Shiny happy people

January 27, 2010

Groupthink

8 main symptoms of groupthink:

1. Illusion of Invulnerability: Members ignore obvious danger, take extreme risk, and are overly optimistic.

2. Collective Rationalization: Members discredit and explain away warning contrary to group thinking.

3. Illusion of Morality: Members believe their decisions are morally correct, ignoring the ethical consequences of their decisions.

4. Excessive Stereotyping:The group constructs negative sterotypes of rivals outside the group.

5. Pressure for Conformity: Members pressure any in the group who express arguments against the group’s stereotypes, illusions, or commitments, viewing such opposition as disloyalty.

6. Self-Censorship: Members withhold their dissenting views and counter-arguments.

7. Illusion of Unanimity: Members perceive falsely that everyone agrees with the group’s decision; silence is seen as consent.

8. Mindguards: Some members appoint themselves to the role of protecting the group from adverse information that might threaten group complacency.

 

In my time within YWAM and a spiritually abusive church, I encountered all of these put forth by Irving Janis in  Decision making: A psychological analysis of conflict, choice, and commitment.

Any thoughts?

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8 Responses to “Shiny happy people”

  1. me said

    I just found your blog today and I find it very interesting. I did an SST when I was in high school too and went back for a DTS after I graduated. I ended up part of YWAM for several years and left on what my husband and I felt were good terms. Over the years, the more we think about it, the more convinced we are that we were spiritually abused and manipulated. There were always little things that bugged me, like how the pretty, bubbly people got picked for leadership over those with depth and knowledge. Or how we were constantly told that they wanted us to pioneer new ministries but then anyone who wanted to start something that would take them partly outside the base’s control would be denied. How one would feel they had heard a word from G-d but were told by leadership that G-d told them something else and that the leaders must be obeyed.

    Every point on that list was present in the base where I was. Like you, I know that YWAM has many wonderful, G-dly people but the leadership is beyond broken. Things we found out later about the base’s finances were awful– like how the base paid for a luxury home to be built for the leader and for new cars every other year while “lowly” SST-leaders were being forced to be available by cell phone at all times but got no help with their bills when their minutes were through the roof due to ministry-related calls they were begging not to have to take.

    People assumed we left for bad reasons– we really didn’t– and we were shunned. We had a home in the community. Every church, every time we went to the store, everywhere there were YWAMers giving us a hard time and treating us like we were demonic. It was extremely painful. I still sometimes feel that lack of direction. I miss that feeling of absolute certainty, even though I know I never really completely had it– looking back at my journals I see there were so many questions I stuffed down. I feel like I lost a decade of my life and will be spending the next decade struggling to make up for the way the decisions I made have affected my life.

  2. na said

    I have a friend that has been in a similar program from what I have read – 24/7 through New Life Chirch. It has been so sad to see such a strong, independant person with so much love to give and passion for Jesus be distorted by brainwashing, controling cult leaders of 24/7. It is such a sad situation, and we all just want our friend back and for her to realize what is going on and how she truly is being “spiritually abused.” Please don’t let your loved ones become a part of any program like these or you may loss them forever…

  3. Lisa said

    I have a friend whos daughter has joined YWAM, after spending four years getting her degree in International Studies with the intent to study in Japan. All of this has gone down the drain since her “family” has taken her in and she now wants/is going to Durban, South Africa 2010 to teach religion. She does not think she will be in any harms way. She does not understand this school is dangerous, not accredited and anyone can be accepted as they take your money, depending on where you go, your family might never see you again.

    She iss 22 years old and has never worked. Now we are receiving the letters and her prayers for money. I, myself work on teams, and currently working on a team which helps persons out of South Africa, into Canada who were going to be executed, due to their religious belief.

    Her father is so upset, so Jennifer will not listen to either of our reasoning. Her mother is in her own little world and her stepmom who is giving her money, does not understand what Jennifer is getting into.

    Any suggestions, what I can do, besides hiding her in a cellar? (of course I would not do that) We all respect her choice with her love for Jesus, but not this cult.

    Lisa

    • Lisa said

      I read what I wrote, I mean she is going to Durban South Africa, January 2011.

      • Naomi said

        Pray, that’s really the only option. Maybe try and show the step-mother what is really happening. Although step-mothers have a habit of trying to look like “the good parent”

  4. Groupthink:

    Note, in “spiritual” or religious settings, add these two core symptoms, which are relevant for all eight of the above symptoms:

    9. Wish that God is especially with us/our group/our leaders and guiding us and protecting us.
    10. Wish that we are God’s special agents and the recipients of God’s special favor.

  5. I want to build on these eight characteristics of groupthink.

    Writing as a psychologist in the mission/humanitarian aid sector–groupthink is endemic to all of us humans and human groups. So it is good to be arware of it–some suggestions to minimise it below.

    Kelly O’Donnell

    Ten Symptoms (Processes) of Groupthink

    Decision Making: A Psychological Analysis of Conflict, Choice, and Commitment (Janis & Leon, 1979).

    A. Overestimation of the group’s power and morality
    1. Illusion of Invulnerability: Members ignore obvious danger, take extreme risk, and are overly optimistic.

    2. Collective Rationalization: Members discredit and explain away warning contrary to group thinking.

    B. Close-mindedness
    3. Illusion of Morality: Members believe their decisions are morally correct, ignoring the ethical consequences of their decisions.

    4. Excessive Stereotyping: The group constructs negative sterotypes of rivals outside the group.

    C. Pressures towards uniformity
    5. Pressure for Conformity: Members pressure any in the group who express arguments against the group’s stereotypes, illusions, or commitments, viewing such opposition as disloyalty.

    6. Lack of Self-Censorship: Members withhold their dissenting views and counter-arguments.

    7. Illusion of Unanimity: Members perceive falsely that everyone agrees with the group’s decision; silence is seen as consent.

    8. Mindguards: Some members appoint themselves to the role of protecting the group from from adverse information that might threaten group complacency.

    D. In “religious” settings 2 other symptoms/processes are relevant/affect the others (K. O’Donnell)
    9. Pervasive wish/distorting belief that God is especially with us/our group/our leaders and guiding us and protecting us.

    10. Pervasive wish/distorting belief that we are God’s special agents/recipients of God’s special favor
    *****
    From Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Groupthink):
    “A mode of thinking that people engage in when they are deeply involved in a cohesive in-group, when the members’ strivings for unanimity override their motivation to realistically appraise alternative courses of action. (Janis)….Janis prescribed three antecedent conditions to groupthink: 1) High group cohesiveness; 2) Structural faults (insulation of the group, lack of impartial leadership, lack of norms requiring methodological procedures, homogeneity of members’ social backgrounds and ideology); 3) Situational context (highly stressful external threats, recent failures, excessive difficulties on the decision-making task, moral dilemmas)….According to Janis, decision making groups are not necessarily destined to groupthink. He devised seven ways of preventing groupthink:
    1. Leaders should assign each member the role of “critical evaluator”. This allows each member to freely air objections and doubts.
    2. Higher-ups should not express an opinion when assigning a task to a group.
    3. The organization should set up several independent groups, working on the same problem.
    4. All effective alternatives should be examined.
    5. Each member should discuss the group’s ideas with trusted people outside of the group.
    6. The group should invite outside experts into meetings. Group members should be allowed to discuss with and question the outside experts.
    7. At least one group member should be assigned the role of Devil’s advocate. This should be a different person for each meeting.”

  6. decidedlysmiling said

    Super interesting points on groupthink. While I was apart of YWAM, I had trouble in agreeing with group decisions. I felt like leadership was always on a one track mind and didn’t consider the “devil’s advocate” point of view. Having done a year of university courses prior to DTS, I valued other opinions and looking at all possible results of a “group” decision, etc, and often found myself disagreeing during our debrief evenings throughout outreach. It was often made clear, though indirectly, that I was the central cause of disunity for not agreeing with a certain way leadership thought things must be done. I can’t even fully put into words how leadership made me feel or how leadership expressed their opinions and plans, without being reminded of how guilty they made me feel for not always being on the same page as them.

    It wasn’t about me wanting to be right.
    But it was definitely always about leadership wanting to be right.

    It’s only been a few months since I’ve finished my DTS, but a friend of mine, after hearing some of my experiences, likened it to that of Stockholm syndrome.

    It helps in understanding that while you’re in YWAM you feel like everything’s perfect, but re-entry certainly allows reality to set in.
    It’s been difficult to filter my experiences. I only ever wanted the best and surest for our group, but it was made clear when leadership didn’t approve of my opinions and reminded me that I should “give up my rights.”

    I learned a lot about G*d– how to hear His voice…
    how to forgive, which is still a work in progress,
    and how to truly make worship a lifestyle. I was able to move past a lot of traumatic situations that had happened in my past prior to DTS, but today, I’m still filtering through a lot of confusion and fear.
    It’s interesting that during “life stories” week, where I shared about how much fear I’ve struggled with in my life, I received healing and understanding in realizing that love and joy conquer fear…. but outside of YWAM it’s like I’m re-entering into that understanding.

    They don’t tell you that signing up for YWAM is signing up for isolation.
    They don’t tell you that though you learn a lot about God, and as some have said, enter into the “honeymoon phase” with God, that it’s all without the normalcy of Earth. There aren’t any distractions.
    Not to mention… its very utopian.

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