Groupthink The processes involved in group polarization may set the stage for an even greater and more dangerous bias in group decision making. This bias can be seen in exam- ples of very smart people collectively making very dumb decisions. For example, on February 1, 2003, the U.S. space shuttle Columbia exploded as it reentered the Earth’s atmosphere on its way home from space, killing everyone on board. Several days before this tragedy, a team of engineers at NASA reviewed a video of foam breaking off the shuttle and hitting the area near the left wing when it first launched from Earth. The group speculated about whether the impact could have damaged the heat-shielding tiles located there. One engineer, Rodney Rocha, made more than half a dozen requests of NASA managers to go outside the agency and seek images from spy satellite photos or powerful telescopes that could pro- vide a better look at the possible damage to the Columbia while it was in space. These requests were ignored or rejected. One manager said that he refused to be a “Chicken Little.” The flight director e-mailed his rejection of the engineer’s request with these chilling words: “I consider it to be a dead issue”. The engineer’s concerns about the tiles turned out to be justified, and all seven crew members on Columbia died in the ensuing tragedy.
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