GROUP THINK

GROUP THINK

 After reading the chapter section and the online article/mini lecture on Groupthink, use periodicals and other accounts of policy or decision making to investigate a major governmental or business decision that may have been the result of Groupthink. Post a link to the article online or attach it to your message. Try to use a different example than classmates who may have posted before you.In the body of your post, offer a summary of the decision-making process and the implications of the decision.  

Groupthink

Groupthink is a group attitude or norm that discourages or prevents viewpoints that are counter to the majority. This phenomenon can occur when a group is composed of people who think the same way and avoid controversy. Groupthink can seriously damage the quality of a group’s decision. Groups who think in similar ways without challenging one another’s ideas can make monumental mistakes which can affect the lives of many people.

This lesson will examine the symptoms of groupthink as well as the possible correctives to this potentially dangerous problem.

Learning Objective

· recognize when groupthink occurs, understand its effect on decision-making, and implement corrective measures.

Groupthink happens when very cohesive groups become insulated from criticism, when they lack a tradition of impartial leadership, and when they have no rules about methods and procedures. Under these conditions groups sometimes come to believe that they are invincible. When that happens they may develop closed-mindedness, stereotyping anyone who does not agree with them as “the enemy” and discounting any disagreements on that basis. Typically, such symptoms keep individual members from speaking about heir own reservations.

The consequences of Groupthink can be summarized in these words: defective decision making. All groups need to set themselves up in advance to guard against this potentially dangerous phenomenon.

Groupthink is a term first used in 1972 by social psychologist Irving L. Janis that refers to a psychological phenomenon in which people strive for consensus within a group. In many cases, people will set aside their own personal beliefs or adopt the opinion of the rest of the group.

People who are opposed to the decisions or overriding opinion of the group as a whole frequently remain quiet, preferring to keep the peace rather than disrupt the uniformity of the crowd.

Understanding It

Why does groupthink occur? Think about the last time you were part of a group, perhaps during a school project. Imagine that someone proposes an idea that you think is quite poor. However, everyone else in the group agrees with the person who suggested the idea and the group seem set on pursuing that course of action. Do you voice your dissent or do you just go along with the majority opinion?

In many cases, people end up engaging in groupthink when they fear that their objections might disrupt the harmony of the group or suspect that their ideas might cause other members to reject them.

Janis suggested that groupthink tends to be the most prevalent in conditions where there is a high degree of cohesiveness, situational factors that contribute to deferring to the group (such as external threats, moral problems, difficult decisions), and structural issues (such as impartial leadership and group isolation).

Symptoms

Janis identified eight different “symptoms” that indicate groupthink:

1. Illusions of invulnerability lead members of the group to be overly optimistic and engage in risk-taking.

2. Unquestioned beliefs lead members to ignore possible moral problems and ignore consequences of individual and group actions.

3. Rationalizing prevents members from reconsidering their beliefs and causes them to ignore warning signs.

4. Stereotyping leads members of the in-group to ignore or even demonize out-group members who may oppose or challenge the group’s ideas.

5. Self-censorship causes people who might have doubts to hide their fears or misgivings.

6. “Mindguards” act as self-appointed censors to hide problematic information from the group.

7. Illusions of unanimity lead members to believe that everyone is in agreement and feels the same way.

8. Direct pressure to conform is often placed on members who pose questions, and those who question the group are often seen as disloyal or traitorous.

Benefits and Dangers

Groupthink can have some benefits. When working with a large number of people, it often allows the group to make decisions, complete tasks, and finish projects quickly and efficiently.

However, this phenomenon also has costs as well. The suppression of individual opinions and creative thought can lead to poor decision-making and inefficient problem-solving.

Causes

A number of factors can influence this psychological phenomenon. It tends to occur more in situations where group members are very similar to one another and it is more likely to take place when a powerful and charismatic leader commands the group. Situations where the group is placed under extreme stress or where moral dilemmas exist also increase the occurrence of groupthink.

Prevention

There are steps that groups can take to minimize this problem. First, leaders can give group members the opportunity to express their own ideas or argue against ideas that have already been proposed. Breaking up members into smaller independent teams can also be helpful. More ideas that might help:

1. Initially, the leader of the group should avoid stating their opinions or preferences when assigning tasks. Give people time to come up with their own ideas first.

2. Assign at least one individual to take the role of the “devil’s advocate.”

3. Discuss the group’s ideas with an outside member in order to get impartial opinions.

4. Encourage group members to remain critical. Don’t discourage dissent or challenges to the prevailing opinion.

5. Strong and influential leaders should be absent from many group meeting to avoid overly influencing decisions.

Observations

· “When present, these antecedent conditions are hypothesized to foster the extreme consensus-seeking characteristic of groupthink. This, in turn, is predicted to lead to two categories of undesirable decision-making processes. The first, traditionally labeled symptoms of groupthink, include illusions of invulnerability, collective rationalization, stereotypes of outgroups, self-censorship, mind guards, and belief in the inherent morality of the group. The second, typically identified as symptoms of defective decision-making, involves the incomplete survey of alternatives and objectives, poor information search, failure to appraise the risks of the preferred solution, and selective information processing. Not surprisingly, these combined forces are predicted to result in extremely defective decision-making performance by the group.”

· (Marlene E. Turner & Anthony R. Pratkanis, Twenty-Five Years of Groupthink Theory and Research: Lessons from the Evaluation of a Theory, 1998, Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 73, 105–115.)

· “The member’s firm belief in the inherent morality of their group and their use of undifferentiated negative stereotypes of opponents enable them to minimize decision conflicts between ethical values and expediency, especially when they are inclined to resort to violence. The shared belief that ‘we are a wise and good group’ inclines them to use group concurrence as a major criterion to judge the morality as well as the efficacy of any policy under discussion. ‘Since our group’s objectives are good,’ the members feel, ‘any means we decide to use must be good.’ This shared assumption helps the members avoid feelings of shame or guilt about decisions that may violate their personal code of ethical behavior. Negative stereotypes of the enemy enhance their sense of moral righteousness as well as their pride in the lofty mission of the in-group.”

· (Irving L. Janis, 1972, Victims of Groupthink)

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