Saturday, 1 February 2014

Using Our Brains

Bystanders and Groupthinkers
If I Only Had a Brain
75th anniversary of The Wizard of Oz (1939)—and still learning from it

Have you ever wondered what prevents people from helping others in need? Specifically, in the international NCI et al fraud, what prevents people from responding to the ongoing calls for help? Intentional cover ups by complicit people are a big part, but they are not the full story. What prevents us from using our brains, literally, to think critically and to act morally?

Some of the inaction can be attributed to cognitive dissonance--the self-justification that occurs when we experience (consciously or unconsciously) a discrepancy between our purported values and our actual actions (see the weblog entry on Deception from Oct-Nov 2013 for more examples). We basically rationalize away our responsibility for and fear of taking a stand, preserving our sense of goodness and livelihoods, and explain away mistakes made or wrongs done. It is a serious de facto flaw that is hard-wired into our brains, affecting our thinking objectively and morally.

Two other dynamics (largely social influences) that affect people’s lack of response to helping others are the bystander effect and groupthink. Both involve uncritical social conformity and deceptive self or group-rationalization/protection. In cases such as NCI et al., these “normal” social processes, alone and with others, seriously distort reality to the detriment of others. Let’s have a look.

“The bystander effect is a social psychological phenomenon that refers to cases in which individuals do not offer any means of help to a victim when other people are present. The probability of help is inversely related to the number of bystanders. In other words, the greater the number of bystanders, the less likely it is that any one of them will help. Several variables help to explain why the bystander effect occurs. These variables include: ambiguity, cohesiveness and diffusion of responsibility.” For more information see the rest of this wiki entry at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bystander_effect

Application to NCI et al—Be aware of these dynamics and self-statements, examples: “I really don’t understand all of this stuff (nor do I want to know); No one else seems to be doing anything so why should I; There is little that I can do, want to do, am responsible for doing;  The “authorities" and/or leaders will help;  Someone else somewhere is somehow responsible to do something at sometime.”

Antidote: Get informed—use your critical thinking brain.  Act with integrity—use your morally-competent brain .  See the Shine the Light-Together petition below for more information and action.

The wicked witch’s castle: 
A testing ground for bystanders and groupthinkers

"[Groupthink is a] mode of thinking that people engage in when they are deeply involved in a cohesive in-group, when the members' strivings for unanimity override their motivation to realistically appraise alternative courses of action. (Janis)….Janis prescribed three antecedent conditions to groupthink: 1) High group cohesiveness; 2) Structural faults (insulation of the group, lack of impartial leadership, lack of norms requiring methodological procedures, homogeneity of members' social backgrounds and ideology);  3) Situational context (highly stressful external threats, recent failures, excessive difficulties on the decision-making task, moral dilemmas)…. According to Janis, decision making groups are not necessarily destined to groupthink. He devised seven ways of preventing groupthink” For more information see the rest of this wiki entry at:

Ten Symptoms (Processes) of Groupthink
Decision Making: A Psychological Analysis of Conflict, Choice, and Commitment (Janis & Leon, 1979).
A. Overestimation of the group’s power and morality
1. Illusion of Invulnerability: Members ignore obvious danger, take extreme risk, and are overly optimistic.

2. Collective Rationalization: Members discredit/explain away warning contrary to group thinking.

B. Close-mindedness
3. Illusion of Morality: Members believe their decisions are morally correct, ignoring the ethical consequences of their decisions.

4. Excessive Stereotyping: The group constructs negative stereotypes of rivals outside the group.

C. Pressures towards uniformity
5. Pressure for Conformity: Members pressure any in the group who express arguments against the group’s stereotypes, illusions, or commitments, viewing such opposition as disloyalty.

6. Lack of Self-Censorship: Members withhold their dissenting views and counter-arguments.

7. Illusion of Unanimity: Members perceive falsely that everyone agrees with the group’s decision; silence is seen as consent.

8. Mindguards: Some members appoint themselves to the role of protecting the group from adverse information that might threaten group complacency.

Added by PETRA People--In “religious” settings two other symptoms/processes are relevant and affect the other eight above:

D. Belief in Divine specialness
9. Special divine guidance. Pervasive wish/distorting belief that God is especially with us/our group/our leaders and guiding us and protecting us. What we do is really special—extra special. Human accountability is not really needed.

10. Special divine favor. Pervasive wish/distorting belief that we are God’s special agents/recipients of God’s special favor. We are really special—extra special. Human accountability is not really needed.

Challenges or concerns about these beliefs or actions (9-10) are often seen as being “unspiritual”, “disloyal,” and/or “rebellious.” People who question them can be discredited, disciplined, and dismissed. Or even worse.

Application to NCI et al—Be aware of these dynamics and self-statements, examples: “Leaders are informed. I trust our leaders unquestionably. The group knows best. I am part of a group/organization that acts ethically. We are right and see things clearly or the most clearly. Others are mistaken. Because we are right/special we do not need outside help/accountability. We always think critically and act morally.”

Antidote: Get informed—use your critical thinking brain.  Act with integrity—use your morally-competent brain. See the Shine the Light-Together petition below for more information and action.

Using Our Brains
We sincerely hope that in 2014 there will be changes: decisive shifts in the ongoing cognitive dissonance, bystander effect, and groupthink that have plagued the church-mission community, compromising its moral integrity and spiritual authority. We have brains to help—critically thinking brains and morally competent brains. Let’s use them!

Shine the Light-Together

Shine the light on fraud. Your voice counts!
This petition is an international call for the organizations and people affected
by the NCI fraud to help--to transparently and verifiably disclose.
"An important part of Nordic Capital Investment KB (NCI) has been successfully prosecuted in Sweden and declared to be a longstanding fraud (2010-2011). One person was prosecuted, a Swedish man, and there are thousands of pages of court documents now that shed light on the far broader aspects of this international fraud (see the link to the "NCI Summary Information: 10 Core Points" at the top of the PETRA people website--https://sites.google.com/site/petrapeople/).

It is time for the many organizations and people, especially in the church and mission community (CMC), to transparently and verifiably disclose how they have been affected. Members of these organizations (past and present), donors, and the public are asked to help by respectfully and resolutely calling for the assistance of those affected by NCI. Millions of euros and dollars are still missing.

The important PETRA Statement 2012 below overviews the international NCI et al. fraud and the previous calls for assistance. It also provides you with core inks to important documents and lists the organizations that are being asked again for help. The Statement and core links are crucial for understanding and confronting NCI…”

More information is on the petition web site.
Sign it, share it, and act on it!

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