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Presentation 4 Adam Bednarick Your task: Explain the following concept/theory/event: Groupthink.

What are some possible policy implications of this concept/theory/event in the context of international relations decision-making processes and their analysis today? Make your case. What is groupthink? Groupthink is a psychological phenomenon that occurs within a group of people, in which the desire for harmony or conformity in the group results in an irrational or dysfunctional decision-making outcome. Group members try to minimize conflict and reach a consensus decision without critical evaluation of alternative viewpoints, by actively suppressing dissenting viewpoints, and by isolating themselves from outside influences. Loyalty to the group requires individuals to avoid raising controversial issues or alternative solutions, and there is loss of individual creativity, uniqueness and independent thinking. The dysfunctional group dynamics of the "ingroup" produces an inflated certainty that the right decision has been made. Thus the "ingroup" significantly overrates its own abilities in decision-making, and significantly underrates the abilities of its opponents. Groupthink is sometimes stated to occur within natural groups within the community, for example to explain the lifelong different mindsets of conservatives versus liberals. However, this conformity of viewpoints within a group does not mainly involve deliberate group decision-making, so it may also be explained by the collective confirmation bias of the individual members of the group. Most of the initial research on groupthink was conducted by Irving Janis, a research psychologist from Yale University. Janis published an influential book in 1972 (Victims of Groupthink). Later studies have evaluated and reformulated his groupthink model. Jarvis defined groupthink as: A process through which a group reaches a hasty or premature consensus and the group then becomes closed to outside ideas.

Elements of Groupthink: The main elements of group think are: 1. A high level of group cohesiveness 2. Insulation of the group from outside advice

3. Aggressive and opinionated leadership 4. Lack of norms about methodical procedures 5. Homogeneity of members backgrounds/ideology

What makes Groupthink Happen?

Group thinking is a mode of thinking that people engage in when they are deeply involved in a cohesive in-group, when the members strivings for unanimity override their motivation to realistically examine alternative courses of action. High group cohesion: this is where group members have similar backgrounds, opinions, and think very much alike. Although groups with cohesion can still make good decisions, they fall into a trap called concurrence-seeking where unanimity and agreement overrides full and rational consideration of all possible courses of action.

Possible policy implications of groupthink in the context of international relations decision-making processes and their analysis today:

Case Study Example: Escalation of the Vietnam War Irving Janis argues that the decision to Americanize the war in Vietnam in 1965, made by Lyndon Johnson and his advisers, represents one of the clearest examples of the groupthink phenomenon at work. U.S. land troops went ashore that year, and would remain there for 8 years. Janis choose to examine Johnsons discrete decision to commit land troops to the war. Janis found that Johnson and his advisers showed the same kinds of conformist behaviors in groups to those shown in numerous lab experiments. These were the same best and brightest advisors as under Kennedy who Johnson called his Harvards. And still, the vast majority of them supported the escalation of a war that proved to be a disaster. Janis argues that the primary forum for the Vietnam decision making was the Tuesday lunch group. It was a small, highly cohesive but informal collection of individuals whose judgement Johnson trusted the most, people like Dean Rusk and McNamara. Janis observed the presence of symptoms in this group that can lead to groupthink: 1. Small cohesive group of like-minded decision-makers who valued unity

2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8.

Over-optimism and a sense of invulnerability Homogenization of views within the circle of advisors Avoidance of potentially useful outside advice The emergence of mindguards (people who protect the view of the innergroup) The suppression of personal doubts by group members Exclusion of those who threatened the group consensus The domestification or exclusion of dissenters

Undersecretary George Ball had doubts about Americanizing the war and expressed these doubts in meetings. The group defused Balls dissent by referring to him as a devils advocate and maintained that he was not serious about his dissent and was just arguing against the majority position as a requirement to ensure that all positions were heard. It was untrue that George Ball was a devils advocate, he truly had disagreements with the others. This is an example of the domestification of dissent as would occur in groupthink. When McNamara began to have doubts about the war and began to express them outside of the group, Johnson said McNamara was just short of cracking up, inferring that he was not mentally stable.

Jarvis groupthink theory departs from the rational actor approach by highlighting the fact that individual decision-makers often behave differently when they form part of a larger group (people behave differently in a group then they would on their own). And further, the power of the situation decision-makers are in is so great sometimes that it effectively overrides the power of the individual.