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Will society ever get rid of stupidity?

  1. Jan 23, 2015 #1


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    I'm keen on the idea of groupthink. I have read that psychologists find (as do I) that when people think as a group they go stupid...

    ...here is an recent example I have encountered.

    Say you buy a box of 7 doughnuts every Friday morning with the intention of eating one doughnut every noon, starting with noon Friday.

    But say one week you get greedy and eat an extra doughnut some days so as to have none left to eat on the Wednesday. Then the question is how many noon times did I eat two doughnuts instead of one?

    To answer the question I just write out a representative log, e.g.,

    Friday noon.............I eat 1 doughnut
    Saturday noon........ I eat 2 doughnuts (+1)
    Sunday noon.......... I eat 1 doughnut
    Monday noon...........I eat 2 doughnuts (+1)
    Tuesday noon..........I eat 1 doughnut
    (Total doughnuts eaten = 7)
    Wednesday none left!!!!! eeek.

    So as far as I know the answer to the question is I ate an extra doughnut on TWO occasions.

    Now comes the stupid part. This group says the answer is really THREE...erh? Their argument is this: noon Wednesday is three days earlier than noon Friday (which is when I was supposed to start the next box of 7 doughnuts) therefore I must have eaten an extra doughnut on THREE occasions and not TWO.

    I ask how is noon Wednesday three days earlier than noon Friday and they said it is because they can count a Wednesday, a Thursday and a Friday. I try telling them that would be like saying 5:30pm is three hours earlier than 7:30pm because you can count a 5, a 6, and a 7...but they don't understand that that would be stupid and still think THEIR argument works.

    And all this despite the FACT that my answer (i.e the simple log above) is demonstrably correct - i.e. they add up to 7 doughnuts!!!!

    p.s. in an earlier thread I mentioned that these same people called themselves "Einstein"...which indicates delusions of grandeur...another symptom of groupthink.
    Last edited: Jan 23, 2015
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 23, 2015 #2


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    And you hang out with these people because ... ?
  4. Jan 23, 2015 #3


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    Your solution of 2, tasty doughnuts is correct, given the specific way you phrased the problem.

    Your analysis is also correct. Simply, it comes down to the fact that starting on Friday morning, continuing on through the next Friday afternoon, counts as 8 occurrences. The "group" seems to be incorrectly assuming that a full 7 doughnuts without greedy snacking would somehow last through the next Friday afternoon: a total of 8 occurrences. (When the group is counting the number of days, they seem to be counting Friday twice, making a total of eight days.)

    Their incorrect answer would be correct if you reworded the problem to buying the doughnuts on Friday evening, such that the first doughnut is eaten on Saturday (not Friday at noon).

    But the way it's originally worded, with the first of the seven doughnuts eaten on a Friday:
    0 occurrences of greedy snacking: Last doughnut eaten Thursday, no doughnuts left for Friday.
    1 occurrences of greedy snacking: Last doughnut eaten Wednesday, no doughnuts left for Thursday.
    2 occurrences of greedy snacking: Last doughnut eaten Tuesday, no doughnuts left for Wednesday.


    But I disagree on a different point about the "groupthink." I've seen several firsthand experiments where groups of people who are tasked with a hypothetical, yet potentially real-world problem invariably perform better when allowed to discuss it together and answer together as a group, compared to their results if only allowed to work individually. As a matter of fact, it almost always happens that group result is higher than any individual result -- even the smartest individual still benefits from the group discussion; the group acting together has a better answer than even best of the individual answers. [Edit:The experiments which I have seen only consisted of groups of about four to eight people. These experiments do not necessarily apply to large groups.]

    However in the case of the doughnut problem, it might be your particular group. I would not generalize it to all groups though.
    Last edited: Jan 23, 2015
  5. Jan 23, 2015 #4

    Dr Transport

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    I am reminded of a t-shirt I saw in a computer store: If you idiot proof it, we will build a better idiot. The moral of the story, we will always have stupidity.....
  6. Jan 23, 2015 #5


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    Stupidity: The application of ignorance in real life.*

    Ignorance will never go away, so neither will stupidity.

    *Per Drakkith's Dastardly Delicious Dictionary, 3rd Edition.
  7. Jan 24, 2015 #6

    So, a group of people working on a problem doesn't necessarily and automatically result in the errors of groupthink. Groupthink only results when the group tries to preserve it's 'grouphood' by suppressing dissent and controversy. In groups where people are allowed to challenge and vet each other, the results can, conceivably, be much better than individual results.

    However, it is quite possible to assemble a group composed of people who don't, individually, fully grasp the concept of a, say, a calendar week. The errors they make calculating around that concept as a group would have nothing to do with groupthink but would result from their pre-existing ignorance as individuals.
  8. Jan 24, 2015 #7


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    Unfortunately I have to spend some time around some of these people. I'm mainly an outside observer and not privy to all the internal mechanisms of this group. But even then it is amazing to observe what happens when you try to reason with them. There is a ridiculous level of harmonization and rationalization of doubt or as Dr Transport puts "we will build a better idiot". Thanks for the replies. I have mentioned everybody's points to them many times before. I have even drawn a calender for them that starts on a Friday (cus most calenders start on a Sunday). This group comprises of people of different intelligence but yet the group's purpose continues regardless. I'll say more later on. It is a wonder to observe.
  9. Jan 24, 2015 #8


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    Seems this is a good point to close the thread.
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