‘Groupthink’ by Lips

20th June 2013 Human and Mass Communications DCMDPD136A
Odyuo Chum Ren Kenneth Low Wei Jun Victoria Loh Benedict Lim Haikal Hussin


Table of contents

1. Introduction 2. Definition 3. The Irving Janis theory 4. Symptoms of groupthink 5. Causes 6. Past cases and its better alternatives


In terms of evaluating information. Advantages and disadvantages of groupthink 8. Solution 9. the group quickly responds to the problems with matching solution with the group’s consensus. 3 . Conclusion Introduction Groupthink is a psychological phenomenon that can occur in groups of people.7. Groupthink often occurs when their respected leader is present. The leader often practice authoritarian management as it leaves group members no room to question or give sensible arguments. persuading group members to follow his decisions.

Groups affected by groupthink also ignore alternatives and tend to take irrational actions that dehumanize other groups. Groupthink is the tendency of the group to produce to the desire of the group’s agreement or unanimity at the cost of considering the consequences of action. This is especially the case when groups succumb to what Janis termed groupthink. The Irving Janis theory 4 . members tend to discount consequences that might lead to disastrous outcome. groupthink is “the psychological drive for consensus at any cost that suppresses dissent and appraisal of alternatives in cohesive decision-making groups”. Empowered by groupthink’s attributes. According to Janis. from Yale University.Groupthink is defined by the studies of research by psychologists Irving Janis. Definition The techniques within groups leading to group polarization can sometimes have very destructive consequences.

which described the systematic errors made by groups when making collective decisions. 2. 5 . reality testing. and moral judgment. Janis mentioned that groupthink occurs when a group makes faulty decisions because group pressures lead to a deterioration of “mental efficiency. Symptoms of Groupthink Janis has documented eight symptoms of groupthink: 1.15 November 1990) was a research psychologist at Yale University and a professor at University of California most famous for his theory of groupthink. Illusion of invulnerability Creates excessive optimism that encourages taking extreme risks. Collective rationalization Members discounts warnings and do not reconsider their assumptions.Irving Lester Janis (26 May 1918 .

4. Illusion of unanimity The majority view and judgments are assumed to be unanimous. 5.3. Self-censorship Doubts and deviations from the perceived group consensus are not expressed. 6 . 7. Belief in inherent morality Members believe in the rightness of their cause and therefore ignore the ethical or moral consequences of their decisions. Stereotyped views of out-groups Negative views of “enemy” make effective responses to conflict seem unnecessary. 6. Direct pressure on dissenters Members are under pressure not to express arguments against any of the group’s views.

  These group pressures lead to inattentiveness and irrational thinking since groups experiencing groupthink fail to consider all alternatives. When the above symptoms exist in a group that is trying to make a decision. chances are that groupthink will happen. view. Groupthink occurs when groups are highly unified and when they are under substantial pressure to make a quality decision. and/or decisions. members are less motivated to realistically appraise the alternative courses of action available to them. When pressures for unanimity seem overwhelming. 7 . Self-appointed ‘mind guards’ Members protect the group and the leader from information that is problematic or contradictory to the group’s cohesiveness. although it is not necessarily so. Decisions made through groupthink have low probability of achieving successful outcomes.8.

4. 3. The group considers only a few options. The group is very cohesive. 2.Causes What causes groupthink? According to Janis. 8 . There is much stress because of great time pressure. The group is insulted from information coming from outside the group. five features are present when groupthink occurs: 1.

The group is dominated by a very directive leader. the attack on Pearl Harbor and the Jonestown massacre. in which the members of the group are extremely assured of their decision-making ability. Past Cases and its Better Alternatives We present three controversial cases: Nazi Germany. They have the similar symptoms of groupthink. and there should have different outcomes should the parties involved in them have taken different courses of action. Nazi Germany and Groupthink 9 . Members often censor their own thoughts and even act as “mind guards” to prevent others from stating ideas. 1. The above five factors can produce an illusion of group invulnerability. All of them have made headlines across all four corners of the world.5.

when Adolf Hitler controlled its government. Even education focused on racial biology. Racism. The implementation of the regime's racial policies culminated in the mass murder of Jews and many other minorities in the Holocaust. In the end. which is the use of scientific techniques and hypotheses to support or justify the belief in racism. was a central feature of the regime. especially anti-Semitism. The regime promoted the concept of a national German ethnic community. The goal was to build a classless 10 . or racial superiority. racial inferiority. Everyone who was fit enough had to join the war as Hitler ordered that anyone who was not prepared to fight should be court-martialled. Germany was stricken by a series of unprecedented waves of suicides during the final days of the Nazi regime as a result of the loss of the war and the anticipated Allied occupation of Nazi Germany.Third Reich is common names for Germany during the period from 1933 to 1945.

Newspapers were controlled by the state. and their productions generally had a political subtext and followed party lines regarding themes and content. with the Reich Press Chamber shutting down or buying newspapers and publishing houses. Direct pressure to conform placed on any member who questions the group. Alternative Outcomes The people of Germany also had a rough life after the First World War.society based on racial purity and the perceived need to prepare for warfare and conquests. socialist. or forced into exile. In addition to that. couched in terms of "disloyalty" and any party deemed undesirable were persecuted or murdered. and communist opposition were killed. imprisoned. Germany had a huge debt and the economy was 11 . The Propaganda Ministry purchased the two largest film companies. members of the liberal. and opposition to Hitler's rule was ruthlessly suppressed.

He was very stubborn and he insisted on carrying out his plans for world domination despite sound advice from his advisers and generals and he failed to evaluate the true strength of his enemies. The people needed a strong figure to lead them. Hitler was over-confident about himself and the true capabilities of his army as well. A number of factors such as 12 . Hitler should have been more rational and realistic during the Second World War. to bring Germany back to its knees and into another golden age. He thought could actually conquer Russia. 1941 is a prime example of groupthink. which was around three or four times bigger than Nazi Germany and had army that could easily destroy his. The Attack on Pearl Harbor The attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7.in a sorry state. 2. He dismissed them as being 'cowardly' when they opposed his objectives.

Washington took action by warning officers stationed at Pearl Harbor. the US government underestimated the Japanese' intentions and continued sending scrap iron.shared illusions and rationalizations contributed to the lack of precaution taken by Naval officers based in Hawaii. The United States had intercepted Japanese messages and they discovered that Japan was arming itself for an offensive attack somewhere in the Pacific. In fact. Admiral Frank Schofield anticipated a possible attack on Hawaii from the Pacific. oil. Nine years before the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Americans ignored the fact that Japan had a tendency to launch brutal attacks before declaring war. The military confirmed his theory that aircrafts attacking from the Pacific would be 13 . and rationalizing warnings that might challenge the group’s assumptions. but their warning was not taken seriously. and other raw materials to Japan well into 1940. Pearl Harbour demonstrates two symptoms of groupthink: illusions of invulnerability creating excessive optimism and encouraging risk taking.

They believed that their defenses were impenetrable and that their entire navy fleets could withstand any torpedo bombs launched by the enemy.undetected and would wreak havoc on the harbor. precautions would have been taken. Alternative Outcomes If only the Naval officers based in Hawaii would have taken Washington warning seriously about the Japanese plan for an offensive attack. They were positive that the Japanese would not launch an attack on them because it will lead to war. the military refused to re-examine their defences. the Naval officers shouldn't have underestimated the enemy. Despite these results. Again. The Naval officers' over-confidence is also a major cause to their downfall. 3. which the US would surely win. The Jonestown Massacre Jones saw Jonestown as both a "socialist paradise" and a "sanctuary" from media scrutiny. These precautions would have saved countless lives. The Temple encouraged 14 .

Many of the members of Peoples Temple were so desperate for acceptance and fearful of being alienated for questioning the Temple's methods that they ceased to speak out against Jones' harsh. drugs were administered in an "extended care unit. A total of 909 Temple members died in Jonestown. in a mass murder-suicide in Jonestown. On November 18. in an event termed "revolutionary suicide" by Jones and some members on an audio tape of the event and in prior discussions. For some members who attempted to escape. all but two from apparent cyanide poisoning. Before the meeting. Jim Jones led his congregation. aides prepared a large metal tub with poisoned Flavor Aid – a noncarbonated soft drink beverage. manipulative practices.some of its members to move to Jonestown. 1978. Peoples Temple. Guyana. 15 . A 44-minute cassette tape (the “death tape”) recorded at least part of a meeting Jones called under the pavilion in the early evening. which was formally named the "Peoples Temple Agricultural Project".

Team commitment and loyalty and support & encouragement between members can be easily achieved 16 . which also causes decision-making very quick and rapid. Advantages and Disadvantages of Groupthink Advantages In groupthink. as there is a unified vision in the group.Alternative Outcomes If only the members of the Peoples Temple would have perceive the hidden intentions with more logical sense and question the authority prior to the incident. Therefore these obscurities of instructions would be viewed in a more sensible way and the massacre could be prevented. the group will exert strong efforts to finish a specific task. Jim Jones would have no room for persuasions and have to go through public justification and be reasonable with the people. This could also come from the group's unified vision and mindset.

The group might also neglect contingency plans in the event of the failure of a plan. Disadvantages Group cohesiveness becomes more important than individual freedom of expression. The group may tend to 17 . individuals in a group are less likely to go against the grain in order to keep the group dynamic somewhat stable and conflict-free. In the professional context. When the members of the group attempt to fit in to the group and conform the group's norm can cause lowered creativity and lack of innovation as the individual members lose the ability to think for themselves and rely on the group to make decisions. As a result. At the same time.as well. there is a selection bias when collecting information or opinions as the members may keep quiet about personal opinion in fear of getting ostracized by the group. it can get the same job done in a more efficient manner.

Sometimes. Solutions As with the saying 'prevention is better cure'. The list below shows the steps to take in preventing 'groupthink' 18 . conflict is necessary in order to produce positive change and groupthink hampers that by emphasizing on maintaining the norms of the group.disregard other alternatives or reevaluate previously rejected alternatives as well. so the list of solutions (provided below) should be applied before the formation of the group and throughout the group's activities as well.

2. 6. 5. working on the same problem. 4. 3. Group members should be allowed to discuss with and question the outside experts. Each member should discuss the group's ideas with trusted people outside of the group. Leaders should absent themselves from many of the group meetings to avoid excessively influencing the outcome. This allows each member to freely air objections and doubts. 19 . 8. Leaders should assign each member the role of "critical evaluator".1. Leaders should not express an opinion when assigning a task to a group. At least one group member should be assigned the role of the Devil's advocate. The organization should set up several independent groups. 7. All effective alternatives should be examined. This should be a different person for each meeting. The group should invite outside experts into meetings.

Conclusion There are several recent developments. President Kennedy had avoided other devastating outcomes by avoiding groupthink when he was dealing with the crisis. such as the researching of new theories and models have helped Groupthink continue to be a prolific topic in psychology research. Kennedy was deliberately absent from the meetings. More than twenty major studies focusing on some 20 . With that. During meetings. and he even divided the group up into various sub-groups. and allowed group members to question them carefully. He also encouraged group members to discuss possible solutions with trusted members within their separate departments. to partially break the group cohesion. he invited outside experts to share their viewpoints. so as to avoid pressing his own opinion.After the Bay of Pigs invasion fiasco. President John Kennedy sought to avoid groupthink during the Cuban Missile Crisis using "vigilant appraisal.

28 December 1978. p. • Hall. John R." San Francisco Examiner. One of the more popular current research trends includes comparing the prevalence of groupthink in a diverse corporate environment to that of a less diverse firm. Another ongoing study by Duval frames groupthink in the context of a small group social network. New Jersey: Transaction Publishers. (1987). New Brunswick. • King. Gone from the Promised Land: Jonestown in American Cultural History. 282. •"Jonestown Audiotape Primary Project. Archived. Accessed April 9.org. PBS. Citations • Timeline: The Life and Death of Jim Jones. 2007. ISBN 021 . "How Jones used drugs. San Diego State University." Alternative Considerations of Jonestown and Peoples Temple.aspect or application of groupthink have been published since the beginning of 2010. Peter.

 "Diversity and corporate performance: a review of the literature". Retrieved April 27. L. (1972).chron. • Janis.88738-124-3. I.html • Janis.com/advantagesdisadvantages-group-cohesiveness-productivity25046. I. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. 2011. (1982). Jennifer.html • http://smallbusiness. Groupthink: Psychological Studies of Policy Decisions and Fiascoes. L.blogspot. • Brooke. Victims of Groupthink: a Psychological Study of Foreign-Policy Decisions and Fiascoes.ISBN 0-395-31704-5. ISBN 0-395-14002-1.sg/2008/04/group-thinkhas-its-advantages-and. • Autopsy Report for Carolyn Moore Layton • http://comm202blog. 22 .

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