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Groupthink

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According to Rose (2011), groupthink is a thinking mode that people engage in when deeply drawn into group cohesion. Groupthink is modeled as certain antecedent conditions that result in a tendency or concurrence and lead to apparent consequences and minimal possibility of realizing any successful results. Groupthink loyalty requires every member to refrain from bringing in controversial issue. Ironically, it is controversial itself with very small consensus among researchers on its validity. Therefore, groupthink may have both positive and negative consequences when it comes to making decisions. In spite of the controversy, the groupthink has been broadly accepted and its phenomenon has been noticed in a broader range of group settings than it was originally thought.

There are three core antecedent aspects that trigger the tendencies of groupthink. If all three aspects are present, the group is highly suspected to groupthink. One of the aspects is group cohesion. Cohesion takes place if the group members have been jointly working for a long time and have previous achievements. Another aspect is structural faults within the group organization. Structural faults may result in group insulation, lack of impartial leadership, lack of group norms requiring methodical procedures and members’ homogeneity concerning social ideology and background. The last aspect of groupthink is a provocative situational factor. This occurs mostly when the group faces the deep stress from external threats. The threats are commonly based on the fact that there is a minimal hope for a better solution compared to what the group leader proposes. Provocative situational factor is as well induced by low self-esteem influenced by recent failures, moral dilemmas and excessive difficulties, lack of methodical process of group norms, lack of impartial leadership within the group, or even group members’ homogeneity.

Thus, groupthink is based on conditions such as group cohesion, faults of organizational structure and situational factors. These points might lead to poor decisions and fiascos.  Some of the famous historic examples of groupthink include the Pearl Harbor attack, the Bay of Pigs Invasion, the escalation of Korea as well as Vietnam escalation. Considering a case of the Bay of Pigs Invasion, its failure strengthened the Castro’s administrative position who continued to explicitly declare his intention to assume socialism and strengthen bonds with the Soviet Union that resulted in the 1962 Cuban missile crisis. The invasion was the real humiliation for the United States foreign policy and forced John Kennedy, the president of the United States at that time, to make orders for internal investigations. However, the president was informed about the plan of the invasion and gave his consent. Nevertheless, most of the countries in Latin America celebrated the evidence of the imperfection of the United States imperialism.

Other groupthink symptoms include illusion of invulnerability; alleviated failure fears and avoidance of failure fears during crisis; out-group stereotypes; use of undifferentiated negative opponents’ stereotypes; self-censorship; avoiding difference from what turns out to be group consensus; illusion of unanimity; expressing judgments in favor of the view of the majority (Mind Tools Ltd, 1996-2013); direct pressure on dissenters; pressure on individual who doubts the shared group illusion or has alternative arguments of its validity; self-appointed “mindguards” who protect an individual from contradictory information that might smash cohesiveness shared concerning morality and effectiveness of previous decisions.

In general, groupthink has the potential flaws that groups encounter such as conformity pressure that might result in poor decisions. However, there are certain features of groupthink and corrective measures that can be applied to prevent making inefficient decisions.

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