Twisted Thinking and Groupthink – TOGETHER and NOT GOOD

Posted: January 27, 2010 in 1
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

My tenant and sometime attendant, Geoff, provided the salient points from a book he was reading entitled  Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy by David D. Burns. For those who suffer from depression, Dr. Burns identified what he saw as the root cause…twisted thinking. I see twisted thinking as a manifestation of the modern world; too much time for thinking perhaps? Dr. Burns identified ten categories of twisted thinking. When I first saw them, I quickly summarized them and shuffled them off by email to everyone I thought would take the time to read them. Brilliant work, Dr. Burns! If intelligent modern humans can recognize their twisted thinking, they can surely alter the course of their thoughts.

Then there is Groupthink…

Groupthink is also a pathology, much as the depression that is linked to the twisted thinking identified by Burns. Some of those appearing below influence the situation surrounding the politics of our tiny village.

Irving Janis devised some symptoms indicative of groupthink (1977).

  1. Illusions of invulnerability creating excessive optimism and encouraging risk taking.
  2. Rationalizing warnings that might challenge the group’s assumptions.
  3. Unquestioned belief in the morality of the group, causing members to ignore the consequences of their actions.
  4. Stereotyping those who are opposed to the group as weak, evil, biased, spiteful, disfigured, impotent, or stupid.
  5. Direct pressure to conform placed on any member who questions the group, couched in terms of “disloyalty”.
  6. Self censorship of ideas that deviate from the apparent group consensus.
  7. Illusions of unanimity among group members, silence is viewed as agreement.
  8. Mind guards — self-appointed members who shield the group from dissenting information.

Groupthink, resulting from the symptoms listed above, results in defective decision making. That is, consensus-driven decisions are the result of the following practices of groupthinking

  1. Incomplete survey of alternatives
  2. Incomplete survey of objectives
  3. Failure to examine risks of preferred choice
  4. Failure to reevaluate previously rejected alternatives
  5. Poor information search
  6. Selection bias in collecting information
  7. Failure to work out contingency plans.

Twisted Thinking – Burns – the individual’s view

  1. All-or-nothing thinking… look at everything in all-or-nothing terms.
  2. Over generalisation… view a negative event as a never-ending pattern of defeat.
  3. Mental filter… dwell on the negatives and ignore the positives.
  4. Discounting the positives… insist that accomplishments or positive qualities ‘don’t count’.
  5. Jumping to conclusions…
  6. bullet Mind reading – you think you know what others are thinking
    bullet Fortune-telling- you know what will happen and you know it will be a bad outcome

  7. Magnification or minimalization… blow up things out of proportion or  shrink their importance inappropriately.
  8. Emotional reasoning… You reason from how you feel:  “I feel like an idiot, so I really must be one.” or “I don’t feel like doing this so I’ll put it off.”
  9. Should statements… You criticise yourself to other people with ‘shoulds’ or ‘shouldn’ts’.  ‘Musts’, ‘oughts’ and ‘have-tos’ are similar offenders.
  10. Labelling… using words like “loser”, “troublemaker”, rather than saying the person made a mistake
  11. Personalisation and blame… You blame yourself for something you weren’t entirely responsible for, or you blame other people and overlook ways that your own attributes and behaviour might contribute to a problem.

Combine these two flawed thought processes and there is a cauldron of trouble. The individual works on the twisted forms of thinking and brings them to Groupthink as truths. Information is not gathered, assumptions are not challenged, an illusion of unanimity is created by a vocal few.

Can awareness that these are the processes taking place steer our tiny ship in a new direction? I often comment that the population of our village is no larger than many strata corporations. yet we are a municipality with many responsibilities and important decisions to make. When we abandon twisted thinking and Groupthink we may actually move forward in positive ways. I am ever hopeful.

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Comments
  1. Vince says:

    Elaine,

    I do like your journey here, and your traveling companions.

  2. Pooh says:

    “There is none so blind as he who doesn’t see.”

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