GROUPTHINK: WHAT IS IT?
Groupthink is a term coined by social psychologist Irving Janis in 1972. 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.
8 Main Symptoms of GroupThink
Illusion of Invulnerability: Members ignore obvious danger, take extreme risk, and are overly optimistic.
Collective Rationalization: Members discredit and explain away warning contrary to group thinking.
Illusion of Morality: Members believe their decisions are morally correct, ignoring the ethical consequences of their decisions.
Excessive Stereotyping: The group constructs negative stereotypes of rivals outside the group.
Pressure for Conformity: Members pressure any in the group who express arguments against the group's stereotypes, illusions, or commitments, viewing such opposition as disloyalty.
Self-Censorship: Members withhold their dissenting views and counter-arguments.
Illusion of Unanimity: Members perceive falsely that everyone agrees with the group's decision; silence is seen as consent.
self appointed Mindguards: Some members appoint themselves to the role of protecting the group from adverse information that might threaten group complacency.
Negative Outcomes of GroupThink
A few negative aspects of GroupThink with respect to the group decision making are:
Examining few alternatives
Not being critical of each other's ideas
Not examining early alternatives
Not seeking expert opinion
Being highly selective in gathering information
Not having contingency plans
How to Prevent GroupThink
Group leaders can prevent groupthink by:
--Encouraging members to raise objections and concerns;
--Refraining from stating their preferences at the onset of the group's activities;
--Allowing the group to be independently evaluated by a separate group with a different leader;
--Splitting the group into sub-groups, each with different chairpersons, to separately generate alternatives, then bringing the sub-groups together to hammer out differences;
--Allowing group members to get feedback on the group's decisions from their own constituents;
--Seeking input from experts outside the group;
--Assigning one or more members to play the role of the devil's advocate;
--Requiring the group to develop multiple scenarios of events upon which they are acting, and contingencies for each scenario; and
--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.
Famous Examples of GroupThink
--Review the following consequences of groupthink and consider how many of them apply to the Bush administration’s handling of the ‘war on terrorism’ and the issues related to Iraq and Saddam Hussein:
a) incomplete survey of alternatives
b) incomplete survey of objectives
c) failure to examine risks of preferred choice
d) failure to reappraise initially rejected alternatives
e) poor information search
f) selective bias in processing information at hand
g) failure to work out contingency plans
h) low probability of successful outcome
--The Bay of Pigs Invasion (1961): Poor assumptions, planning, then abandonment of the troops. The Kennedy Cabinet during the Bay of Pigs Invasion. In Schlessinger's, A Thousand Days: Silent at the White House during the Bay of Pigs, RFK was quoted as approaching Schlesinger and saying: "You may be right or wrong, but the president has made up his mind. Don't push it any further. Now is the time to help him all we can." Schlesinger stopped his usual role as devil's advocate and critic and began to sanction his own challenges.
--The Challenger Disaster (1986): Administrators under time pressure ignored engineer's concerns about failure of the O-rings months before take-off in part due to recent bad press and the need to make NASA's efforts appear more timely. See Data from the disaster
Diffusion of Responsibility
More links on Groupthink: