Groupthink is a psychological phenomenon that occurs within a group of people, in which the desire for harmony or conformity in the group results in an irrational or disfunctional decision-making outcome. Group members try to minimize conflict and reach a consensus decision without critical evaluation of alternative viewpoints, by actively suppressing dissenting viewpoints, and by isolating themselves from outside influences.

Loyalty to the group requires individuals to avoid raising controversial issues or alternative solutions, and there is loss of individual creativity, uniqueness and independent thinking. The dysfunctional group dynamics of the “ingroup” produces an “illusion of invulnerability” (an inflated certainty that the right decision has been made). Thus the “ingroup” significantly overrates its own abilities in decision-making, and significantly underrates the abilities of its opponents (the “outgroup”). Furthermore groupthink can produce dehumanizing actions against the “outgroup”.

Antecedent factors such as group cohesiveness, faulty group structure, and situational context (e.g., community panic) play into the likelihood of whether or not groupthink will impact the decision-making process.

Groupthink is a construct of social psychology, but has an extensive reach and influences literature in the fields of communication studies,political sciencemanagement, and organizational theory,[1] as well as important aspects of deviant religious cult behaviour.[2][3]

Groupthink is sometimes stated to occur (more broadly) within natural groups within the community, for example to explain the lifelong different mindsets of conservatives versus liberals.,[4] or the solitary nature of introverts[5] However, this conformity of viewpoints within a group does not mainly involve deliberate group decision-making, and thus is perhaps better explained by the collective confirmation bias of the individual members of the group.

Most of the initial research on groupthink was conducted by Irving Janis, a research psychologist from Yale University.[6] Janis published an influential book in 1972, which was revised in 1982.[7][8] Later studies have evaluated and reformulated his groupthink model.[9][10]

Ubiquity model[edit]

Researcher Robert Baron (2005) contends that the connection between certain antecedents Janis believed necessary have not been demonstrated by the current collective body of research on groupthink. He believes that Janis’ antecedents for groupthink is incorrect and argues that not only are they “not necessary to provoke the symptoms of groupthink, but that they often will not even amplify such symptoms.”[31] As an alternative to Janis’ model, Baron proposes a ubiquity model of groupthink. This model provides a revised set of antecedents for groupthink, including social identification, salient norms, and low self-efficacy.

General group problem-solving (GGPS) model[edit]

Aldag and Fuller (1993) argue that the groupthink concept was based on a “small and relatively restricted sample” that became too broadly generalized.[17] Furthermore, the concept is too rigidly staged and deterministic. Empirical support for it has also not been consistent. The authors compare groupthink model to findings presented by Maslow andPiaget; they argue that, in each case, the model incites great interest and further research that, subsequently, invalidate the original concept. Aldag and Fuller thus suggest a new model called the general group problem-solving (GGPS) model, which integrates new findings from groupthink literature and alters aspects of groupthink itself.[17]:534 The primary difference between the GGPS model and groupthink is that the former is more value neutral and more political.[17]:544


Other scholars attempt to assess the merit of groupthink by reexamining case studies that Janis had originally used to buttress his model. Roderick Kramer (1998) believed that, because scholars today have a more sophisticated set of ideas about the general decision-making process and because new and relevant information about the fiascos have surfaced over the years, a reexamination of the case studies is appropriate and necessary.[32] He argues that new evidence does not support Janis’ view that groupthink was largely responsible for President Kennedy’s and President Johnson’s decisions in the Bay of Pigs Invasion and U.S. escalated military involvement in the Vietnam War, respectively. Both presidents sought the advice of experts outside of their political groups more than Janis suggested.[32]:241 Kramer also argues that the presidents were the final decision-makers of the fiascos; while determining which course of action to take, they relied more heavily on their own construals of the situations than on any group-consenting decision presented to them.[32]:241 Kramer concludes that Janis’ explanation of the two military issues is flawed and that groupthink has much less influence on group decision-making than is popularly believed to be.

The General Group Problem Solving (GGPS) Model is a problem solving methodology, in which a group of individuals will define the required outcome, identify the gap in relation to this and generate ideas by brainstorming. The end result is the definition of actions to be undertaken by the team to achieve the desired results.

Beyond groupthink[edit]

Fuller and Aldag [2] argue that group decision making models have been operating under too narrow of a focus due to the overemphasis of the groupthink phenomenon.[3][4][5] In addition, according to them, group decision making has often been framed in relative isolation, ignoring context and real-world circumstances, which is a likely consequence of testing group decision-making in laboratory studies. They claim that the groupthink model is overly deterministic and an unrealistically restrictive depiction of the group problem-solving process.” [6] To address these problems, they propose a new model [7] that incorporates elements of group decision making processes from a broader, more comprehensive perspective, offering a more general and generalizable framework for future research. The model includes elements of Janis`original model (1977),[8] but only those that have been consistently supported by the literature. To understand the differences between the two models, we briefly summatize both Janis` model and the GGPS-model first.

The original groupthink model

As Janis defines, groupthink is “The mode of thinking that persons engage in when concurrence-seeking becomes so dominant in a cohesive in-group that it tends to over-ride realistic appraisals of alternative courses of action.” [9] In a subsequent article, he elaborates on this by saying: “I use the term “groupthink” as a quick and easy way to refer to a mode of thinking that people engage in when they are deeply involved in a cohesive in-group, when the members’ strivings for unanimity override their motivation to realistically appraise alternative courses of action. Groupthink refers to a deterioration of mental efficiency, reality testing, and moral judgment that results from in-group pressures.” [10] All this suggests that the original groupthink model was proposed for a rather specific situation, and Janis states that we can only call a phenomenon groupthink if all the warning signs are present (see groupthink symptoms).

Groupthink schematic[11]

The GGPS-model

The GGPS-model (developed by Ramon Aldag and Sally Fuller) broadens the perspectives, incorporating elements of the original groupthink model, in a fashion that creates a more widely applicable schematic. Two key differences should be noted in comparison to Janis’ model: 1. The GGPS model presents elements of the group problem-solving process in a value-neutral manner. The groupthink model is restrictive and deterministic in the sense that numerous elements are phrased to suggest that certain aspects of the process are pathological, such as ”too few alternatives”. The GGPS model suggests no such assumptions in its terms, and recasts this term as ”number of alternatives”. 2. Fuller and Aldag argue that a comprehensive model has to reflect the political environment of the real world and real workplaces. Thus, the GGPS model considers a larger set of antecedents than the groupthink model, among these are group type, leader power, organizational political norms etc.

Ggps schematic[12]

Elements of the GGPS model


Antecedents could be defined as „a preceding occurrence, cause, or event”,[13] or a predecessor, a stimulus for later events.[14] Three sets of antecedents are proposed by GGPS.

Decision characteristics: elements belonging here are the importance of the decision, time pressure, structure, procedural requirements, and task characteristics.

Examples: whether the task is simple or complex will make a substantial difference in required member input, as well as in whether a directive leader is necessary. Group interaction is also altered if, given a task, a single correct answer exists and if it becomes obvious to any of the members, since subsequent group interaction will likely be reduced.

Group structure: elements are cohesiveness, members’ homogeneity, insulation of the group, leader impartiality, leader power, history of the group, probability of future interaction, stage of group development and type of group.

Examples: whether group members anticipate to work together again in the future can have a major impact on to what degree can political motives influence the process. If it’s unlikely that the group will come together again, political influence can be lessened. Stage of group development is important because members of mature group with a long history may feel more comfortable challenging each other’s ideas, thus cohesiveness results in quality decision making and positive outcomes.

Decision making context: elements are organizational political norms, member political motives, prior discussion of issue, prior goal attainment, goal definition, and degree of stress from external threat.

Examples: whether group members identified and pursue a unitary goal or they have multiple, discrepant goals influences the rationality of the decision-making process. Members’ political motives also make a tremendous difference, if individuals have a vested interest in certain outcomes, or there are one or more coalitions present, behavior in the decision making process could be altered.

Emergent group characteristics

The model differentiates two categories of emergent group characteristics: group perceptions and processes.

Perceptions: include members’ perceptions of the group’s vulnerability, the inherent morality of the group, member unanimity, and views of opposing groups.

Processes: include the group’s response to negative feedback, treatment of dissenters, self-censorship, and use of mindguards.

Decision process characteristics

Decision process characteristics are grouped in terms of the first three stages of group problem-solving processes: problem identification, alternative generation and evaluation and choice. Implementation and control stages are not included because they follow the actual decision, but some variables preparing for those stages are indeed included (e.g. development of contingency plans and gathering of control-related information).

Problem identification: elements of this stage are predecisional information search, survey of objectives, and explicit problem definition.

Example: if members of the group fail to explicitly or correctly define the problem, there is a chance that they will solve the wrong problem.

Alternative generation: elements are number of alternatives and quality of alternatives.

Example: in generating alternatives, it’s important to differentiate quality and quantity of alternative ideas generated. Some group processes, such as brainstorming, are directed towards generating large numbers of ideas, with the assumption that it will lead to a superior alternative. Defective processes, on the other hand, might lead to large numbers of low quality ideas.

Evaluation and choice: elements are information processing quality, the source of the initial selection of a preferred alternative, emergence of preferred alternative, group decision rule, timing of convergence, reexamination of preferred and rejected alternatives, source of the final solution, development of contingency plans, and gathering of control-related information.

Example: whether the group decides based on a majority rule or a consensus has to be reached, makes a great difference in the process. If a consensus is to be reached, dissent could be discouraged, because dissenters could elongate and jeopardize the process. With a majority rule, dissent is more acceptable.


The GGPS model includes an array of decision, political and affective outcomes.

Decision outcomes: include acceptance of the decision by those affected by it and/or those who have to implement it, adherence to the decision, implementation success, and decision quality.

Example: if the leader of the group is not satisfied with the decision, he/she might unilaterally reverse it.

Political outcomes: include future motivation of the leader, future motivation of the group and future use of the group.

Example: if the outcome did not satisfy the political agenda of the leader, he/she might use the group less or not at all in the future.

Affective outcomes: include satisfaction with the leader, satisfaction with the group process and satisfaction with the decision.

Example: whether members are content with the fairness of the group process, whether trust was developed and preserved, or whether commitment to the decision is strong will greatly influence the group’s future functioning.

About arnulfo

veterano del ciberespacio
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