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Groupthink and Intellectual Laziness

Updated on December 3, 2016
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Jack is currently a volunteer at the Westchester County Archives. Jack has worked at IBM for over 28 years on museums and libraries.

Groupthink

Recently, I saw a TV program where an experiment was conducted on College students where they were asked to participate in a food taste test. However, the real object of the test was to see how people are influence by their peers. The results were fascinating and demonstrate the power of Groupthink.

I also chose to link this to the term Intellectual laziness because this group think lends itself to being lazy. Instead of doing some research on a particular topic, it is easier to just accept the consensus. That is the danger.

I will use several examples of this to demonstrate the current problem.

Nov. - 2015

The experiment

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.

How interesting.

Some examples...

The following are a few examples of groupthink that in my opinion are problem areas or at minimum demonstrate close mindedness. They are tactics used by some to minimize some groups or ideology and avoid addressing the real issues. Our government and the media use this tactic again and again to influence public opinion.

  • UFO sightings - In 1947, the Roswell incident occurred. The US government took some very unusual steps to create the impression that it was a weather balloon. In the 1950, after much pressure, the US started a project called Project Bluebook. It was supposed to investigate UFO sightings. Instead, it was used as a dis- information campaign to discredit any legitimate sightings and to perpetuate the myth that people who have seen UFO's are kooks. It was also a way for the government to hide their new experimental aircraft while testing was going on. I can understand why the Government would want to not address this phenomenon. If there are aliens visiting our planet, and we don't know their motives, we cannot allow the people to be panicked into a frenzy as demonstrated by the "War of the World" fiasco...
  • Crop Circles - this phenomenon was in the public eye back in the 1980s. However, after a news program showed two Englishmen creating their crop circles at nite with a wooden jig and some rope, it was presented as the answer to the mystery and all is well. Just some folks with time on their hand and making a prank.

    However, the truth is those prank do not explain a whole vast of crop circles that have very unusual properties.

  • Intelligent Design - In recent years, a group of scientists came up with a theory called Intelligent design to counter the theory of Evolution. The mainstream educators right away couched the debate as between creationism and evolution. Claiming it is a sneaky way to bring religion back into our public schools. However, that is not the case. ID is based on science and it is trying to address some of the big holes in current evolution theory. Instead of allowing science to progress, the detractors are using censorship and the courts to prevent new scientific facts from being explored.
  • Global Warming (man-made) - Al Gore in his recent documentary "Inconvient Truth" said "the debate is over..." That is news to many scientists. Most people agree that the Earth is undergoing a warming period. However, placing the cause at the feet of human activity is not agreed upon by all scientists.
  • Religious extremists - The main stream media always report on extremist activities with a broad brush. As such, they tend to equate all form of religious extremes as equal and detrimental to society. Islamic terrorist that kill innocent people and themselves in the name of Allah is equated with Christian fundamentalist that are protesting against abortion...
  • Ronald Reagan - One of my hero of the 20th century is Ronald Reagan. I've studied and read on his life and read from his own writings that were published. However, the media and the opposition party at the time in the 1980s when Reagan was President, always portrayed him as an actor, reading his lines, simple cowboy, great communicator but no depth...on and on.

    They down played his accomplishments and made fun of him. Even to this day, many people thought he was a "bad" president. That is so far from the truth.

  • Election of 2004 - During the last presidential election, a story emerged about the main stream media. The consensus among most newsrooms in NY is that John Kerry will win. The reason is almost all of them supports the Democratic candidate. After the election, when Bush won by 3 million votes, they were all shocked. They would ask themselves, how can that be. Everyone they knew voted for Kerry. This is how group think can skew an election.
  • Hillary Clinton - The next election in 2008 will be a defining moment for our country. Yet, we are bombarded with reports that Hillary will be the next President of the US. She has been promoted as the smartest women alive. She is experienced. She has the largest treasure chest... on and on. The public is conditioned to think she is going to win. However, what has she accomplished? In the 6 years in the Senate, can someone point to one thing that she did that was great? When confronted with this, people will respond by saying that they will vote for her because she is a women. Is that a reason to vote for a President?

Conclusion

I chose the term "intellectual laziness" in this presentation because it is the perfect description to why group think is so prevalent among the public. In all the examples above, it would be so easy for someone who are interested in digging a little deeper to find out the "truth" behind the myth. Access to the web and a local library will present a host of information contrary to the "groupthink".

© 2007 Jack Lee

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      Laurence 2 years ago

      Hi Anthony! The flaw in your scientific arnumegt is that evolutionary models have some tiny tiny unresolved issues (exactly how the big toe evolved maybe), and that scientific models based on young-age view have major major issues (the entire fossil record etc etc).I also disagree with you on number 1 -- as soon as you start using faith to do science, you're doing bad science as the point is to deduce theories based on experiments -- which Christian faith is directly incompatible with, "thou shalt not test the Lord" or similar? I don't think faith and science are incompatible views of the world for a human, but muddling them together causes problems for both.

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      anonymous 7 years ago

      groupthink is one word.

    • jackclee lm profile image
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      Jack Lee 8 years ago from Yorktown NY

      Gi, In response to your postings, you are wrong on both counts. Intelligent Design is not creationism unless you also believe Aliens are Gods...

      On Ronald Reagan, I have done the work and read the books and lived thru his administration. "everybody from that generation does not despise him...".

      You are the very people I target for this lens.

      Thanks for reading.

      -Jack

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      anonymous 8 years ago

      " ID is based on science..." haha, Com'on...no way.

      " Instead of allowing science to progress..." "... prevent new scientific facts from being explored...""

      Funny...

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      anonymous 8 years ago

      Good insight on some of the experiments, but you have fallen victim of your lack of experiment and judge some of your examples based only on your point of view. Some would call it ethnocentrism. Just to clarify, if you do some research, you will INDEED SEE that inteligent design IS THE SAME as creationism.

      Put their 2 books side by side, and you'll see the only word that changes is creationism to ID.

      And contrary to what you've stated, the media treats Ronald Regan as a great president, but I DISAGREE. I assume you weren't in college or had a hard job during his presidency. Everybody from that specific generation despised what he did to us.

      AS you have said , DO your freaking research.

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      anonymous 9 years ago

      Excellent blog. A few grammatical errors, but the points and thoughts you present are brilliant. Bravo.

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      anonymous 9 years ago

      Group think also exists on the right. It is strongest among the religious, we call it faith. But group think as it pertains to ETs crosses partisan and religious lines.