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:
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?