Examining Groupthink in Texts

Groupthink: Being a Part of the In-Group

Assignment Description

Using the following information about Groupthink, create a Concept Map demonstrating what Groupthink is and what different aspects of society it might affect or has affected . Include, for example,   political life, religious life, a major corporation, the media, historical events.

Your map should include how a person or leader might avoid groupthink.

Your map should include information from  texts you have read, current events you know about, and experiences you have had with groupthink.

Then, using your Concept Map, each person in your group should write one paragraph about Groupthink as it is detailed by the Map.  Before your group begins to write their individual paragraphs,  the group needs to organize their thoughts and divide the information logically.


Groupthink occurs when a homogenous highly cohesive group is so concerned with maintaining unanimity that they fail to evaluate all their alternatives and options. Groupthink members see themselves as part of an in-group working against an outgroup opposed to their goals. You can tell if a group suffers from groupthink if it:

  1. overestimates its invulnerability or high moral stance,

  2. collectively rationalizes the decisions it makes,

  3. demonizes or stereotypes outgroups and their leaders,

  4. has a culture of uniformity where individuals censor themselves and others so that the facade of group unanimity is maintained, and

  5. contains members who take it upon themselves to protect the group leader by keeping information, theirs or other group members', from the leader.

Groups engaged in groupthink tend to make faulty decisions when compared to the decisions that could have been reached using a fair, open, and rational decision-making process. Groupthinking groups tend to:

  1. fail to adequately determine their objectives and alternatives,

  2. fail to adequately assess the risks associated with the group's decision,

  3. fail to cycle through discarded alternatives to reexamine their worth after a majority of the group discarded the alternative,

  4. not seek expert advice,

  5. select and use only information that supports their position and conclusions, and

  6. does not make contingency plans in case their decision and resulting actions fail.

Group leaders can prevent groupthink by:

  1. encouraging members to raise objections and concerns;

  2. refraining from stating their preferences at the onset of the group's activities;

  3. allowing the group to be independently evaluated by a separate group with a different leader;

  4. splitting the group into sub-groups, each with different chairpersons, to separately generate alternatives, then bringing the sub-groups together to hammer out differences;

  5. allowing group members to get feedback on the group's decisions from their own constitutents;

  6. seeking input from experts outside the group;

  7. assigning one or more members to play the role of the devil's advocate;

  8. requiring the group to develop multiple scenarios of events upon which they are acting, and contingencies for each scenario; and

  9. calling a meeting after a decision consensus is reached in which all group members are expected to critically review the decision before final approval is given.

Janis, I. (1972). Victims of Groupthink. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin. Janis, I. (1982).

Groupthink: Psychological studies of policy decisions and fiascoes. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin.

Texts and Ideas to Explore

"The Crowd at the Ball Game"   William Carlos Williams

"Examining the Mob Mentality" Tamara Avent

"Why cliques form at some high schools and not others" The Atlantic, Derek Thompson

The Crucible   Arthur Miller

Islamophobia (pre and post September 11, 2001)

Civil Rights, Before Rosa Parks there was Claudette Colvin, NPR 

The Story of Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott Revisited, from Should We Burn Babar? Herbert Kohl, 1995.

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