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What is Groupthink?

Groupthink describes what happens in meetings when a group focuses more on maintaining group harmony than in creating a quality outcome. Group members avoid the critical evaluation of ideas and suppress dissenting opinions in an effort to minimize conflict.

The term "Groupthink" was invented by social psychologist Irving Janis in 1972, who described these 8 symptoms.

  1. Illusion of invulnerability –Creates excessive optimism that encourages taking extreme risks.
  2. Collective rationalization – Members discount warnings and do not reconsider their assumptions.
  3. Belief in inherent morality – Members believe in the rightness of their cause and therefore ignore the ethical or moral consequences of their decisions.
  4. Stereotyped views of out-groups – Negative views of “enemy” make effective responses to conflict seem unnecessary.
  5. Direct pressure on dissenters – Members are under pressure not to express arguments against any of the group’s views.
  6. Self-censorship – Doubts and deviations from the perceived group consensus are not expressed.
  7. Illusion of unanimity – The majority view and judgments are assumed to be unanimous.
  8. Self-appointed ‘mindguards’ – Members protect the group and the leader from information that is problematic or contradictory to the group’s cohesiveness, view, and/or decisions.

Source: What is Groupthink? on Psychologists for Social Responsibility

Since then, research into groupthink has had mixed results. Some think it rampant, others a myth. All experts agree, however, that using brainstorming and decision making techniques designed to combat groupthink lead to higher quality results.

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Related Glossary Terms
1-2-All, Brainstorming

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