Group think. Why it must be avoided.

What is Group think? It is mode of thinking that people adopt when they are deeply involved in a cohesive in-group, when members’ strivings for unanimity override their motivation to realistically appraise alternative courses of action. In layman terms it is a mindset you adopt when interacting within a highly cohesive group. For the sake of the group’s unity you would forsake your own views and misgivings, so as to ensure that you are not disrupting the Group’s social climate.

 

It is my personal opinion that group think is detrimental to a group and should be avoided at all costs.

 

When a group suffers from group think, problem solving is disrupted. Members ignore alternatives, fail to test their ideas against reality and refuse to make contingency plans. This of course can lead to disaster; a few well known examples of group think are the Bay of Pigs invasion, the titanic and Pearl Harbor. In each of these cases the groups in charge suffered from group think and failed to recognize the threats in reality, this lead to disastrous consequences. In the case of the titanic everyone believed the ship to be “unsinkable” therefore lifeboats were neglected. Thus when the ship hit the iceberg, there were not enough lifeboats for all the passengers within the ship. Had the group in charged of building the titanic account for the sinking and placed more lifeboats on the ship, causalities would not have been so great.

 

So how does one diagnose the fact that they are suffering from group think? There are a eight symptoms you can use to detect if your group is afflicted with group think. They are: Illusion of invulnerability, Belief in inherent morality of the group, Collective Rationalization, Stereotypes of Out-Groups, Self-Censorship, Illusion of Unanimity, Direct pressure on dissenters and Self-appointed mind guards. Following this, I will elaborate on a few of the symptoms of group think to show the negative effects of group think in a group.

 

The first symptom is illusion of invulnerability. Groups afflicted with group think will believe themselves to be the best, which in turn causes them to lose touch with reality. This will lead to excessive optimism and risk-taking.

The second symptom is, believing in the group’s own morality. Group members feel that their actions and beliefs are superior to that of people out of their group. This unquestioning belief will result in members ignoring the consequences of their actions.

 

The third symptom is the sharing of stereotypes. Group members take on a “us versus them” mentality, stereotyping anyone who opposes the group as stupid, wrong, weak, evil, biased, spiteful, impotent. The sharing of stereotypes fosters a strong bond between the group members as they come to realized how similar their perceptions are, even if those perceptions are wrong.

 

The last symptom I will touch on is collective rationalizations which I personally consider to be the most dangerous symptom. This symptom allows the group to construct rationalizations that would discount warnings or negative feedback. Basically it is group of people lying to themselves to justify their actions. A good example would be the terrorist group Al-Qaeda who rationalizes their terrorist acts through the concept of Jihad; this in turn absolves them of the moral consequence of killing anyone who isn’t a Muslim.

For more on symptoms of group think you may consider reading http://www.psysr.org/about/pubs_resources/groupthink%20overview.htm

 

At the start of this post I referenced the titanic issue, take note that group think does not simply occur in huge historical moments. It can happen in our everyday lives. Take this article for instance:

 

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/06/westboro-baptist-church-steve-jobs-funeral_n_998032.html

 

As you can see the Westboro Baptist Church is an example of Group think. The church lead by Margie J. Phelps display the symptoms of group think. They rationalize their acts as a group by claiming it is God’s will. They stereotype people who do not conform to their views as sinners. In fact if you were in their church and wish to voice your own opinion which differs from the church’s view, you expect to be censured by your peers. The church believes in their invulnerability, that their way of thinking is the best when in reality they are consider by much of the population to be a hate group.

 

However, all is not lost groups can avoid group think through various methods like appointing a devil’s advocate within the group, allowing members to challenge ideas and present objections and avoid expressing opinions about the outcome when making decisions.

 

As I conclude my post I would like to reiterate that Group think is something all groups should strive to avoid. Before I leave I would like to post a question to the readers, upon reflection have you ever been involved in Group think and if so what was it?

 

 

 

11 thoughts on “Group think. Why it must be avoided.

  1. jfs says:

    Yes! in a family discussion, to prevent discontentment, infighting, quarrel among sibings, I would just go with the flow. Agreeing without stating my point of views, agreeing just to ensure a smoooth discussion within the family.

    • jasx316 says:

      Thank you for the comment. However i must say that you suffer from group think and that is something we must strive to avoid even if the group is family. If you have a different point of view you must not be afraid to speak your mind. It takes courage to do so and while i may preach you will have to find the courage within yourself.

      Just consider the many negative results of group think. Especially when it comes to a major decision one should always make sure they are not suffering from groupthink.

      • Jennifer Seah says:

        thank you for your comment, yes I have suffer from group think, i will try to avoid that in the future. must build up courage. didn’t realised the mistake i was making, I must encourage myself to speak up during family discussion.

  2. poolic1 says:

    Going with the flow like Group think will stifle creativity, innovation and sense of venturing out of the box theory. Progress or real solution to resolve major issue will be bypass as
    everyone will just agree and take the easiest way out then to explore genuine alternative
    critical for long term scenario.

    • jasx316 says:

      Yes that is what i am talking about. Nothing good can come out of group think and we should most definitely avoid it. Jfs should take note of your comment. The difference between group think and group synergy is a very fine line and we should all take heed not to cross it.

      • Jennifer Seah says:

        Yes, thank you so much I will strive to speak up more during family discussion, I will make sure that my points are stated clearly during future family discussion. I will not try to take the easy way out.

  3. Winters says:

    I like your article on groupthink.

    Too often groups suffer from groupthink and yet do not know it. I for one did not even know about the concept of groupthink until i read your post. This in turn got me thinking about all my past group projects i have done before.

    To my horror i have realized that i have participated in group think before and when i had gone against the group’s ideals there were protests and in the end i kept quiet and went with the flow.

    I time i hope that i will have the courage to rise against groupthink and stand firm on my own opinion.

  4. Jeraldine says:

    I think every single one is vulnerable to Group think and is unconsciously part of it. In the study of urban geography, the problem of urban sustainability is constantly hindered by the use of selective incorporation of ecological goals in urban governance. Due to Group think, people become ingrained with thoughts that there are only certain ways to solve the urban sustainability problems thus they inevitably and habitually employ only selective solutions to the urban environment and neglect the consideration of alternative solutions to urban sustainability issues. This is a classic example of Group think at work. I, myself is vulnerable to this dominant environmental discourse. For example, i find that the ideas of recycling, building green buildings as the only ingrained solutions to the prevailing environmental issues. But i guess, there is definitely more alternative solutions we can probably employ.

    • jasx316 says:

      Beware the group think, might i suggest that when you hold discussion seek the use of a devil’s advocate. A devil’s advocate means someone in your group disagrees with the general opinion simply for the sake of disagreeing and thus provoking opinions.

  5. Transformer1337 says:

    I support your article on group think, as an american i was extremely frustrated when Bush declared war on Iraq without proper proof. In that i recognized that Bush’s administration suffered from groupthink. Firstly they did not consider all alternatives and accorded them with full merit.

    Bush & Co. also fails in reexamining their decision in light of new information that point to significant risks and problems. So, when Bush & Co. were advised of the potential quagmire that they could find themselves in Iraq due to the various sects/ethnicities in Iraq, they were not willing to reexamine the policy to go to war.

    As seen groupthink is problematic and i would suggest that that policymakers should collaborate with behavioral scientists and give top priority to preventing groupthink and its attendant fiascos.

  6. jesusmyeverything says:

    I am currently teaching intro to Psychology at a college and will be discussing Groupthink during the next lecture. As a Christian, I am wrestling with the idea of unity versus groupthink. God desires for us to live in unity and I have seen how some people will compromise ‘truth’ in an attempt to keep unity. This is quite destructive. I understand why people do this – it is time consuming and a difficult task to address everyone’s opinions, and to really seek ‘truth’. Many do not want to take the time to do this and just give in to ‘keep the peace’. Yet, to ignore other opinions that could be ‘true’ and the potential problems that individuals foresee, true unity is not accomplished, only the negative effects of groupthink. Thank you for your post.

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