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The Science of Groupthink

It's Friday and I have a lot of watching movies to do over the weekend, as there were quite a bit leftover that I hadn't had time to watch over the winter holiday. I received most of my Producers Guild screeners, and I've only gotten through half of the films thus far before I have to vote on them at the end of next week before the Awards Shows.

However, there is one film that I really liked that I saw over the holiday and that was The Experimenter.

Peter Sarsgaard and Winona Ryder portray Stanley and Alexandra Milgram in the film The Experimenter. 

The Experimenter is a film about the social scientist and psychologist, Stanley Milgram who conducted interesting experiments into the nature of obedience and authority. The film also touches upon the experiments of Solomon Asche, who conducted the conformity experiments.

The conformity experiments, which were published as "The effect of group pressure upon the modification and distortion of judgements" is a fascinating look at the social psychology and the effect of group mentality.

In summary: Professor Solomon Asche took 6 subjects (with one only being the true test subject, while the others were inserted into the room) and asked to relay the correct answer to a set of visual questions (eg, which is the longest line?) and the subjects gave their answer in serial succession, with the true test subject put into 5th position.

Asche's Conformity experiment. The true test subject is the 5th guy in the white t-shirt. Members are asked to give the right answer to a series of questions such as which is the highest line? etc until the lead subject starts to give wrong answers and the rest of the people follow, including the true test subject, who answers incorrectly to his better judgement. 

At first, the subjects gave the right answer, Then the subjects answered incorrectly, with the group mirroring the incorrect answer, and the true test subject, despite his better judgement also answered incorrectly. Solomon Asche's publishings revealed that individuals were more likely to go with the judgement of group mentality even if his own judgement said otherwise. Of course, nowadays we sometimes poke fun of others abiding by "sheep mentality" or "groupthink" as Orwell aptly put it in 1984, however oftentimes, we might not be aware of that groupthink also exists in the news media. Orwell was one of the original thinkers who put forth the idea that if you repeat a lie often enough it becomes truth.

VIX measures volatility in the market indices, and moves to the erratic, disharmonious tunes of Stravinsky's Rite of Spring. 

For example, if we take a current look at the media, for many years now, all the news media, from Bloomberg, to CNBC, to the BBC and even smaller news magazines, such as The Street et al, have been talking about another stock market crash since 2009. In fact, I have seen rather overt articles based on little information aside from parallel stochastics levels and over-reliance on algos that are the basis of the doomsday predictions that we are all in for another 2008 or 2000. There was even one financial analyst/ journalist I read this morning who wrote that we are in for a stock market crash because the market has made a correction of 10%, and that the only other times that had happened was in 2000 and 2008. I can say that the latter is most definitely not true. In fact, the US stock market made a 10% correction in 2010 and also in 2011, when in the latter case, the US had been downgraded by the S&P and lost its AAA credit rating. In both cases, 2010 and 2011, the market recovered just fine after reaching the expected correction levels.

SPY, an ETF that measures the SP-500, moves in a similar rhythm to Berlioz's Symphony Fantastique, 5th movement, with a seemingly ominous series of strong recurring motifs that ultimately prevail into glory.

The overwhelming evidence is actually quite contradictory that we are in for a stock market crash, but rather, that we will potentially reach newer highs into 2017-2019.

So I will end the week on this note: Trust your own judgement. I also wanted to mention that I thought my PGA colleagues, executive producers James A. Fino and Joe Russo did an amazing job with the CGI stop animation for Anomalisa. Anomalisa is an intricate examination of loneliness centered around a self-help guru and author, but probably could also be about the study of the Private Lives and Confessions of Certain Politicians.

(Disclaimer: This post is for educational purposes only and not intended as stock market advice)

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