-- Pieter van der Boog
- 14 Mar 2011
Groupthink is a term to describe a group which has a very low performance due to suppression of both proflict and conflict
. It can be caused by cultural norms for both groups and individuals (for more on culture and conflicts: cultural differences
) as the main cause of groupthink is social identity maintenance. The antecedents
and defective decisionmaking symptoms
(Turner & Pratkanis, 1997
) will be discussed in relation to social identity maintenance.
Finally an example
of groupthink will be named on the bottom of this page.
In addition, there is a roleplay
on groupthink. It can be used to communicate groupthink and its effects.
Social identity maintenance
Antecedents of groupthink
The symptoms stated below often occur before and during groupthink. If these occur, be aware on groupthink
Groups involving groupthink are always highly cohesive. The group itself prioritizes the existence and harmony of the group over proflict and conflict
. Every form of conflict is suppressed at all cost. The group thinks and acts as a single unit, both on the interior and exterior of the group.
Often there is a directive leader within a groupthink-group. That person usually determines the direction, which is not questioned by other members to prevent conflict from occurring.
High stress & Low self esteem
When groups, consisting of mainly individuals with low self esteem, are exposed to high-stress situations, none of the members dares to question decisions made, both because they do not want to delay the process and because they lack belief in their vision and ideas. If people feel that ideas need to be of a certain level before they are worth being discussed they tend to hold them back. In the study on proflict
there was however groupthink without high stress. This had to do with the lack of responsibility for the end result.
Perform limited search
When in groups there is limited search for information from 'outside', there is less controversy around solutions and less knowledge of compromises. Therefore members will more easily be persuaded to agree on a solution.
Insulated from experts
If a group does not have experts on the problem in their team and they do not consult experts, either because they cannot or because they will not, they lack critical feedback, based on both knowledge and experience. Experts often foresee problems in a solution early and by feedback/critics he can start a proflict in the team.
Symptoms of groupthink
The symptoms stated below are indicators of groupthink within a group.
Illusion of invulnerability
Individuals in a groupthink-group are honoured with membership of the group. Due to the high cohesion within the group, it feels like a strong group which is capable of nearly anything. In addition, because the group has social status, members perceive the group to be invulnerable.
As discussed before, the basis of groupthink lies in lack of cognitive discussion (for the definition read proflict and conflict
). This is partially the result of lack of knowledge due to the limited information search and the lack of expertise, but mainly the result of individuals with low self esteem, who dare not question the majority. They therefore join the majority in reasoning.
When people have low self esteem, they will censor themselves before speaking. Ideas which are not fully in line with the group will not be declared.
Conflicts are being suppressed and prevented at any cost. Therefore members will not do an in depth study if this might result in contradictory information.
Stereotypes of outgroups
A groupthink-group is highly cohesive and has a social status. This social status is very important for the members and thus the group will see potential threats from outside as enemies. This vision in combination with mindguards leads to a simplified view of outgroups(groups outside of the groupthink-group).
Belief in the inherent morality of the group
Membership is important as teammembers see their group as invulnerable. Due to lack of information, stereotypes of outgroups, and collective rationalism, the members feel like the group is right and acts in a good manner.
Defective decision-making symptoms of groupthink
The symptoms below are the causes of defective decision-making in groupthink-groups and thus cause the lack of performance.
Incomplete survey of alternatives
During groupthink there is a high level of conformity within the group. As consensus is believed to be a good indicator of a good decision, the group believes they have a good decision and do not check alternatives, therefore a good result depends on the quality of the initial idea.
Poor information search
With a lack of information it is very difficult to get good insights, e.g., when studying perceptual subjective topics; a lack of material immediately affects the decision, due to the perspective and opinion with which the writer nuances his information. Having a larger amount of sources results ina more thorough understanding of the topic and thus leads to better decision making.
Failure to appraise risks
Due to the illusion of invulnerability and the belief in the performance of the group, the risks of decisions made are underestimated and therefore the group is not stimulated to thoroughly examine decisions.
Selective information processing
When individuals censor themselves and apply mindguards, there is a lack of diversity in information. When there is no diversity in information, there is no discussion whether certain information is reliable or what part of information is objective. Having selective information therefore leads to a lack of insight and thus defective decision-making.
We believe that a proper example of groupthink is the 'Trots op Nederland'-video
, a promotional video for elections.
A number of antecedents for groupthink can be seen in this video. The political party was under directive leadership of Rita Verdonk, as she founded the party after stepping out of another party. As a political party, a group has to be cohesive, they all stand for the same principles. The stereotyping of our society indicates that there has not been contact with experts concerning these issues, because they take a rather extreme standpoint. Being shot right before an election can suggest that there was stress involved as it was their first election.
From the symptoms the stereotyping of outgroups and the belief in the inherent morality of the group can be spot. An extreme view of society is being projected as the current 'normal' situation. The belief in the inherent morality can be derived from Rita's words about her party and how they will solve all problems they summed up.
If Trots op Nederland had realized the risks of creating a promotional video, they might have done more research on their statements and their basis and as a result reduced the loss at the election.
In order to prevent groupthink from happening a group should be aware
of groupthink and the value of proflict in a team, so people should be able to vent their opinion (De Dreu, 1997
). Tips on how to prevent groupthink