Groupthink is the eventual endpoint of
imitating sheep conformity. Those guilty of groupthink give up all pretense of individual thought, preferring instead to identify with the imagined or stated needs of the group. Much like a cult, groupthink reinforces itself such that the group "mind" becomes convinced of the one true way and punishes, shuns, or ignores all who oppose it. Ideas incompatible with groupthink are often ignored, rather than fought. However, groupthink is not a cult, since a cult usually requires group members to subjugate themselves to a belief or to a leader or leaders.
Groupthink is oddly defined by c-words (not that one), specifically: cohesion, conformity, consensus, and compliance. To oversimplify, a process of seeking consensus can emphasize the need for group cohesion and require conformity and, therefore, compliance. That c-salad is not enough. In fact, cohesion, defined as warm/fuzzy feelings for the group is less a necessary group feature and more a kind of group goal - a groupthink carrot. Taken far enough, group members evaluate themselves not by their own values, but by their compliance with group expectations and their perceptions of the group's success. Those who believe they are under-valued by the group ...
Janis, the psychological god of groupthink, identified three major conditions that precede actual groupthink. First, the group itself has to have high cohesiveness in the beginning. This cohesion helps group members subjugate their individual aims/goals to the fetal groupmind. Second, the group needs to have some level of flaws that isolate the group and result in easy perceptions of self-reinforcing homogeneity. With such homogeneity, even a strong leader has no chance to derail the group since that leader has no meaningful ties to people with different norms/values. Finally, the time has to be right. When presented with a group challenge from inside or outside the group, group members respond to the threat to the group and not the specific threat to the group members.
Behavior to be summarized/altered
Once groupthink has taken hold, the actual symptoms emerge. Us fights Them and we are right and they are wrong. More specifically, the groupthink-afflicted view their group as invulnerable and more, unlike those 'others' and that anything conflicting with the group's views is just wrong. Any doubts within the group are suppressed or punished. Those in the group are pressured to act as a group member and not as a person who just happens to belong to the group. Others, outside the group, are reduced to Stereotypes.
- My Lai Massacre
- Abu Ghraib
All groups suffer the danger of groupthink. To avoid it, an effort should be directed towards being open to criticism while remembering that some people really are cranks. Criticism should be addressed thoroughly, rather than be ignored.
- What is Groupthink? Janis, I. L. (1982). Groupthink (2nd ed.). Boston: Houghton Mifflin. This may be a reference, I'm not sure. I didn't write it.
- Groupthink RationalWiki on Groupthink
Adapted from material removed from RationalWiki