RE: groupthink gauntlet: MacArthur's ill-fated drive toward the Yalu

From: Scott Chase (
Date: Wed 04 Feb 2004 - 01:13:37 GMT

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    >From: Vincent Campbell <>
    >To: "''" <>
    >Subject: RE: groupthink gauntlet: MacArthur's ill-fated drive toward the
    >Date: Mon, 2 Feb 2004 08:30:39 -0000
    >read the archives, groupthink has come up before, quite a while ago now, so
    >before you accuse those discussing memetics of not being aware of wider
    >research, how about checking what we've actually been discussing for
    >years on the list?
    How often does groupthink show up on the archives?
    >Groupthink is essentially a theory of organisational communication,
    >particularly at the level of the small group, not a theory of cultural
    >evolution or transmission.
    You might want to read what this guy has to say about groupthink. See:

    He says: "Anyway, one of the points about groupthink is that in (sic) allows for meme transmission, without necessarily belief transmission." (eq)

    Sounds like this fella was tying groupthink into memetics somehow. If you fail to see a connection between memetics and groupthink as the above author I quoted alludes to, you might want to send him an e-mail. I'm sure he'd love to explain himself to you on the point he was trying to make. Take it easy on him though, please :-)

    Vincent, you, a social scientist, cannot play neutral Swiss on this. I've an undergrad background in biology AND psychology, so I'm moderate on the topic, but even moderates have their bad days. There's a difference between crossing disciplines and one discipline deciding to conquer another.

    I was reacting to a creeping anti "social science" sentiment amongst a couple members of this list, one using the canard of the "Standard Social Science Model" and the other asserting the supremacy of biology over social science. The former replied to me on this thread with some ev-psych speculation. The latter replied to me by using some sort of memetic allusion, confident that his brand of memetics can explain everything.

    I was merely countering chauvinism by pointing to a concept (ie- groupthink) found within social science that has been used to explain some historical events. Yes, I was ascerbic, but I had a response not too dissimillar to Brooker's follow-up to Taylor. I couldn't stand idle while social science was batted around like a pinata.

    Haven't found much else about Janis's concept on the archives yet. Any pointers? Yours was one of the few I found. I wasn't pointing my comments towards you, but towards those who would casually denigrate and dismiss social science.
    > > ----------
    > > From:
    > > Reply To:
    > > Sent: Friday, January 30, 2004 5:45 AM
    > > To:
    > > Subject: groupthink gauntlet: MacArthur's ill-fated drive toward the
    > > Yalu
    > >
    > > I'd love to see the resident memeticists stop jawboning about the
    > > isolationism of the SSSM and take up the gauntlet of explaining an event
    > > in history (a field probably too soft for memeticists) better than a
    > > social psychologist named Irving Janis. With social psychology being a
    > > "soft" social science this should be an easy one for the memeticists to
    > > conquer and raise the flag of Universal Darwinism. Maybe this would take
    > > some effort on the isolated memeticists part as they would have to find
    > > the source material, Irving Janis's book _Groupthink: Psychological
    > > Studies of Policy Decisions and Fiascoes_ (1983. Houghton Mifflin
    > > Company. Boston) and merely concentrate on one chapter called "In and
    > > Out of North Korea: "The Wrong War with the Wrong Enemy"" which analyses
    > > military policy decisions made by Truman and his advisory group when
    > > considering the push of MacArthur's forces beyond the 38th parallel in
    > > Korea and towards the Yalu river (ie- threateningly close to the Chinese
    > > border) in trying to conquer all of Korea for Syngman Rhee's friendly
    > > gov't against Kim Il Sung's forces. Truman et al discounted the ChiComs
    > > and their bellicose threats and when the push towards the Yalu ensued
    > > MacArthur's forces suffered a massive waved assault by the ChiComs.
    > >
    > > Social scientist Janis looks particularly at the decision making process
    > > of Truman and his group, including Dean Acheson resulting in this major
    > > confrontation with Chinese forces which, after the defense of the Pusan
    > > perimeter and the subsequent landing at Inchon allowing MacArthur's
    > > forces to take Korea back up to the 38th parallel negating the success
    > > of the North Korean invasion of the South, resulted in a setback instead
    > > of total victory against the North Koreans. Memeticists might want to
    > > put down the Dawkins and Dennett books and actually read some history
    > > and maybe familiarize themselves with the social psychological concept
    > > of groupthink. Janis, to his non-isolationist credit, refers to
    > > historical works when conducting his analysis through the lense of
    > > groupthink.
    > >
    > > I'll leave it to aspiring memeticists to find this book and read it, but
    > > here's a good quote or two...:
    > >
    > > (bq) "Social scientists who have analyzed the decision to occupy North
    > > Korea- De Rivera, George, McLellan, Neustadt, and others - infer that
    > > the members of Truman's advisory group genuinely believed that there
    > > were solid grounds for recommending the escalation decision and that
    > > they exerted a strong influence on President Truman." (eq) [ Janis- page
    > > 70]
    > >
    > > Notice Janis uses the term "social scientists" above without scare
    > > quotes? I wonder if these social scietists were under the spell of the
    > > SSSM...
    > >
    > > Another quote:
    > >
    > > (bq) "In summary, the main reason for the members' concurrence on the
    > > ill-considered escalation decision was that Truman's advisory group was
    > > adhering to a set of norms that were promoted by the leader and that all
    > > willingly accepted. These shared norms enabled the members to maintain a
    > > sense of group solidarity at the expense of suffering from many of the
    > > major symptoms of groupthink. The most prominent symptoms were excessive
    > > risk-taking based on a shared illusion of invulnerability, stereotypes
    > > of the enemy, collective reliance on ideological rationalizations that
    > > supported the belligerent escalation to which the group became
    > > committed, and mindguarding to exclude the dissident views of experts
    > > who questioned the group's unwarranted assumptions." (eq) [page 71]
    > >
    > > George Kennan was one such dissident and Janis [page 60] earlier points
    > > to a possible mindguarding role for Dean Acheson as member of the
    > > in-group.
    > >
    > > Now I wonder if memetics and evolutionary psychology can effectively
    > > compete with Janis's groupthink suggestion or if they can put forward
    > > any viable theses regarding this historical event during the Korean War.
    > > For some reason this social science hating isolationism of the universal
    > > Darwinists threatens to translate into a typical Procrustean bed when
    > > applied to a topic so complex as this one. Were are the memes and the
    > > genes selected in the EEA when you need them?
    > >
    > > At best someone could argue that the prevailing mindset of
    > > anti-communism played *a* role in this mess, but to rely on this
    > > expanation exclisively would be to greatly oversimplify a complex
    > > phenomenon.
    > >
    > > What would the biologists say that historians and social scientists
    > > should listen to?
    > >
    > >
    > > ===============================================================
    > > This was distributed via the memetics list associated with the
    > > Journal of Memetics - Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission
    > > For information about the journal and the list (e.g. unsubscribing)
    > > see:
    > >
    > >
    >This was distributed via the memetics list associated with the
    >Journal of Memetics - Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission
    >For information about the journal and the list (e.g. unsubscribing)

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    =============================================================== This was distributed via the memetics list associated with the Journal of Memetics - Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission For information about the journal and the list (e.g. unsubscribing) see:

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