Saturday, July 25, 2009

Science & Groupthink

TierneyLab profiles a researcher who 'condemns conformity amongst its peers.' Notes TierneyLab: "What’s wrong with consensuses is not the establishment of a majority view, which is necessary and legitimate, but the silencing of skeptics. 'We still have whole domains we can’t talk about,' Dr. Bouchard said, referring to the psychology of differences between races and sexes."

JS Logan, a B2B marketing blogger, talks about groupthink in marketing in a recent post and pulls from Wikipedia -

Janis listed eight symptoms that he said were indicative of groupthink:
1. Illusion of invulnerability
2. Unquestioned belief in the inherent morality of the group
3. Collective rationalization of group’s decisions
4. Shared stereotypes of outgroup, particularly opponents
5. Self-censorship; members withhold criticisms
6. Illusion of unanimity
7. Direct pressure on dissenters to conform
8. Self-appointed “mindguards” protect the group from negative information

Finally, the seven symptoms of decision affected by groupthink are:
1. Incomplete survey of alternatives
2. Incomplete survey of objectives
3. Failure to examine risks of preferred choice
4. Failure to re-appraise initially rejected alternatives
5. Poor information search
6. Selective bias in processing information at hand
7. Failure to work out contingency plans

The difference between marketing and science is that we're often told by politicians 'not to question the science' just before they cram down some policy. Given that laws aren't as easily reversed as a marketing campaign, should we be so willing to tolerate attempts to silence dissent and reduce freedoms for consumers?

One obvious example includes the banning of incandescents in favor of more expensive compact fluorescents that are dangerous to dispose of (John Stossel). This, while innovators are making progress with incandescents (FuturePundit) to say nothing of the fact this is a defacto tax on poor people who will end up spending more resources on what was a considerably cheaper product. Next up on the list? Restricting carbon dioxide emissions is next up (despite continuing dissenting views that question the link between CO2 and global warming, USAToday).

Update: More on the science of groupthink (TechnologyReview).

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