Wednesday, December 3, 2014

GROUPTHINK AND THE PARANORMAL

by Chris Chaos

(Groupthink, occurs when a group makes faulty decisions because group pressures lead to a deterioration of “mental efficiency, reality testing, and moral judgment”. Groups affected by groupthink ignore alternatives and tend to take irrational actions that dehumanize other groups. A group is especially vulnerable to groupthink when its members are similar in background, when the group is insulated from outside opinions, and when there are no clear rules for decision making.)

This phenomenon is displayed day in and day out and showcased in the world of a "paranormal investigator". This usually occurs within amateur ranks after they repeated watch a popular "ghost hunting" show on TV and then like minded individuals meet up and attempt to replicate what they viewed in the TV show. One prime example is concerning EVP's (Electronic Voice Phenomenon) and Orbs in photographs. Many of the shows focus on these unscientific and proven otherwise many times over occurrences. The individuals of these groups are so entrenched with the thoughts of a location being haunted they will see any little noise or out of place items as undisputed proof that there is a ghost there. In short they fall victim to Confirmation Bias and virtually ignore any and all evidence to the contrary.

An example of confirmation bias would be an assumption on the part of the investigator thinking that a location is haunted. They enter the premise to investigate and unscientifically take evidence; a simple audio recording with an unexplained sound instantly becomes a ghostly voice in an EVP. Random photographs are taken with their digital camera and later they find what they think are orbs, spirits or energy captured in digital form. Although studies conducted by the various camera manufacturers, in particular Kodak, all stated that these anomalies are either reflections, defects or dust captured by or in the camera itself. In addition the majority of the locations that self proclaimed ghost hunters investigate have been long abandoned and accumulated much dust. When the investigators enter these locations they stir up the dust and when they take photos or videos it is captured and then provides exclusive "evidence that the place is haunted." The skeptic in the more scientifically based research groups would not take the orbs or not readily explained audio recordings at face value as absolute proof that a ghost is haunting the location.  They will look into the matter with a much greater degree of thought in the quest for identification of what was actually captured. Even in some of the most cleanest of environments dust will get kicked up when people enter and disturb the scene which will undoubtedly be captured on camera.

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Audio and EVPs captured are also the producers of false positives by amateur researchers. I have heard countless audio clips presented by ghost hunters claiming they have definitive proof that a ghost voice was caught by their equipment. As a listener that was not on location it is difficult to prove or disprove what the sound actually is. For the most part, many of the sounds/voices captured were from one of the team members due to poor planning and communication during the audio capturing exercises. One (of the many) fatal flaws that many investigative groups fall victim to is having way too many people on site, it is difficult to keep track of the locations of random roving members walking around the property. Maintaining silence at all times is also crucial to the progress of acquiring audio evidence. Too many expeditions are ruined and sabotaged due to group members creating additional noises that are picked up in the audio recording sessions and then mistaken as ghosts or explainable noises and sounds later during evidence review.

Groupthink also makes the group stagnant if they do not interact and compare notes with groups other than their own. The directional thinking becomes a one way street with no new processing being injected into said group. It is always best to get an outside opinion or someone to play devil's advocate to challenge all evidence deemed as positive. For each occurrence that is considered a "yes", come up with counter arguments of why it can be considered a "no".

The below are common symptoms and remedies for groupthink and extend to beyond the paranormal world.

SOME SYMPTOMS OF GROUPTHINK:
Illusion of invulnerability –Creates excessive optimism that encourages taking extreme risks.
Collective rationalization – Members discount warnings and do not reconsider their assumptions.
Belief in inherent morality – Members believe in the rightness of their cause and therefore ignore the ethical or moral consequences of their decisions.
Stereotyped views of out-groups – Negative views of “enemy” make effective responses to conflict seem unnecessary.
Direct pressure on dissenters – Members are under pressure not to express arguments against any of the group’s views.
Self-censorship – Doubts and deviations from the perceived group consensus are not expressed.
Illusion of unanimity – The majority view and judgments are assumed to be unanimous.
Self-appointed ‘mindguards’ – Members protect the group and the leader from information that is problematic or contradictory to the group’s cohesiveness, view, and/or decisions.

REMEDIES FOR GROUPTHINK:
a) The leader should assign the role of critical evaluator to each member
b) The leader should avoid stating preferences and expectations at the outset
c) Each member of the group should routinely discuss the groups' deliberations with a trusted associate and report back to the group on the associate's reactions
d) One or more experts should be invited to each meeting on a staggered basis. The outside experts should be encouraged to challenge views of the members.
e) At least one articulate and knowledgeable member should be given the role of devil's advocate (to question assumptions and plans)
f) The leader should make sure that a sizeable block of time is set aside to survey warning signals from rivals; leader and group construct alternative scenarios of rivals' intentions.

(Chris Chaos is a long time resident of South Jersey who once again resides in and writes from Gloucester City, New Jersey. He is a filmmaker, a business owner, writer, urban explorer and investigator of the odd and weird, a proud parent, happily taken and a connoisseur of hot wings. Chris can be reached at AxisVideo@aol.com)