Monday, 28 May 2018

A code of conduct for political debate


The failure to address issues of Groupthink and Cognitive Biases will undermine the output of any forum for political decision-making. Such forums should, therefore, expect their participants to:

1)      Conduct themselves in a manner that helps mitigate against Groupthink; notably participants should avoid:

a)       Belief in the morality of a cause without question;

b)      The placing of pressure on individuals to conform, and by not seeing questioning as disloyal or heretical;

c)       The suppression of ideas through failing to discourage self-censorship;

d)      The interpretation of silence as consent;

e)      Using people and processes to suppress dissenting and inconvenient information;

f)        The stereotyping of opponents or other groups as evil or stupid;

g)       Encouraging a sense of invulnerability that leads to unnecessary risks being taken;

h)      Ignoring warnings of failure through engaging in collective rationalisation.



2)      Acknowledge the potential impacts of cognitive biases, especially:

a)       Confirmation bias – whereby there is a tendency to seek information that confirms preconceptions but discounts contradicting information;

b)      Self-serving bias – whereby there is a tendency to emphasise one’s own personal or group successes rather than failures;

c)       Ingroup Bias – whereby there is a tendency to overestimate the capabilities of one’s own group and underestimate its limitations;

d)      Belief bias – whereby logic is overridden by belief in a conclusion;

e)      Projection Bias – whereby there is a tendency to think others think like you;

f)        The Bandwagon effect – whereby there is a tendency to act as others around you do;

g)       The Halo effect – whereby perceptions of somebody’s capabilities or opinions are influenced by unconnected facts such as celebrity status;

h)      Availability heuristic – whereby there is a tendency to draw conclusions based on more memorable events whilst possibly overlooking more pertinent events.



3)      Conduct themselves in a manner that fosters civil debate by:

a)       Being courteous to others;

b)      Speaking truthfully and neither misrepresenting facts, words and actions, nor deliberately citing them out of context.

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