What is Groupthink What is its origin


Groupthink, a term coined by Janis (1972: "groupthink") when he analyzed the content of some of the greatest fiascos in American foreign policy (e.g. Bay of Pigs invasion) and combined them with successful political decisions (e.g. the reaction to the Cuban missile crisis). In his view, the fiascos are due to dysfunctional interaction patterns, which he calls Groupthink designated. He defines groupthink as an excessive pursuit of unanimity. It arises from people whose Striving for harmony in highly cohesive groups, the motivation to evaluate other alternatives accurately prevails. Groupthink describes a deficient group decision-making process, which with a high probability leads to an inadequate decision with sometimes catastrophic consequences. In addition to a high Group cohesion groupthink is caused by two other sets of factors. On the one hand, there are structural errors in the organization (e.g. homogeneity of the social and ideological background of the group members) and, on the other hand, a provocative situational context (e.g. high psychological stress). These factors cause in addition to a strong pursuit unanimity (according to Janis, the mediating mechanism that causes groupthink) eight symptoms, which are divided into three categories. The first category is called "overconfidence of the group" such as B. denotes an illusion of invulnerability. In the second category, symptoms such as collective rationalizations are summarized under the term "narrow-mindedness". The third category includes symptoms such as exerting pressure on deviants, which are subsumed under the term "pressure towards uniformity". These symptoms in turn cause a total of seven errors in the decision-making process, such as B. the incomplete generation and testing of alternative courses of action and the underestimation of the risks of the preferred alternative. Other descriptive studies such as B. the investigation of the Challenger accident, largely confirm the findings of Janis. In contrast, some of the postulated factors are questioned in experimental studies. In particular, the prominent role of group cohesion is seen as less important. Nevertheless, there is great consensus about the importance of Janis' analyzes and research is intensively looking for possible solutions. Some of such suggestions are the nominal group techniquewho have favourited the Delphi Method, introducing a Devil-Lawyers, the use of heterogeneous groups and the use of external experts.


Janis, I. I. (1972). Victims of groupthink. Boston: Houghton-Mifflin.