.

Nevertheless, certainly the terrain in this particular instance, was major factor in a rapid Cuban victory.

hypocrisy galore: non-groupthink in action* (or pro-ignorance)

Symptoms of "groupthink".

In order to make groupthink testable, Irving Janis devised eight symptoms that are indicative of groupthink (1977).

-A feeling of invulnerability creates excessive optimism and encourages risk taking.

-Discounting warnings that might challenge assumptions.

-An unquestioned belief in the group’s morality, causing members to ignore the consequences of their actions.

-Stereotyped views of enemy leaders.

-Pressure to conform against members of the group who disagree.

-Shutting down of ideas that deviate from the apparent group consensus.

-An illusion of unanimity with regards to going along with the group.

-Mindguards — self-appointed members who shield the group from dissenting opinions (I call these the (covertly (though the 'pattern' of it is far from covert) organised or self appointed) Gatekeepers)

IIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII

http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cf...amp;ItemID=5993

"Mr Larry Wilkerson, Secretary General to Mr Colin Powell, qualified the American economic sanctions against Cuba as being "the most stupid policy in the world.” According to him, they will seriously affect the health of the Cuban people and have missed their target. He strongly recommended that a new direction be given to relations with la Havana.

Mr Jeff Flake, Republican Congressman for Arizona, violently(?doubtful) criticized the subversion programs planned by Radio and TV Martí. "If we were serious in our proposal to make a different voice heard other than Castro's, why wouldn't we let Americans travel over there?" he said. "After all, Castro can't jam a one to one talk". [31]

In reality, the American authorities are trying to prevent their citizens from realising how developed Cuban society is.

Why?

This has been revealed by Mr Philip Peters, former member of the State Department - under Reagan and Bush administrations - and vice-president of the Lexington Institute. "In the end, the reason why the administration doesn't want any travel to Cuba is simple. It doesn't want the American people to understand, in the ten minutes after their arrival, that they have been fooled by their government about Cuban reality", he declared. [32]

*In April 2004, Barbara and Wally Smith, a retired couple of from Vermont, were sentenced to pay a $55,000 fine for having travelled to Cuba and created a web site relating their journey. In February 2004, Washington forbade Ibrahim Ferrer, the famous Cuban singer from the group Buena Vista Social Club, from travelling to the United States to receive his Grammy Award. His visit would have been "harmful to American interests", according to a communiqué from the authorities referring to section 212-f of the emigration law. This section deals with... terrorists, convicted killers and drug dealers. [33]"

(Mexican) President, Mr Vicente Fox. "Mexico won't come round at all to this proposal which is made against Cuban sovereignty, nor shall not accept the interference in this country by another nation", he declared. [36]

"The international community and press ought to denounce this plan which violates the sovereignty and independence of Cuba, and attempts to starve an entire population in the name of "democracy". If they fail to do so, they will bear a heavy responsibility in the event of American military aggression against the Cuban people"

Edited by John Dolva
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