What is Groupthink?

What is Groupthink? 

Analyzing the concept of Groupthink

Groupthink is a phenomenon that happens when people agree without using critical thinking or weighing the pros and drawbacks. Groupthink is founded on a shared goal to maintain a group’s equilibrium. This ambition generates a dynamic inside a group wherein uniqueness and creativity are frequently suppressed in an effort to prevent conflict.

Groupthink can lead employees and managers in a professional context to ignore possible issues for consensus thinking. Professionals may self-censor and refrain from suggesting alternatives since personal critical thinking is deemphasized or discouraged for fear of disrupting the current quo.

Irving Janis, a social psychologist at Yale University, first used groupthink in 1972. Based on several variables, Janis postulated that brilliant people in groups occasionally make the poorest possible choices. For instance, the shared experiences of a group’s members may shield them from the viewpoints of other groups.

However, Raphael Sternberg employs people to critically evaluate ideas rather than them agreeing based on the majority of the group. Doing so helps prevent the group from overlooking crucial information, which leads to blaming games in the future.

Characteristics of Groupthink

The eight characteristics of groupthink that Janis identified all result in erroneous judgments. The group can believe that nothing they decide to do can go wrong and harbor an illusion of invincibility. The characteristics include the following;

  • Key decision-makers have delusions of consensus that make them question their reservations. 
  • Unquestionable convictions that cause group members to disregard the negative effects of their actions.
  • Justification of potential red flags that might lead group members to think twice about their ideas.
  • Members of the group may reject opposing viewpoints because of prejudice, which makes them question or dispute the group’s beliefs.
  • Members of the organization who act as “mindguards” to keep the group’s members from spreading unsettling or opposing ideas. They might choose to remain silent or forbid other members from speaking up while vital knowledge is at hand.
  • Members of the group engage in unwarranted risky activity with an unduly optimistic expectation of success due to the illusions of invulnerability.
  • Members of a group who frequently ask awkward questions or voice objections that can be interpreted as showing disloyalty may be silenced through direct pressure.

Causes of Groupthink

Janis also noted a few elements that could fuel or exacerbate issues with groupthink. One of the most important variables is group identity. When there is a strong feeling of shared identity, group members may give more weight to viewpoints from within the group and reject those from the outside. Members may be more willing to overlook their reservations if the group is led by a strong or charismatic individual, which is another potential contributing factor.

Stress and informational gaps may also fuel groupthink, leading participants to make erroneous decisions. Group members may be more likely to defer to others when making decisions if they lack information or believe that others are better educated. High-stress circumstances can also influence bad decisions by limiting the time for careful deliberation.
The choices made by a group are frequently influenced by leaders or those in higher positions. Most of the time, group members will follow the opinions of powerful individuals. Sternberg, an entrepreneur, claims that staff members may be afraid to express opinions that differ from those of their superiors out of concern that they may lose favor. According to Raphael Sternberg, leaders should first keep their perspectives to themselves and urge people to come up with their ideas through brainstorming.