THE PHENOMENA OF SPREADTHINK, GROUPTHINK, AND ERRONEOUS PRIORITIES

Professor John N. Warfield
Professor John N. Warfield
Dr. John N. Warfield, the great pioneer of integrative sciences, uses the term "Spreadthink" to describe the outcome of group dialogue infected with behavioral and cognitive constraints. This refers "to the demonstrated fact that when a group of individuals is working on a complex issue in a facilitated group activity, the views of the individual members of the group on the relative importance of problems and/or proposed action options will be literally 'spread all over the map.'"

Moreover, Warfield cautions, "Facilitators who try to bring groups to a majority view or a consensus without the aid of some methodology that resolves the difficulties caused by Spreadthink may well be driving the group to Groupthink, and thus helping to arrive at a decision that lacks individual support and, usually, lacks substance." Groupthink, refers "to the deterioration of mental efficiency, quality of reality testing, and quality of moral judgment that results from in-group pressures. Subject to Groupthink, a group may seem to accept a specific decision; however, if individual group members are confronted with that point of view separately from the group, few members would accept that view as their own."
Aleco Christakis
Aleco Christakis


Most people have heard the phrase "talking the talk, and walking the walk." The standard interpretation of this phrase is that there is a discrepancy between what people say and what people do, i.e., between their words and their actions. Aleco Christakis, one of the principal inventors of the "Technology of Democracy" whose unique powers of dialogue facilitation are very much like the "specialist mediators" between the people and their deities that marked the popular Aristocracies of Bronze Age Crete (2000 BC - 1370 BC), has challenged conventional talk in socio-political systems design, which has become a minefield. The discovery of the "Erroneous Priorities Effect" (EPE) after extensive research at the Food and Drug Administration, has led to the recognition that even with good intentions for participative democracy, people cannot collectively walk the talk unless we change the paradigm for languaging and voting. Effective priorities for actions that are dependent on recognizing the influence patterns of global interdependencies, are defeated by the EPE, when priorities are chosen on the basis of aggregating individual stakeholder subjective voting that is largely blind to those interdependencies.