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Studying Groupthink

There are many things that groups of people are capable of that might be surprising to someone who has not studied the theory. As there have been more tests throughout the theories history, scientist have found fascinating results. The first interesting discovery made while studying groupthink is, “Group deliberation often produces worse decisions than can be obtained without deliberation. (Often enough for epistemic concern. )” (Solomon, 2006). Despite most people thinking that working together enhances our ability to create sound decisions it undermines our ability to make good conclusions.

This, of course, does not happen every time, but it happens often enough to be a concern for scientists testing groups. Another discovery that is contradictory to common belief is, “A group of nonexperts often produces better decisions on a topic than does an expert on that topic. ” (Solomon, 2006). This seems very odd to most people because it seems to go against everything we have thought about who we should ask when we have a problem. But, there is evidence behind this.

An example of this is the Iowa Electronic Market, which generally outperforms major national polls and individual political pundits in predicting major elections all over the world. Also, Francis Galton observed at a fair in Plymouth that the vox populi – a group of about 800 people – could estimate the weight of an ox much better than an expert (farmers and butchers) could. (Solomon, 2006). The third discovery found in Solomon’s studies is, “If group deliberation does take place, outcomes are better when members of the group are strangers, rather than colleagues or friends. ” (Solomon, 2006).

When the people grouped together know each other there is a higher demand for them to be accepted. If the group of people do not know each other then they are more likely to add their own real thoughts to the decision. Because of this, there is more information to be observed by the entire group. Peer pressure is a very powerful tool in society and it can lead to bad decisions being made. And finally, the most confusing finding in Solomon’s work is, “Groups and organizations sometimes don’t know what they know. ” (Solomon, 2006). On the surface, this sentence is very confusing. It is an example of “externalism” in epistemology.

Externalism means that according to which one can be justified, or have knowledge, without being able to say why one is justified or has knowledge. For the example, in the case of the Iowa Electronic Market, each individual does know the price of the contracts, but they do not know what they know. They do not know that this is a good prediction for election results. These results contrast what the public would usually describe as “common sense”. Solomon’s studies on groups have provided the community with strange ideas. It has also furthered the evidence behind the theory of groupthink. Public Influence

Groupthink has been an influential theory in social psychology since its inception. “Janis’ introduction of the concept in 1972 spawned a tidal wave of attention from textbook writers in social psychology and management. Likewise, the concept captured the imagination of the media and press, providing, as it did, comprehensible explanations for some of the major fiascoes of the time. ” (Turner and Pratkanis, 1998). Despite the idea becoming mainstream, society contrasted the idea and began to work more as groups. Offices and schools in the 21st century are becoming more group oriented despite the warning against it.

People rarely work by themselves anymore. There are increasingly more offices with open floor plans and no way to have alone time. Bosses now look more for people skills than they do at the skill that are relevant to the work the employee will actually be doing. Schools require more group work to be done, which is either incredibly frustrating for the people who are assigned to do all the work, or less good work gets done because the students only pick their friends to do work with. The employees working at a video game development company in California were beginning to work less, become frustrated, and be less creative.

So, Mike Mika, former creative director at the company, decided to switch from an open floor plan to a cubicle style office. At first they were worried it would stifle creativity, but it actually increased the morale and creativity of the entire building. In an interview, Mika stated, “it turns out they prefer having nooks and crannies they can hide away in and just be away from everybody. ” (Cain, 2012). It is important for people to have a space in which they can be alone and finish their work by themselves.

Especially at a video game company, a job in which introverted people are naturally attracted to, it is crucial that people can find their own place to reach their full potential. When people are always grouped together, this can create irritation for someone who may move slower or faster than the average train of thought a group has. If we work by ourselves, we have the ability to jump around to the topics that we, personally, have trouble with. To get the most out of our work, we have to be doing something that is not impossible, but very challenging to us. People must be able to generate their own moves.

While in a group, an individual generates moves only part of the time. An important improvement in technology, most notably the internet, has made one exception to these findings is electronic brainstorming. “The one important exception to this dismal record is electronic brainstorming, where large groups outperform individuals; and the larger the group the better… It’s a place where we can be alone together… ” (Cain, 2012). The internet has provided a tool for people to anonymously create dialogue with one another without having the effects of social pressures.

Researchers conducting tests using the internet can also utilize external knowledge by giving a population without those people knowing what they are being tested on, which produces more accurate results. This is not an argument saying that people should become islands and isolate themselves from the rest of the population, but it is important to realize that while in groups there can be enormous social pressures which we do not consciously recognize. It is important for society to find a middle ground between groups and individualism; and when groups are used, they do not fall victim to groupthink symptoms.

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