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Study Up For Think: Accuracy, The Enemy Of Groupthink

According to Sunstein, isolated dissenters can reduce conformity pressures and defeat groupthink.

Groupthink occurs when a set of people prioritize harmony and group cohesiveness over accuracy and diversity. At 1 p.m., Krys Boyd will chat with Cass Sunstein, co-author of Wiser: Getting Beyond Groupthink to Make Groups Smarter.

On The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, Sunsteindiscussed a recent social experiment where groups held more politically extreme, homogeneous views after discussing issues like climate change and marriage equality with like-minded others. Data and evidence can mitigate this group polarization effect, except during talks about ideologically inflamed issues or times when the data contradicts the group’s deeply held beliefs.

According to The Wisdom of Crowds by James Surowiecki—which Sunstein wrote about in 2006—the conclusions of large groups can, in some ways, be better than those of experts. This crowdsourcing of information occurs as long as two conditions are met: the majority response “wins,” and each individual is more likely than not to be correct (which won’t happen if most of the group doesn’t have access to accurate information).

Solomon Asch pioneered a classic psychology study on group conformity. The study found that participants who saw four actors give obviously wrong answers to a vision test began to doubt the correct response and even went along with the errors 37 percent of the time.

Listen to Think on KERA 90.1 at noon and 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday. You can also stream the show live online.