Eight “Symptoms” of Groupthink

1) Illusion of Invulnerability
2) Belief in Inherent Morality of Group
3) Collective Rationalization
4) Stereotypes of Out-Groups
5) Self-Censorship
6) Illusion of Unanimity
7) Direct Pressure on Dissenters
8) Self-Appointed Mind-Guards


GroupThink – Defined

“When, the norm for consensus (solidarity) over-rides realistic appraisal of information and appropriate courses of action to achieve the group’s ‘stated goals’.”

Making decisions in a group is complicated by intellectual, social and psychological factors. Groups seek, analyze and use information differently than individuals.

Groupthink is a type of thinking/behavior that people become susceptible to when unanimity (solidarity) becomes more important (unconsciously) than the group’s motivation to review and deal with information and action.

Groupthink is a defective decision-making process that can arise when members of any group favor “consensus seeking” (as in solidarity) over information processing. Groupthink is more likely to arise when the group is highly cohesive and simliar to the exclusion of other points of view within the group. This is not to suggest that Groupthink is a product of only “fanatical” groups as the definition might imply. On the contrary, many groups of well-meaning responsible individuals can find themselves simply making bad or limited decisions based on “harmony of the group” verses the information at hand. Groupthink occurs in varying degrees and is usually unknown to the members effected by it. The more congenial the members of a policy making in-group, the greater the danger that independent critical thinking will be replaced by Groupthink, which is likely to result in irrational and dehumanizing actions directed against out-groups or individuals.

The classic example of Groupthink used by many group studies is the Bay of Pigs where the inner-core group surrounding JFK could and would not “see” the readily available information clearly indicating that the invation would fail miserably. How was it possible that such intelligent top level advisors including the President could make such a disasterous decision? Groupthink. Solidarity became the driving force over information. JFK wanted to overthrow Castro and his advisors were unconsciously motivated by a need to support the President above all else to the exclusion of understanding the correct, yet contrary, data at hand or listening to the few advisors that tried point out the disaster that lie ahead. As is characteristis of Groupthink, the “dissentors” either gave in to intense internal pressures to support the President or were pushed out of the group. This is all well documented and a stunning example of how a group can state a goal and then not act properly to achieve it. With Groupthink, the stated goals become confused or replaced with an underlying unconscious goal of unanimity (solidarity). Extreme examples of Groupthink range from cults to mass suicides to genocide.