I have finished reading “Wiser”, the latest book by the North American jurist and academic Cass Sunstein, co-authored by the Chicago University professor Reid Hastie. It was published in January 2015, so the print is still quite fresh. The book is mainly of interest because it covers factors that give rise to (and can inhibit) Groupthink.
As you may remember, “Groupthink” is a term coined in the seventies by the psychologist Irving Janis, naming those situations where individuals participating in a group adapt and submit to the collective opinion even if it differs from their own point of view. The more cohesive the group the stronger the bias, because the social (and informational) pressure that generate cohesion affect the individuals’ capacity to make good use of their private information sources, thus gravitating to the groups’ central opinion. The consequences of this behavior are negative. Groups end up making bad or irrational decisions because the diversity of opinions of the individual group members are not aggregated efficiently.
“Wiser” addresses this issue in two parts. The first half of the book analyses the factors that lead to different cognitive biases when groups are at work as a collective. The second presents different palliative measures for the Groupthink effect.
This subject has been approached by many authors. James Surowiecki, in “The Wisdom of Crowds” analyses this phenomenon in some depth (with plenty of examples), reminding us once more that “as a group becomes more cohesive, the individual becomes more dependent“. Reducing the adverse effect of Groupthink is one the greatest challenges in the practice of Collective Intelligence. Read more ›