&#91FOUNTAIN&#93Group thinking

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[FOUNTAIN]Group thinking

Wouldn’t you think that people with the same interests would be in perfect agreement?
Social psychologists say that it does not always turn out that way.
A typical example is the attack on the Bay of Pigs in Cuba in 1961, when the Kennedy administration tried to upset the Castro regime, only to fail.
The president of the United States, John F. Kennedy, ordered 1,500 Cuban defectors to attack the bay on the southwest coast of Cuba.
As a result, about 100 people were killed and the rest were captured by the Cuban military -- all because of poor strategy.
The attack came with a high possibility of failure. However, at a meeting prior to the event, the U.S. cabinet reached a decision easily and then attacked, an outcome that attracted the attention of many sociologists.
One American psychologist, Irving Janis, analyzed that example as a principle called Groupthink, in 1971.
Mr. Janis said that when an organizational group composed of people with same values and interests gathers together to make a decision, that group has a common “we” bond. The bond makes people in the group have poor judgment and weak critical skills, and it leads to an illusion of perfect unanimity.
Without thorough checking on the plan, the U.S. leaders adopted it.
The more a group is composed of elite people with a great deal of inner confidence, the more they believe that their decisions are always right. It’s a theory that Mr. Janis called “An illusion of no fallacy.”
Mr. Janis warned that a group of people sharing the same ideas can easily fall victim to major mistakes and fallacies.
Mr. Janis also suggested how to prevent mistakes in group-think. He advised that there should be more than one critic within every group, so that that person can raise objections freely.
In addition, there should be one person in the group who agrees with the critic’s idea, which means a group needs to strengthen all the questions drawn up by the members.
In the Blue House, who is the critic and who are the people doing the questioning of administration members?
Those members seem to put a great value on sharing same ideas and interests.


by Nahm Yoon-ho

The writer is a deputy city news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.
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