MichaelEmeryArt

group think and the institutionalized mind

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Symptoms

To make groupthink testable, Irving Janis devised eight symptoms indicative of groupthink.

Type I: Overestimations of the group — its power and morality

  • Illusions of invulnerability creating excessive optimism and encouraging risk taking.
  • Unquestioned belief in the morality of the group, causing members to ignore the consequences of their actions.

Type II: Closed-mindedness

  • Rationalizing warnings that might challenge the group's assumptions.
  • Stereotyping those who are opposed to the group as weak, evil, biased, spiteful, impotent, or stupid.

Type III: Pressures toward uniformity

  • Self-censorship of ideas that deviate from the apparent group consensus.
  • Illusions of unanimity among group members, silence is viewed as agreement.
  • Direct pressure to conform placed on any member who questions the group, couched in terms of "disloyalty"
  • Mindguards— self-appointed members who shield the group from dissenting information.

Causes

Janis prescribed three antecedent conditions to groupthink.[7]:9

1. High group cohesiveness

Janis emphasized that cohesiveness is the main factor that leads to groupthink. Groups that lack cohesiveness can of course make bad decisions, but they do not experience groupthink. In a cohesive group, members avoid speaking out against decisions, avoid arguing with others, and work towards maintaining friendly relationships in the group. If cohesiveness gets to such a high level where there are no longer disagreements between members, then the group is ripe for groupthink.

  • deindividuation: group cohesiveness becomes more important than individual freedom of expression

2. Structural faults

Cohesion is necessary for groupthink, but it becomes even more likely when the group is organized in ways that disrupt the communication of information, and when the group engages in carelessness while making decisions.

  • insulation of the group: can promote the development of unique, inaccurate perspectives on issues the group is dealing with, and can then lead to faulty solutions to the problem.
  • lack of impartial leadership: leaders can completely control the group discussion, by planning what will be discussed, only allowing certain questions to be asked, and asking for opinions of only certain people in the group. Closed style leadership is when leaders announce their opinions on the issue before the group discusses the issue together. Open style leadership is when leaders withheld their opinion until a later time in the discussion. Groups with a closed style leader have been found to be more biased in their judgments, especially when members had a high degree for certainty. Thus, it is best for leaders to take an open style leadership approach, so that the group can discuss the issue without any pressures from the leader.
  • lack of norms requiring methodological procedures
  • homogeneity of members' social backgrounds and ideology

3. Situational context:

  • highly stressful external threats: High stake decisions can create tension and anxiety, and group members then may cope with the decisional stress in irrational ways. Group members may rationalize their decision by exaggerating the positive consequences and minimizing the possible negative consequences. In attempt to minimize the stressful situation, the group will make a quick decision with little to no discussion or disagreement about the decision. Studies have shown that groups under high stress are more likely to make errors, lose focus of the ultimate goal, and use procedures that members know have not been effective in the past.
  • recent failures: can lead to low self-esteem, resulting in agreement with the group in fear of being seen as wrong.
  • excessive difficulties on the decision-making task
  • time pressures: group members are more concerned with efficiency and quick results, instead of quality and accuracy. Additionally, time pressures can lead to group members overlooking important information regarding the issue of discussion.
  • moral dilemmas

Although it is possible for a situation to contain all three of these factors, all three are not always present even when groupthink is occurring. Janis considered a high degree of cohesiveness to be the most important antecedent to producing groupthink and always present when groupthink was occurring; however, he believed high cohesiveness would not always produce groupthink. A very cohesive group abides to all group norms; whether or not groupthink arises is dependent on what the group norms are. If the group encourages individual dissent and alternative strategies to problem solving, it is likely that groupthink will be avoided even in a highly cohesive group. This means that high cohesion will lead to groupthink only if one or both of the other antecedents is present, situational context being slightly more likely than structural faults to produce groupthink.[16]