In decision theory and general systems theory, a mindset is a set of assumptions, methods, or notations held by one or more people or groups of people that is so established that it creates a powerful incentive within these people or groups to continue to adopt or accept prior behaviors, choices, or tools. This phenomenon is also sometimes described as mental inertia, “groupthink”, or a “paradigm”, and it is often difficult to counteract its effects upon analysis and decision making processes
A mindset can also be seen as incident of a person’s Weltanschauung or philosophy of life. For example, there has been quite some interest in the typical mindset of an entrepreneur.
A well-known[by whom?] example is the “Cold War mindset” prevalent in both the U.S. and USSR, which included absolute trust in two-player game theory, in the integrity of command chain, in control of nuclear materials, and in the mutual assured destruction of both in the case of war. Although most consider that this mindset usefully served to prevent an attack by either country, the assumptions underlying deterrence theory have made assessments of the efficacy of the Cold War mindset a matter of some controversy.
Most theorists consider that the key responsibility of an embedded power group is to challenge the assumptions that comprise the group’s own mindset. According to these commentators, power groups that fail to review or revise their mindsets with sufficient regularity cannot hold power indefinitely, as a single mindset is unlikely to possess the flexibility and adaptability needed to address all future events. For example, the variations in mindset between Democratic Party and Republican Party Presidents in the U.S. may have made that country more able to challenge assumptions than the Kremlin with its more static bureaucracy.
Modern military theory attempts to challenge entrenched mindsets in dealing with asymmetric warfare, terrorism, and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. In combination, these threats represent “a revolution in military affairs” and require very rapid adaptation to new threats and circumstances. In this context, the cost of not implementing adaptive mindsets cannot be afforded