Describe a social situation where groupthink takes place.

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M.P. Ossa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Developed by Irvin Janis (1972), Groupthink is a phenomenological study about how people make decisions as a group.

There are certain traits that are commonly present within the group

  • high cohesiveness
  • exactness of group values, wants, mission, vision, and purpose
  • avoidance to opposition
  • refusal to get expert or impartial points of views
  • the group blindly follows one leader who imposes his or her views.

An example of Groupthink occurs in politics where the extreme right or the extreme left groups become more cohesive than ever to harshly criticize any opponent.

Similarly, fraternities, sororities, common interest groups, religious sects, and any other group of people who come together for a "common cause" are sources of Groupthink. Whenever "the cause" unites a big group of people there is a risk that the initiator of the group might want to take advantage of the motivation that solidifies the unity of the group. When Groupthink occurs, individuals are no longer thinking for themselves. Instead, they follow the ideas of the group, the rules of the group, and the tenets of the group. The leader infuses ideas that the group adopts and abides by without question. This is a dangerous situation because rational thinking is not considered. Instead, you are spoon-fed a construct, and you are enforced to internalized as fact.

The most effective way to prevent Groupthink is to break a big group into smaller groups, to encourage individuals to offer their criticism openly, to invite each member to question their posture within the organization, and basically to encourage individuality of thought as much as possible. Often, those involved in Groupthink are gullible people with weak personality traits. They are "betas" while the leader is the "alpha". For this reason, it is important to avoid Groupthink and make each individual member of the organization shine for their unique strengths.