Topic Tuesday #168 2015/10/06 "Groupthink"

Topic Tuesday #168 2015/10/06 "Groupthink"

Groupthink? You mean something like double-think from George Orwell's 1984? Though I enjoy the fascinating and terrible implications behind some "Orwellian" revelations, groupthink is a real concept in modern psychology. According to

Groupthink occurs when a group values harmony and coherence over accurate analysis and critical evaluation. It causes individual members of the group to unquestioningly follow the word of the leader and it strongly discourages any disagreement with the consensus.

Why is this important enough to be a Topic Tuesday? Well, we are entering election season in the United States and there are fewer groups more polarized by ideology than those of the two main parties here in the states. Groupthink essentially explains why certain ideologies like political leanings, religious tradition, and even gender identity become an intrinsic part of a person's identity. In the case of politics a person may become very offended if their chosen candidate or pet cause is undermined and attacked. In gender you get the "Boy's Club" or the "Sewing Circle" where the other gender has no place at all. Religious people tend to be very attached to their group even if they claim a personal relationship, they will still naturally ally with those of like mind and are typically unable to separate themselves from the concepts of their faith; this can be seen when they are confronted about an inconsistency or contradiction in their doctrine. They will almost universally take it as a personal affront to them and they will respond as if they are under attack, even if it was the idea and not them personally. 

Groupthink represents the exchange of personal identity. The ego of the group is overlayed on the ego of the individual group member and is adopted as being at least as important as their own identity. You may even hear people identify so closely with group as to announce they ARE the group/thing/idea. This can be a dangerous place to tread. 

This is a cautionary tale. We are all susceptible to the power of groupthink and should remain vigilant in our own self awareness and hold all ideas to rigorous scrutiny, especially the concepts we hold most dear. 

Topic Tuesday #126 2014/12/16 - “Mind the Communication Gap”

Topic Tuesday #126 2014/12/16 - “Mind the Communication Gap”

As you know by now, I am not afraid of hitting uncomfortable topics. This occasionally gets me into awkward situations.

When communicating with other people, there is an ever present issue: the curse of foreknowledge.  You take for granted all the things you know. It seldom occurs to you that the acronym you just used is absolute gibberish to the uninitiated. The work that you did to reach a conclusion that you are now overly comfortable with has slipped your mind, and you naturally presume that everyone else has done the work and come to the same conclusions you have.

This is baloney, of course! But we all do it. It’s part of our psychology. It is an art to navigate the knowledge gaps and sound both intelligent and non-condescending if you do stumble upon a knowledge peer. And the real trick is to do it at the same time, when talking to everyone.

It is easy to fail, especially when dealing with sensitive issues. Even coming to a common ground in conversation to build upon is often wrought with perils. Emotions run hot. Words take on multiple meanings. Imagine unpacking a dead relatives garage with a friend that doesn’t understand that every scrap of garbage is somehow meaningful and is tearing you apart, and it gets worse the further in you dive. A journey fraught with landmines, pitfalls, and mantraps. It takes determination to communicate with someone of a differing point of view.

It is hard, painful, and exhausting.

Sometimes, it isn’t worth it. However… You never know when it will be worth it. So I will continue to spend the energy on unknown hope for communication that transcends the gaps.