This page branches form a page in memory of John N. Warfield – have a look !


While working on the subject of DEMOCRACY AND DIALOG see: 21stCentury Agora


Group and Systems Pathologies versus Collective and Schwarm Intelligence

I came to realise that the work of Warfield is well documented by his institute, but has not yet been “visited” be other specialized scientific fields or domains. 


Please note that I cited and copied from the 2nd edition of the Encyclopedia of Systems and Cybernetics (2004)  to give an example of the deeper structure and depth of the encyclopedia, and wetten the appetite to check for further important terms like NGT or IM to get a better understanding of the width of the subject “systems sciences !

Below you find by “gravel-pit” of material for the above topics – I will edit and enlarge or delete when times come…




“The deterioration of mental efficiency, quality of reality testing, and quality of moral judgment that results from in-group pressures” (J.N. WARFIELD and C. TEIGEN, 1993, p.4).

The authors comment: Subject to Groupthink, a group may seem to accept a specific decision; however, if individual group members are confronted with that point of view separately from the group, few members would accept that view as their own“ (Ibid).

Groupthink results from role dissymetries among group members. “Specific behavioral patterns found in Groupthink involve such roles as ”gatekeeper“, ”whip“, etc., that distinguish one member from another. Certain individuals dominate the discussion. Individuals known to have views not compatible with whatever viewpoint is being favored may be silenced or excluded from the group” (J. WARFIELD, 1995a, p.65).

I.L. JANIS, as quoted by WARFIELD describes the eight symptoms of Groupthink:

“1. An illusion of invulnerability, shared by most or all of the members.

“2. Collective efforts to rationalize in order to discount warnings.

“3. An unquestioned belief in the group's inherent morality.

“4. Stereotyped views of rivals and enemies.

“5. Direct pressure on any member who expresses strong arguments against any of the group stereotypes, illusions, or commitments.

“6. Self-censorship of deviations.

“7. A shared illusion of unanimity ... augmented by the false assumption that silence means consent.

“8. The emergence of self-appointed mindguards” (1994b, p.259).


A still more nocive variant of Groupthink is Clanthink, wherein everybody is subservient to generally unperceived mental constraints resulting from unexpressed – and sometimes hidden – cultural values and norms.




“An incorrect view held by all or almost all members of the group about something other than the complex issue being considered” (J. WARFIELD, 1994b, p.490).

Clanthink views are considered “obvious” by those who hold them. They frequently remain implicit and are never submitted to critical evaluation. This is one basic cause of so-called

underconceptualization” and blindspots, leading ultimately to unsound decisions and possible disasters.

Clanthink is particularly dangerous in international politics

WARFIELD comments: “Clanthink peaks when authority rather than exploration of logic drives activity. It is generally easily exposed when, in the questioning processes used, inconsistencies begin to appear in dialog, causing the group to make discoveries that are

counter to what previously believed” (1995a, p.65,6).





A kind of conceptual pathology of groups unable to reach any “genuine consensus, or even

majority view toward component aspects of a complex issue” (J. WARFIELD, 1995, p.IV).

WARFIELD dedicates a full chapter to the important concept reflected by this neologism,

used to explain ineffective thinking in groups (p.73-87).

He states that this collective condition is generally neither recognized nor compensated for, and proposes a method to correct this type of situations.

He writes: “Spreadthink can be viewed as a short name for the content of these two Laws of Complexity”.

“- The Law of Inherent Conflict – which asserts that no matter what the complex issue and no matter what the group involved, there will always be significant conflict in interpreting what is important in resolving that issue.

“- The Law of Diverse Beliefs – which assertsthat at the outset of an investigation of a complex issue, members of the group will have quite diverse beliefs about the issue” (p.75) He explains spreadthink as a result of four other laws, namely:

- The Law of Limits: according to which no single individual is able to obtain an all-embracing information and understanding a bout a complex situation.

- The Law of Organizational Linguistics “which relates to the inadequacy of organizational language to supply the conceptual terminology in which to couch a proper viewpoint of a complex situation” (This surely means “of any specific organizational language”)

- The Law of Structural Underconceptualization, a result of the use of methodologies only appropriate for ordinary simple situations.

- The Law of Requisite Saliency which asserts that people find difficult to organize well their

ideas around the most relevant aspects corresponding to a specific situation. WARFIELD shows how Nominal Group Technique and Interpretive Structural Modeling can be used to discover, and correct spreadthink in order to define an evaluation of any situation satisfactory for the whole group of participants.


((ANTIDOTE against Group pathology))





The coordinated and productive mental activity in a group which has carefully explored the whole field of ideas related to the issue, situation or problem under scrutiny.

J. WARFIELD, who introduced this neologism writes: “With linkthink, members are asked to determine how those ideas that received at least one vote during the Nominal Group Technique process are related... This activity is carried out using a methodology called Interpretive Structural Modelling” (J.N. WARFIELD and C. TEIGEN, 1995, p.32).

This process of establishing linkages can be computer assisted. It normally produces “a graphical structure showing how problems are interrelated through the relationship ”aggravates“ (Ibid).

In this way a “Problematique” is constructed, which represents a global, integrated view of the issue considered.








“The wisdom of the people”(A. CHRISTAKIS, 1996, p.17). Christakis writes: “The name implies a paradigm shift from ”the power of the people“, which is the Greek meaning of the word democracy, to the ”wisdom of the people“.

The underlying premise of the new paradigm is that discovering the wisdom of the people is necessary if the people are expected to exercize their power. However, because of the escalating complexity of the contemporary societal situation, it is much more difficult today to uncover the wisdom of the people than it was two thousand and five hundred years ago during the golden era of the Athenian Republic”(Ibid)

Old Greek experience and present ones (for example in Switzerland the municipal participative debates open to all citizens) show that the “wisdom of the people”can be uncovered mainly (and possibly only) in reduced meetings of at most some few hundred citizens.

Moreover, the present complexity of human affairs at any level adds the need for sufficient information and evaluating learning for all stakeholders.

A special interest group of the International Society for the Systems Sciences, as well as the Fuschl Group have considered possible ways to revive demosophia in new style “agoras” of participative citizens, adapted to nowadays demographic, social and political conditions.





Excerpts with reference from the Introduction in the Encyclopedia: WARFIELD    197  hits

When you add the references to the work of collaborators and colleagues like Alexander CHIRSTAKIS     11 hits

you will realize the depth and width of this body of work on systems and social systems design. Below you find the relevant references and links in the Encyclopedia.



We are evermore victims of what Jean FOURASTIE called ”the ignorance of ignorance"(much worse than simple ignorance, as it leads to insolence and imprudence). In a similar way we sink into the swamps of “underconceptualization"(John WARFIELD)


One of the main aims of the work is to contribute to what John WARFIELD calls ”referential transparency“, here in Systemics and Cybernetics.

This is no mean task, and I do not fancy to have it completed. However I have gathered a considerable number of elements that will probably be useful in order to come closer to transparency. In any case, a deeper understanding of some very important concepts, as for example those enounced by von NEUMANN, ASHBY, von FOERSTER, PRIGOGINE, MATURANA, to cite only some, is a must. The spirit of the work is to incite the user to go to the sources.


Linguistics and Semantics

We should now turn back to the Tower of Babel syndrome. As noted by John WARFIELD, establishing a satisfactory conceptual language has been in the past the condition for the success of many scientific disciplines. This was done for example by LAVOISIER for inorganic chemistry; KEKULE for organic chemistry; MENDEL and FISCHER for genetics; LEIBNIZ and BOOLE for logic; CRICK and WATSON for biochemistry: WEGENER for plate tectonics; and quite recently by PRIGOGINE for generalized thermodynamics.

Precisely, one of the problems of the systems movement is the persistently scattered character of its language, which has remained ill-connected, confuse and fragmented. Accordingly, the main objective of the present work is to correlate and unify the language of Systemics and Cybernetics, in order to transform it into an efficient tool for the study of complexity. for beginners as well as for advanced researchers.


Margaret BODEN writes: ”The 'meaning' of an idea represented within a semantic net is a function of its place in the system“ (1990, p.95).





The invention of concepts, or logical and mathematical conjectures through the shaping of

new hypothesis.

The notion – itself abductive – comes from C.S. PEIRCE, who applied it to new concepts emerging in our mind from witnessing unusual or unprecedented situations in which neither induction nor deduction can be used. J. WARFIELD stresses these differences. According to

him, the origin of newly invented concepts remains a mystery. KOESTLER proposed bisociation as a model for this type of creativity, which like all other types is a product of neural and cerebral networks activity.



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WARFIELD, John N.: ”An assault on complexity“. Battelle Mem. Institute, Colombus, OH. 1973

WARFIELD, John N.: ”Structuring complex systems“. Battelle Mem. Institute, Colombus, OH. 1973

WARFIELD, John N.: ”Societal systems: Planning, policy and complexity“. Wiley, New York, 1976

WARFIELD, John: ”The mathematics of structures“- Ajar Publishing co., 2003 (first ed. 1976 as part of ”Societal Systems“)

WARFIELD, John & CHRISTAKIS, A.N.: ”Dimensionality“. Syst. Research, 4 (2) 1987

WARFIELD, John N.: ”Thinking about systems“. Syst.Research, 24 (4) 1987

WARFIELD, John N.: ”Implicit aspects of much systems thinking“. Syst. Research, 5 (4) 1988

WARFIELD, John N.: ”The magical number three - Plus or minus zero“. Cyb. & Systems, 19, 1988

WARFIELD, John N. & AKIYU, M.: ”Sociotechnical modelling for development nations“. SCIMA, New Delhi, 18 (1/2), 1989

WARFIELD, John N.: ”Underconceptualization“. Systemica, Amsterdam, 1 (6/8) 1989a

WARFIELD, John N.: ”Economics and Systems Science“. SCIMA, New Delhi, 19 (3) 1989b

WARFIELD, John N.: ”Societal Systems“. Intersystems, Salinas, CA., 1989c

WARFIELD, John N.: ”Cybernetics, Systems Science, and the Great University“. Syst. Research, 7 (4) 1990b

WARFIELD, John N.: ”Generic Planning“. Knowledge in Society, 3 (4) 1990c

WARFIELD, John N.: ”Complexity and cognitive equilibrium:

experimental results and their implications“. Human Syst. Manag.,10, 1991

WARFIELD, John N.: ”Groupthink, clanthink, spreadthink and linkthink“. George Mason niv., Fairfax,

VA, 1993

WARFIELD, John N. & CARDENAS, Roxana: ”A Handbook of Interactive Management“. 2 ed. Iowa State

Univ. Press, Ames, Iowa, 1994

WARFIELD, John N.: ”Cybernetics“. Encycl. Human Behavior, Vol. 2, Academic Press, New York, 1994a

WARFIELD, John N.: ”A science of generic design:

managing complexity through systems design“. Iowa State Univ. Press, Ames, Iowa, 1994b

WARFIELD, John N.: ”Complexity and Drummers“. IASIS, Fairfax, VA., 1995a

WARFIELD, John N.: ”Mentomology: the identification and classification of mindbugs“. J. Warfield, Fairfax, VA., 1995b

WARFIELD, John N.: ”Publications on Complexity“. J. Warfield, Fairfax, VA., 1995c

WARFIELD, John N.: ”The Great University“. J. Warfield, Fairfax, VA., 1995d

WARFIELD, John N.: ”Four books on complexity“. J. Warfield, Fairfax, VA., 1995e

WARFIELD, John N.: ”A philosophy of Design“. J. Warfield, Fairfax, VA, 1995f

WARFIELD, John N. & STALEY, Scott M.: ”Structural thinking: Organizing complexity through disciplined activity“. Syst. Research, 13 (1) 1996

WARFIELD, John N. & PERINO, George H. (Jr): ”The Problematique: Evolution of an Idea“ - SRBVS, Vol.16 (3), 1999

WARFIELD, John N.: ”Twenty Laws of Complexity Science Applicable in Organizations“ - SRBVS, Vol.16, Nr.1, 1999

WARFIELD, John: ”A critical review of G. Soros book:  the crisis of global capitalism“- SRBVS, 18(6) 2001





CHRISTAKIS  11 hits  in the Encyclopedia                                                                          


CHRISTAKIS, Alexander N.: ”A new policy science paradigm“. Futures 5 (6) 1973

CHRISTAKIS, Alexander N. & JESSEN, Peter J.: ”Policy planning for humankind“. Fields within Fields, nr. 11, 1974

CHRISTAKIS, A.N. et al.: ”Synthesis in a new age: A role for systems scientists in the age of design“. Syst. Research, 5 (2), 1988

CHRISTAKIS, Alexander: ”The inevitability of demosophia“ – in Tsivacou, I.(ed.): A challenge for systems thinking. Univ. of the Aegean Press, Athens, Greece, 1993

CHRISTAKIS, Alexander: ”Cogniscope conversation:some lessons learned in the Arena“- Plenum Press, New York, 2002

CHRISTAKIS, A.& BRAHMS, S.: ”Boundary spanning dialogue for the 21 st Century Agora“- SRBVS, 20(4), 2003


John Warfield, in a nutshell:

Complexity has become embedded in the very framework of our society. Modern science and technology have achieved wonders, but they have also greatly increased the likelihood of encountering complex situations. Multifaceted problems and challenges can cripple organizations that are not properly prepared. Dr. John N. Warfield has dedicated his life to the study of complexity and developing methods of coping with it.

Warfield began his intellectual career studying electrical engineering and mathematics. This led him to work with early computer prototypes. Besides math and electrical engineering, Warfield became interested in group pathologies. He began to look at how and why people make decisions—especially in situations that involve a great deal of complexity. This led him to establish Interactive Management, a computer assisted process designed to help groups manage complex problems unique to their organizations.

Warfield bases his research in the empirical evidence of human behavior pathologies, application of design concepts in groups, and philosophical works dating back to Aristotle. One of Warfield’s greatest sources of inspiration was the pragmatist, Charles Sanders Peirce. Warfield dealt with a number of different subjects ranging from “thought about thought” to the current state of higher education.

His long and successful career has yielded a number of publications, honors, and awards. The John N. Warfield Collection presents many of Warfield’s most significant and influential works. This digital collection contains select textual and non-textual documents from the physical collection housed in Special Collections & Archives in George Mason University Libraries.