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Groupthink is "a concept that was identified by Irving Janis ("a forefather in the study of group dynamics") [in 1972] that refers to faulty decision-making in a group. Groups experiencing groupthink do not consider all alternatives and they desire unanimity at the expense of quality decisions."[1][2]

Groupthink is also defined as a "phenomenon wherein people seek unanimous agreement in spite of contrary facts pointing to another conclusion."[3]

It is said that groupthink "occurs when groups are highly cohesive and when they are under considerable pressure to make a quality decision." Some possible "negative outcomes" of groupthink include:[4]

  • Examining few alternatives
  • Not being critical of each other's ideas
  • Not examining early alternatives
  • Not seeking expert opinion
  • Being highly selective in gathering information
  • Not having contingency plans

Some "symptoms" or "warning signs" of groupthink are:[5][6]

  • Having an illusion of invulnerability
  • Rationalizing poor decisions
  • Believing in the group's morality
  • Sharing stereotypes which guide the decision
  • Exercising direct pressure on others
  • Not expressing your true feelings
  • Maintaining an illusion of unanimity
  • Using mindguards to protect the group from negative information

In a 1972 book, Victims of Groupthink: A Psychology Study of Foreign-Policy Decisions and Fiascoes, Irving Janis identified the Vietnam War and the Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba as particularly compelling examples of how very smart people can collectively make very stupid decisions, noting that groups around the Presidents "made a series of assumptions ... that were fundamentally deluded." [7]

The term, coined in the model of newspeak, is used to describe the process where a group will come to a decision by each member agreeing with what they think the consensus will be, whatever private doubts they might have.

Another description, as it applies to education and group projects, is that "Groupthink is a process of gradualism that seeks to gently merge the followers into a pack with leaders, the hope being that the leaders will pull up those who typically reside on the low end of the motivation and achievement scale."[8]

Examples of "groupthink"

Recent examples of words and phrases intended to promote "groupthink" come from the numerous speeches made by President George W. Bush regarding the motives and motivation of terrorists and the war on terrorism allegedly connected to not only the events of September 11, 2001 but also to subsequent activities. These examples include the repetition of the following words and phrases:

Other examples have been cited by President Bush in his speeches to government agencies, at public events, and, most recently, at fund-raising events for U.S. presidential election, 2004.

  • "I recently received a touching letter that says a lot about the state of America in these difficult times -- a letter from a 4th-grade girl, with a father in the military: 'As much as I don't want my Dad to fight,' she wrote, 'I'm willing to give him to you.'"

Other Related SourceWatch Resources


  • Janis, Irving, Victims of groupthink, Boston: Houghton Mifflin (1972).
  • Janis, Irving & L. Mann, Decision making: A psychological analysis of conflict, choice, and commitment, New York: Free Press (1977).
  • Janis, Irving, Groupthink: Psychological studies of policy decisions and fiascos. 2nd ed., Boston: Houghton Mifflin (1982).[9]

External links

  • Wikipedia: "Groupthink".
  • Meatball Wiki: "Groupthink"; also see "GroupThink".
  • Groupthink of Irving Janis [From the Third Edition of "A First Look at Communication Theory" by Em Griffin, McGraw-Hill, Inc. (1997).]
  • Wikipedia: "Edward Bernays": "'If we understand the mechanism and motives of the group mind, it is now possible to control and regiment the masses according to our will without their knowing it,' Bernays argued. He called this scientific technique of opinion molding the 'engineering of consent'."
  • [Chickenhawk Groupthink?], Jim Lobe, 11 May 2004

On the concept of "evil"