Saturday, August 11, 2007

Incestuous Amplification- AKA The Blind Leading Those Who Will Not See

I was watching one of these YouTube clips just the other day. In the clip they started talking about the run up to the invasion of Iraq by the world's only "sanctioned and ordained superpower(s)". In the clip a concept was introduced that I wrote down in my notes because it had the ring of wisdom to it. The concept was the term "incestuous amplification". I decided to see what else I could find about this term which apparently originated within the Department of Defense. Here are some of the definitions I found:

This one is from Phrase Finder

"Incestuous amplification" = "A condition in warfare where one only listens to those who are already in lock-step agreement, reinforcing set beliefs and creating a situation ripe for miscalculation"

(David Mulholland, "Scepticism mounts among defence and intelligence officials", Jane's Defence Weekly, 03/05/03)


Incestuous Amplification
From Sourcewatch, a project of the Center for Media and Democracy

" ... a conclusion that comes from other generals talking to each other. In the Pentagon we call this kind of positive reinforcement an "incestuous amplification" of one's OODA Loop.

The existence of Incestuous Amplification shapes one's Orientation by naturally distorting the Observations feeding that Orientation. (The observer sees what he wants to see rather than what is.) When this happens, the Decisions and Actions flowing from that Orientation become progressively disconnected from reality. This process pumps dysfunctional behavior into the OODA loop which then becomes magnified as the effects of the disconnected actions are fed back into the Incestuously Amplified Orientation. As any student of nonlinear dynamics or evolution knows, this kind of positive feedback loop can produce confusion and disorder and ultimately degenerate into chaos or extinction, if the organism becomes disconnected from its environment. Any hint of Incestuous Amplification is therefore a bright red flag."
-- The View From Mount Olympus Seen from the Cheap Seats, 12 June 2001 [1]

Refer also to the Groupthink article.

Groupthink is another related term. The SOURCE for the definitions of groupthink below also offers several examples of the groupthink principle at work.

Groupthink is "a concept that was identified by Irving Janis ("a forefather in the study of group dynamics") [in 1972] that refers to faulty decision-making in a group. Groups experiencing groupthink do not consider all alternatives and they desire unanimity at the expense of quality decisions."[1][2]

Groupthink is also defined as a "phenomenon wherein people seek unanimous agreement in spite of contrary facts pointing to another conclusion."[3]

It is said that groupthink "occurs when groups are highly cohesive and when they are under considerable pressure to make a quality decision." Some possible "negative outcomes" of groupthink include:[4]

* Examining few alternatives
* Not being critical of each other's ideas
* Not examining early alternatives
* Not seeking expert opinion
* Being highly selective in gathering information
* Not having contingency plans

Some "symptoms" or "warning signs" of groupthink are:[5][6]

* Having an illusion of invulnerability
* Rationalizing poor decisions
* Believing in the group's morality
* Sharing stereotypes which guide the decision
* Exercising direct pressure on others
* Not expressing your true feelings
* Maintaining an illusion of unanimity
* Using mindguards to protect the group from negative information

In a 1972 book, Victims of Groupthink: A Psychology Study of Foreign-Policy Decisions and Fiascoes, Irving Janis identified the Vietnam War and the Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba as particularly compelling examples of how very smart people can collectively make very stupid decisions, noting that groups around the Presidents "made a series of assumptions ... that were fundamentally deluded." [7]

The term, coined in the model of newspeak, is used to describe the process where a group will come to a decision by each member agreeing with what they think the consensus will be, whatever private doubts they might have.

Another description, as it applies to education and group projects, is that "Groupthink is a process of gradualism that seeks to gently merge the followers into a pack with leaders, the hope being that the leaders will pull up those who typically reside on the low end of the motivation and achievement scale."[8]

So, then my personal understanding and definition of "incestuous amplification" would be;
"when a group of persons begin to believe that the things they want or assume to be true are in fact true and beyond reasonable questioning."

I personally think that it is the imperative that any freethinking, patriotic, responsible, moral, spiritual person should know, recognize,comprehend and guard against the onset of these concepts, incestuous amplification and groupthink. That would include Christians.


Scott Starr said...

from Wikipedia

Groupthink is a type of thought exhibited by group members who try to minimize conflict and reach consensus without critically testing, analyzing, and evaluating ideas. During Groupthink, members of the group avoid promoting viewpoints outside the comfort zone of consensus thinking. A variety of motives for this may exist such as a desire to avoid being seen as foolish, or a desire to avoid embarrassing or angering other members of the group. Groupthink may cause groups to make hasty, irrational decisions, where individual doubts are set aside, for fear of upsetting the group’s balance. The term is frequently used pejoratively, with hindsight.

Anonymous said...

Great post! Those terms trancend application to the war and geopolitics. IMO I'm saving this post to use at a future time during voi dire to a jury. A jury should not be a group think and certainly not an incestuous amplification" the predisposition that because one is on trial that they must have done something wrong is enough of a hurdle. Good post!

can't remember my login. lol

Anonymous said...

oops.... transcend (need a spell checker on this thing)

Scott Starr said...

It reaaly does transcend into all ares of human endeavor doesn't it.

I see it all the time at work, at church, in my family, among my friends...
I do try to keep it from happening in my own mind inasmuch as I am able. To me, this constant pursuit of unvarnished truth is the vital essence of all mental, spiritual and physical freedom and rational intellect.

I am reading a book by Ralph Nader right now where he describes a defining moment from his youth. when young Ralph came back from school one day his father questioned him. His father asked

"What did you learn in school today? How to believe or how to think?."

Ralph writes all these decades later about how he has never forgotten that question and the implications that he suddenly realized it raised.

Scott Starr said...

In order to make groupthink testable, Irving Janis devised eight symptoms that are indicative of groupthink (1977).

1. A feeling of invulnerability creates excessive optimism and encourages risk taking.
2. Discounting warnings that might challenge assumptions.
3. An unquestioned belief in the group’s morality, causing members to ignore the consequences of their actions.
4. Stereotyped views of enemy leaders.
5. Pressure to conform against members of the group who disagree.
6. Shutting down of ideas that deviate from the apparent group consensus.
7. An illusion of unanimity with regards to going along with the group.
8. Mindguards — self-appointed members who shield the group from dissenting opinions.