Groupthink

Summary:

Groupthink occurs when a homogenous highly cohesive group is so concerned with maintaining unanimity that they fail to evaluate all their alternatives and options. Groupthink members see themselves as part of an in-group working against an outgroup opposed to their goals. You can tell if a group suffers from groupthink if it:

  1. overestimates its invulnerability or high moral stance,
  2. collectively rationalizes the decisions it makes,
  3. demonizes or stereotypes outgroups and their leaders,
  4. has a culture of uniformity where individuals censor themselves and others so that the facade of group unanimty is maintained, and
  5. contains members who take it upon themselves to protect the group leader by keeping information, theirs or other group members', from the leader.

Groups engaged in groupthink tend to make faulty decisions when compared to the decisions that could have been reached using a fair, open, and rational decision-making process. Groupthinking groups tend to:

  1. fail to adequately determine their objectives and alternatives,
  2. fail to adequately assess the risks associated with the group's decision,
  3. fail to cycle through discarded alternatives to reexamine their worth after a majority of the group discarded the alternative,
  4. not seek expert advice,
  5. select and use only information that supports their position and conclusions, and
  6. does not make contigency plans in case their decision and resulting actions fail.

Group leaders can prevent groupthink by:

  1. encouraging members to raise objections and concerns;
  2. refraining from stating their preferences at the onset of the group's activities;
  3. allowing the group to be independently evaluated by a separate group with a different leader;
  4. splitting the group into sub-groups, each with different chairpersons, to separately generate alternatives, then bringing the sub-groups together to hammer out differences;
  5. allowing group members to get feedback on the group's decisions from their own constitutents;
  6. seeking input from experts outside the group;
  7. assigning one or more members to play the role of the devil's advocate;
  8. requiring the group to develop multiple scenarios of events upon which they are acting, and contingencies for each scenario; and
  9. calling a meeting after a decision consensus is reached in which all group members are expected to critically review the decision before final approval is given.

 

For detailed information read:

Janis, I. (1972). Victims of Groupthink. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin.

Janis, I. (1982). Groupthink: Psychological studies of policy decisions and fiascoes. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin.

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