Sunday, September 2, 2018

Group Think and Circumcision

Famous Psychologist Irving Janis Study on Group Think, with my additions in bold italics as it relates and to circumcision group think

Symptoms.  In my studies of high-level governmental decision-makers, both civilian and military, I have found eight main symptoms of groupthink. 
1.    INVULNERABILITY.  Most or all of the members of the in-group share an illusion of invulnerability that provides for them some degree of reassurance about obvious dangers and leads them to become over-optimistic and willing to take extraordinary risks.  It also causes them to fail to respond to clear warnings of danger.  In  circumcision group think people like Professor Brian Morris minimize the risks of circumcision and amplify the its benefits.  The African Circumcision trials were full of group think exaggerating the benefits of circumcision and minimizing the potential harms, and now we see behavioural disinhibition and circumcised men being infected with HIV at higher rates.  What a massive risk it was to say to African Men that if you get circumcised you are protected from HIV, the non-circumcision world was pointing out the obvious that circumcised men still became infected with HIV, and this message could lead to behavioural disinhibition, but these were all ignored facilitated by the group think of the procircs.

2.    RATIONALE.  Victims of groupthink ignore warnings:  they also collectively construct rationalizations in order to discount warnings and other forms of negative feedback that, taken seriously, might lead the group members to reconsider their assumptions each time they recommit themselves to past decisions.  James C. Thompson, Jr., a Harvard historian who spent five years as an observing participant in both the State Department and the White House, tells us that the policy-makers avoided critical discussion of their prior decisions and continually invented new rationalizations so that they could sincerely recommit themselves to defeating the North Vietnamese.  When the WHO recommended mass circumcision campaigns in Africa they ignored the warnings of behavioural disinhibition, that circumcised men still became infected with HIV, and that condoms being a barrier method was the only safe way to prevent HIV.  They used inadequate mathematical health models to project millions of HIV infections would be prevented if mass circumcision campaigns were implemented in Africa, however if the mathematical health models had of used variables such as behaviural disinhibition, lower condom usage and increased sexual risk taking behaviour, the predictions of hiv infection prevention may have disappeared completely.  This suggests the mathematical model were left to exaggerate the protective effects of circumcision because of group think.

3.    MORALITY.  Victims of groupthink believe unquestionably in the inherent morality of their in-group.  This belief inclines the members to ignore the ethical and moral consequences of their decisions.  Evidence that this symptom is at work usually is of a negative kind - the things that are left unsaid in group meetings.  Circumcision campaigners believe they are doing a moral good by advocating for circumcision, and view its opponents as fanatics.  They would have ignored the evidence that behaviural disinhibition, lower condom usage and increased sexual risk taking behaviour, were serious and real risks of mass circumcision campaigns.  Group think would never have allowed the risks associated with circumcision to have been given any weight or consideration.

4.    STEREOTYPES.  Victims of groupthink hold stereotypes views of the leaders of enemy groups:  they are so evil that genuine attempts at negotiating differences with them are unwarranted, or they are too stupid or too weak to deal effectively with whatever attempts the in-group makes to defeat their purposes, no matter how risky the attempts are.  Intactivists are seen as a radical lunatic fringe that only get their information from the internet, ignoring the leading medical organisations of the world who recommend against circumcision.  Intactivist are also seen as foreskin fetishists, as if the foreskin has no inherent value other than what intactivists have magically bestowed upon it.  This allows them to ignore any valid claims that people make against circumcision.

5.    PRESSURE.  Victims of groupthink apply direct pressure to any individual who momentarily expresses doubt about any of the group's shared illusions or who questions the validity of the arguments supporting a policy alternative favored by the majority.  This gambit reinforces the concurrence-seeking norm that loyal members are expected to maintain.  We are not privy to the private discussions behind closed doors and whether there were any dissenting voices, and if so what pressure tactics were used to silence dissent. That no dissenting voce is ever heard suggests this is probably the case. A guess would be that Anyone who questions circumcision are negatively labelled shamed and coerced into circumcision.

6.    SELF-CENSORSHIP.  Victims of groupthink avoid deviating from what appears to be group consensus; they keep silent about their misgivings and even minimize the importance of their doubts.  Again no-one is privy to the private thoughts or self-sensorship that may have occurred with procirc organizations like the AAP, CDC, WHO? You certainly wouldn't know if any procirc like brian morris ever had the slightest doubt or misgiving about circumcision.

7.    UNANIMITY.  Victims of groupthink share an illusion of unanimity within the group concerning almost all judgments expressed by members who speak in favor of the majority view.  This symptom results partly from the preceding one, whose affects are augmented by the false assumption that any individual who remains silent during any part of the discussion is in full accord with what the others are saying.  When a group of persons who respect each others' opinions arrives at a unanimous view, each member is likely to feel that the belief must be true.  This reliance on consensual validation within the group tends to replace individual critical thinking and reality testing, unless there are clear-cut disagreements among the members. To avoid such an unpleasant state, the members often become inclined, without quite realizing it, to prevent latent disagreements from surfacing when they are about to initiate a risky course of action.  The group leaders and the members support each other in playing up the areas of convergence in their thinking, at the expense of fully exploring divergences that might reveal unsettled issues.  Recent papers by the AAP and CDC clearly indicate this probably occurred within their organizations, which led to their unscientific and uncritical and inadequate papers on circumcision being published and then widely criticized by the worlds medical community.

8.    MINDGUARDS.  Victims of groupthink sometimes appoint themselves as mindguards to protect the leader and fellow member from adverse information that might break the complacency they shared about the effectiveness and morality of past decisions. Again it;s hard to know whether this occurred but we never hear a dissenting voice or criticism about circumcision within AAP, CDC, WHO which tends to suggest that this is exactly what happens.

Support.  The search for explanation of why groupthink occurs has led me through a quagmire of complicated theoretical issues in the murky area of human motivation.  My belief, based on recent social psychological research, is that we can best understand the various symptoms of groupthink as a mutual effort among the group members to maintain self-esteem and emotional equanimity by providing social support to each other, especially at times when they share responsibility for making vital decisions.  Here I would speculate that one's circumcision status and the cultural practice of circumcision leads members to need to maintain their self-esteem that their cultural practice of circumcision and their own circumcised penises are indeed  as magically fantastic as they would like to believe.