Written by Frances T. Shure
31 May 2014
Architects and Engineers for 911 Truth

Frances Shure, M.A., L.P.C., has performed an in-depth analysis addressing a key issue of our time: “Why Do Good People Become Silent—or Worse—About 9/11?” The resulting essay, to be presented here as a series, is a synthesis of both academic research and clinical observations.

In addressing the question in the title of this essay, last month’s segment,

Part 6, explored the phenomenon of conformity, featuring the Solomon Asch experiments and Elizabeth Noelle-Neumann’s study of German elections with her resulting theory of the “spiral of silence.” We discussed the human proclivity to adhere to social norms in order to keep one’s reputation intact, and we noted that this strong inclination can often trump evidence, openness, curiosity, and the human need for truth.

In Part 7, we continue Ms. Shure’s analysis with an especially maladaptive form of conformity called “groupthink.”

Part 7: Groupthink

Conforming to folkways and mores is natural, and it can help a society function cohesively and smoothly. There is, however, a threshold at which conforming becomes maladaptive and produces poor decisions. Crossing this threshold leads us into the phenomenon of “groupthink,” first studied by social psychologist Irving L. Janis.

Groupthink is a maladaptive manifestation of conformity in which the desire for unity by the group members results in an incorrect or deviant decision-making outcome. Groupthink is the proclivity of members of an “in-group” to conform to the prevailing view within this particular group, as well as to apply peer pressure that strongly discourages alternative views from being expressed and evaluated. These dysfunctional dynamics produce an inflated sense of certainty in the decisions of the group, and they often result in irrational and dehumanizing actions by the in-group toward an “out-group.”1

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