Perspective on Groupthink

A recent thread by Kamil Galeev is so amazingly good. People are familiar with the concept of “groupthink,” yet Galeev essentially proposes that this is not so much an error into which people can fall, as it is the normal human default, from which exceptions are possible but very challenging, and that there are reasons which explain why this is the case.

The entire thread—which examines this phenomenon in the context of why so many people overestimated Russia’s military strength—is worth reading. I’m pulling out excerpts about thought, groups, culture, etc., below if only for my own future reference.

“Independency” of human thinking and action is in my opinion hugely overrated. Independent thinking and action is costly. Thus in most cases we don’t really think much. We just use theoretical and practical tools that are already popular in our (broadly understood) culture

Both theoretical and practical tools are instruments we use for solving our problems. Therefore, the range and the character of instruments we have defines which problems we can address and how we can address them. If we have only a hammer, we will treat everything as a nail

One brilliant idea I borrowed from @Noahpinion is that a major factor of the East Asia economic miracle was the Georgism of the US economists sent there after WWII. Georgist-trained economists had only Georgist tools and applied them everywhere. Accidentally, they were right

To the contrast, economic catastrophes over much of the post-Soviet space seem to be influenced by the neoliberalism of the Western economic mainstream of the 1980s. These guys had only neoliberal tools and applied them everywhere. Accidentally, they were wrong

Our actions and their results depend on what theoretical and practical tools we have. We are neither smart, nor informed enough to verify the assumptions those tools are based on. Realistically, we can only apply the tools we have, and hope our assumptions were correct

Many phenomena of an alien culture sound incredibly dumb when put out of context. And that’s why they are ignored. Discussing something truly dumb or even worse studying it professionally, you may lose your status. And dumb here = decontextualised

… we ignore a herd of elephants in the room because we find them unrelatable and thus noticing them would decrease our status in the community

… As a general rule, a large organisation suffering from the problem of attribution can start rewarding high and extremely high performance only if the organisation feels an immediate existential threat. Which happened in Ukraine after 2014. Fear changed the system of incentives…

2 Thoughts on “Perspective on Groupthink

  1. Pingback: Charlatans, delay, and normalization | Matt Kuhns

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