Groupthink Case Study

Janis (1972) initially introduced the term Groupthink and explained that it happened when a group makes a decision that may be incorrect due to group pressure and a deterioration of “mental efficiency, reality testing and moral judgment”. Groups are often most susceptible to Groupthink when it’s members are from similar backgrounds and when the group does not receive opinions from anyone impartial outside of the group. These groups often take foolish actions that dehumanize others and ignore alternative options.
Janis also details the symptoms that occur when Groupthink is likely to happen in a group that is trying to make a decision. These symptoms mean that Groupthink may occur, if the group is under a lot of pressure for a good decision
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Mindguards are members of the group who are self appointed, they protect the group from any information that may contradict the view of the group or cause problems in terms of the decision they are moving towards Janis presented examples of groupthink which included the Bay of Pigs Invasion, the escalation of the Vietnam War and the American decision to enter Iran and pursue Saddam Hussein.
Janis also proposed that there were three main causes which contributed towards group think, high group cohesiveness, structural faults and situational context:
High group cohesiveness- Janis highlighted this as the main factor that would lead to Groupthink, because it means that people will avoid giving their opinions in order to get along with the others in the group. The people in the group then become deindividualised, meaning the group becomes more important than the individual people in it.
Structural Faults- Whilst cohesion is the most important factor, how a group is organized and the chains of communication are also another factor that may contribute towards group think. Poor communication can lead to unwise decision making as it can cause the group to become blinkered, leading to poor understanding of the real problem and the wrong solutions. Structural faults also include having a closed style leader. This means that the leader will announce their opinion before anyone has been allowed to speak and will only allow specific questions to be asked. This then puts pressure on the
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They may also feel pressure due to stressful threats from outside of their group. High pressure decisions can cause anxiety which may cause group members to make irrational decisions so cope with the situation. They may overemphasise the positive outcomes and ignore or minimize the negative outcomes. To remove themselves from the stressful situation a group may make a quick decision with little discussion. There may also be the factors of time to contend with, if a decision needs to be made in a certain timeframe which does not seem to be enough the group may overlook important information so they can meet the deadlines they have. This can mean that the outcomes are inaccurate.
It is however thought to be possible to avert groupthink and there are strategies and preventative measures which can be used. These include:
1. Leaders making each group member a “critical evaluator” so they can give their opinions and doubts freely
2. Leaders should not always be present at meetings in order for the group to come to their own opinion
3. Leaders should also avoid giving their opinions before they have heard those of the group so they do not overly influence discussion
4. Several independent groups should be set up to work on the same

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