Editor's Note: Frances Shure, M.A., L.P.C., has performed an in-depth analysis addressing a key issue of our time: "Why Do Good People Become Silent—or Worse—About 9/11?" The resulting essay, to be presented here as a series, is a synthesis of both academic research and clinical observations.
In addressing the question in the title of this essay, last month's segment, Part 6, explored the phenomenon of conformity, featuring the Solomon Asch experiments and Elizabeth Noelle-Neumann's study of German elections with her resulting theory of the "spiral of silence." We discussed the human proclivity to adhere to social norms in order to keep one's reputation intact, and we noted that this strong inclination can often trump evidence, openness, curiosity, and the human need for truth.
In Part 7, we continue Ms. Shure's analysis with an especially maladaptive form of conformity called "groupthink."
Psychologist Irving L. JanisConforming to folkways and mores is natural, and it can help a society function cohesively and smoothly. There is, however, a threshold at which conforming becomes maladaptive and produces poor decisions. Crossing this threshold leads us into the phenomenon of "groupthink," first studied by social psychologist Irving L. Janis.