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What is Group Thinking?

Updated on February 6, 2017

Don't Argue With the Leader!

Group Thinkers
Group Thinkers | Source

This election was very interesting because the side that lost was in total disbelieve. Why is that? Could it be because of Group Thinking? What is Group thinking. By definition Groupthink, a term coined by social psychologist Irving Janis (1972), occurs when a group:

  • "Makes faulty decisions because group pressures lead to a deterioration of “mental efficiency, reality testing, and moral judgment
  • Groups affected by group think ignore alternatives and tend to take irrational actions that dehumanize other groups.
  • A group is especially vulnerable to group think when its members are similar in background, when the group is insulated from outside opinions, and when there are no clear rules for decision making."

Who is Subject to Group Thinking?

Group Thinking is not subject to anyone political party or group. It can happen to any group that is subject to the factors listed above. I belong to a toastmasters club and we planned to recruit new members by having an open house at the local library. We created a committee and made assignments for the tasks at hand. We planned for a meet and greet person to sign in prospective members. We had an upstairs usher who would guide the parties downstairs to where the event was to take place. We had food and drinks. We even planned to present a sample meeting. We had enough chairs and tables for about 40 people.

People started arriving when the library opened, but they had one thing on their mind: use the library resources. They didn't want to go to a meeting. Needless to say we did not get one person to come downstairs to the event. No one in our group ever thought about going to the library weeks before the event and seeing how people behave. This is a symptom of group thinking. We were all so excited about putting on the event, we lost the perspective.

An Example of Group Thinking.

Invading Iraq was a result of group think. The Neocons believed that as a super power we had the right to preemptively invade a country that could be a threat to us and its neighbors and take out its leader. Colin Powell at the UN convinced the members that Iraq had Weapons of Mass Destruction, by showing a power point drawing of where the weapons were. It was not even an intelligence photo. It was a line drawing. They bought it because, they were afraid to go against the group. There was also much more invalid supporting evidence that was brought in under duress of not being part of the group.

Group Think Today

While I was watching the result of our election, I switched between liberal leaning channels and Fox News. It was interesting to see how Karl Rove was doing his mathematical genius routine to indicate that Romney could still win even after the host of the show went to the decision desk and they told her it was over. It was also interesting to me to see how millions of dollars where thrown into super PACs. I was convinced that all that money would be the deciding factor.

I see on Face Book that people are still trying to justify Romney's loss by echoing what they hear and read on right wing media. Why, it's because of group thinking. Without outside information and critical thinking the group will place themselves in a position of self-righteousness and self-justification. Then when things don't turn-out the way they expected they will become disillusioned and in a state of disbelief and try to blame others outside the group for their failings.

Overcoming Group Think

So how do we overcome group thinking? It is difficult in this day and age, because information is given to us so freely. If we have a position on an issue, the media and internet make it very easy to find and use evidence to support our cause. With political issues, I find that most people including myself respond emotionally first and then try to rationalize it to argue with the other side.

Think Outside the Box

When it comes to politics, we are either in one group or another. We need to have information from outside our group, so that we can judge what the alternatives are. Political parties are like clubs. I have one relative that told me: "My parents belong to (party shall remain unnamed), therefore I also belong to that party and I always will." We need to use critical thinking and if necessary go against what the group is advocating, at the risk of being ostracized by the group. We need to think outside the box and present our views from outside that box. This is why organizations use focus groups because they can get input from sources other than within their own organization.

Conclusion

I believe Romney and the right wing lost, because they did not present a message that fits the needs of most of the American people, but that it did fit the needs of less of the American people and their political party. This can be directly attributed to Group Think. Think about this, if a religion does not fit the needs of the people, it cannot be successful. Politics in this sense is like a religion when it comes to winning elections.

Therefore let's think outside the box and get out of the group think mode. As you can see from the example I gave about invading Iraq, group think can be quite dangerous. We are still suffering from the effects of that group thinking.

As I said in the beginning, group think is not limited to just political organizations or groups, it can occur in any group where they are subject to the factors outlined in this article.

Here is a power point presentation from psysr that will clarify group think even further.

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    • profile image

      SassySue1963 4 years ago

      You're entire piece here is an example of Group Thinking, just from the other side. I've never seen so much refusal to see any reality other than that of the liberal media as here on Hub Pages form ones such as yourself. You believe every smear and outright lie put out there about the "other side" and put out one - sided Hubs such as this, while refusing to see the faults of your own position.

      I can actually agree with your initial premise, to a point. However, if I was interested in such unbalanced and completely one-sided reporting, I could just turn on the television.

      Which is the entire problem. Once upon a time, we had true journalists. Now, we just have mouthpieces for one side or the other. Make no mistake though. Your side is no better than the other.

    • cynthtggt profile image

      cynthtggt 4 years ago from New York, NY

      I agree with SassySue. If there ever was a "group think" it's the left. Their whole philosophy is "collective," right down to the socialistic precepts that form the backdrop of all its policies. Right now, particularly in NYC, anyone who is not liberal doesn't get a job! Talk about "groupthink"! The conservatives lost because of the media brainwashing our youth - and The New York Times even published an article about the astronomical lack of education in our country's young. People today live to be "accepted," not "different." Repubs did not lose because of a bad campaign; it is simply that capitalism takes an education to understand and socialism does not. Winston Churchill once said about America, "Americans can always be counted on to do the right thing...after they have exhausted all other possibilities," and I dare add to that that if we live through the next four years and avoid a total take-over of our country, the Dems will perhaps never see political power for a long time.

    • Davesworld profile image

      Davesworld 4 years ago from Cottage Grove, MN 55016

      Another good example of group-think is the silly notion that taxing the rich will solve the nation's financial roles. But grab some data from the irs.gov and spend about half an hour with a spreadsheet and you'll quickly find that raising income tax won't cut it - nevertheless the lemmings bought this load of crap hook, line and sinker.

      Another excellent example of group-think is the unsupportable notion that it the Republicans in the House that are the primary cause of gridlock in Washington. To get to this you must ignore that fact that the Democrat Senate has not passed a budget - a Constitutional responsibility - for at least two years if not longer. You must ignore the fact that Harry Reid refuses to even consider almost every piece of legislation coming out of the House - he doesn't even have the cojones to vote it down, just won't talk about it at all. Still the lemmings blame the Republicans.

      IT works BOTH ways, you know.

    • profile image

      An AYM 4 years ago

      I agree with the notion that any group which considers itself a group along the political spectrum is going to be a victim of group-think since they're a group. I think we can all agree that the entire political process is one giant ridiculous mockery of intelligent decision making so we can all dress in red and blue shirts and have fun throwing mud at everyone for a little while. Kind of like one nation-wide waterballoon fight.

      But hey, I am biased and will continue to be. What I have seen from the stereotypical "Republican" position's dedication to downplaying the importance of the environment has led me to view it as a perspective too ignorant for validity.

    • peoplepower73 profile image
      Author

      Mike Russo 4 years ago from Placentia California

      You guys are absolutely right. Group think does work both ways and is not just limited to politics. It is any group that isolates itself from from input from outside the group. I was presenting this to show you what group think is and giving an example of it with the Bush Administration. Also, to me it shows why the republicans are in such disbelief right now about Romney losing the election. I watched the entire Hannity show last night and i could see it in action. Everything is for the best interest of the party, not the people. Also they used this phrase many times: "We will not give up our conservative principals to comprise anything." Because of group think, I don't think they are capable of change. It's not in the conservative DNA.

    • peoplepower73 profile image
      Author

      Mike Russo 4 years ago from Placentia California

      An AYM : I agree with you. Denial of global warming is a classic example of group thinking. They call it by other names and when we do suffer the consequences of it, they deny even further. Thanks for dropping by.

    • Drhu profile image

      Dr. John Smith 4 years ago from The Cosmos

      I see you had a minor in psychology.

    • peoplepower73 profile image
      Author

      Mike Russo 4 years ago from Placentia California

      Drhu: Not really, I took a course in group dynamics while I was working at Toshiba. Group Think was just one of the topics covered. It was very interesting to say the least. You have given me idea. Maybe I'll write a hub on my experience in that class. Thanks for dropping by.

    • cynthtggt profile image

      cynthtggt 4 years ago from New York, NY

      Peoplepower, your name reveals the opposite of your intentions. Individualism was the by-product of capitalistic precepts since the dawn of this country. Secularism seeks to remove its tenets. It is the New Left leaders that have hoodwinked our youth and its historically uneducated "group think" followers into believing that "collectivism," a New World Order and secularism is the answer. "Collectivism" or "Group Think" (a term used by even the New York Times) comes from a need to be "ACCEPTED" and the rise of the New Left comes from a desire to usurp "religious" ideals that have formed individualism and the success of capitalism. Here is a quote from history written at a time when our country was not divided and which observation was also made by the French and English as well. It comes from the book "The Road to Serfdom":

      “That in Germany it was the Jew who became the enemy until his place was taken by the “plutocracies” was no less result of the anti-capitalist resentment on which the whole movement was based than the selection of the kulak in Russia. In Germany and Austria the Jew had come to be regarded as the representative of capitalism because a traditional dislike of large classes of the population for commercial pursuits had left these more readily accessible to a group that was practically excluded from the more highly esteemed occupations. It is the old story of the alien race’s being admitted only to the less respected trades and then being hated still more for practicing them. The fact that German anti-Semitism and anti-capitalism spring from the same root is of great importance for the understanding of what has happened there, but this is rarely grasped by foreign observers.”

      In the U.S. it is the hate of Christianity and the Republicans want to preserve capitalism as much as possible so we do not wind up killing ourselves, which the New Left ideas are leading us in (that same direction of the past). Another curious observation can be made by the title of chapters in the same book (which we can observe are EXACTLY the same philosophies the New Left is promulgating today) :

      1. The Abandoned Road

      2. The Great Utopia

      3. Individualism and Collectivism

      4. The “Inevitability” of Planning

      5. Planning and Democracy

      6. Planning and the Rule of Law

      7. Economic Control and Totalitarianism

      8. Who, Whom?

      9. Security and Freedom

      10. Why the Worst Get on Top

      11. The End of Truth

      12. The Socialist Roots of Naziism

      13. The Totalitarians in Our Midst

      14. Material Conditions and Ideal Ends

      15. The Prospects of International Order

      16. Conclusion

      I also wish to make mention of one comment here about the environment. First of all, we are in a "polarity shift" that was reported only once in The New York Times. That means that while it is getting warmer in the North pole, the South pole is actually increasing with ice masses. Second, we need a strong economy if we are to make any inroads into environmental causes, and finally, we need a strong economy to keep us safe. What good does it do to weaken us so much, increase our tendency to war, and ruin our environment further with a nuclear holocaust?

    • Drhu profile image

      Dr. John Smith 4 years ago from The Cosmos

      Does not your hub wish for people to abandon one group and adopt the ideology of the other? That certainly is what your summation would seem to indicate. You want the reader to assume that would meet some need they have.

    • profile image

      An AYM 4 years ago

      cynthtggt: I never referred to or mentioned Global Warming, though I understand why you would make the assumption.

      You did readdress why I consider the perspective ignorant though. The unyielding torch carried for everything "THE ECONOMY" that everyone drools over as though it will magically solve everything. We don't need to make inroads to environmental causes. We need to learn to live more simply and less wealthy, what you advocate is the opposite of the solution. "Economy" means more business which has no directive other than self-sustaining income. Big successful business is bad because the only side of their equation is meeting demand. Because we order our resources and supplies from somewhere else than the business there is never any issue of "How much can I supply" it's simply a goal to supply as much as possible.

      But it's okay, we'll all have great paying jobs and that's the only thing that really matters right? No one has any deservance of wealth, yet we all assume we do because we've been granted it.

    • cynthtggt profile image

      cynthtggt 4 years ago from New York, NY

      AYM, I am not talking about wealth. I am writing about survival. And to believe that if no one were wealthy all would be good is the same as believing all is good when everyone is the same. I truly do not know what is more disgusting: a person who is filthy wealthy and sits on his lot like a miser, or a person jealous of another's gain. They're both the same to me. As for the environment, don't be deceived that your people care about the environment. They care about control. And I was referring to other countries. It is not likely a greater good will be served if the US alone practices environmentally-safe measures. Even environmentalists concede to the truth that the economy matters if we are to successfully transition from oil to solar panels. (However, we see the hypocrisy of ideals, do we not, with the recent Solyndra controversy and the 2 billion profit Gore makes exploiting fears [but doesn't practice what he preaches in his own personal life]). Whether it be because of mass communications or the Internet, the youth today believe anything the left says without so much as gleaning in to the past to observe the results of what has gone before. That is all that I am saying.

    • Drhu profile image

      Dr. John Smith 4 years ago from The Cosmos

      As regards the Iraq invasion situation you are aware aren't you that Bill Clinton used all that same intel in his administration to get Congress to agree to an invasion he never actually staged?

      http://www.snopes.com/politics/war/wmdquotes.asp

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0h6gehCPvpk&lis...

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i87cZ3Og6ts&lis...

      A small sampling......

    • Barefootfae profile image

      Barefootfae 4 years ago from Skye

      You have to be amazed at these articles now which basically boil down to there should really only be one way of thinking and that is the liberal way.

      That is where this hub tries to take you.

      It really doesn't matter how well he articulates it it comes out the same. Propaganda.

    • profile image

      An AYM 4 years ago

      cynthtggt: The issue is that wealth is what it comes back to regardless. The reason we "Need" the economy so mighty to persue alternative energy is because we on the majority refuse to take the slightly more difficult or slightly more expensive path even if it will be profoundly more correct a choice. It will only happen if it's cheaper and easier.

      I also never said that I believe "The Left" is magical and wonderful to the environment - I prefer them because they are better to it. I said "The Right" specifically downplays the environment because they do. Romney quite literally in his own (Written) words said he would cut environmental protections for economic gain because the environment is fine. Very literally, out of his own 'Plan for America' or whatever it was called.

      I found it ironic how those tariffs against Chinese solar came at a time when solar was coming increasingly close to grid parity with fossil fuels. What's funny about it is those Chinese companies created jobs for America for the instillations. I don't care who's making money on it. I don't care if the world switching to alternative energy only made 5 people extraordinarily wealthy.

      All that matters is a reverance for life other than your own, and that is ignored for the shallow values of "Oh well, we'll take care of money first and THEN we'll get to that part". Because everything in nature is just magically infinite and life you can't see doesn't matter.

    • peoplepower73 profile image
      Author

      Mike Russo 4 years ago from Placentia California

      To all of you who commented as of 11/10/2012: I have to apologize. I did not intend to imply that Group Thinking is about one political party. I just used Iraq because I do believe it was a classic example of Group Thinking. I used Romney because it was the most recent case of group thinking. I used religion as an example of any group that does not fit the peoples needs will suffer as a result of group thinking. It is not directed towards any particular religion. If you live in a totally Christian community and they build a Buddhist temple there, how may people do you think would attend that temple? But the group that made the decision to do that could have never received any input from outside the group for whatever reason.

      Group Thinking can happen in any group where they have isolated themselves from external input and have the same values and belief systems. It can happen to liberals as well as conservatives. This is why there are focus groups is to prevent group thinking. I will re-write this hub to be more inclusive. I want to thank all of you for your comments.

    • Lipnancy profile image

      Nancy Yager 4 years ago from Hamburg, New York

      I think we have given journalists too much power. Instead of investigating a topic for ourselves we turn on the TV and go along with our favorite journalist (or group thinking). And in doing so, the journalists now feel superior to us.

      I feel that the joke is really on them, because no matter how many times they called my house (sometimes 5 times a day, really?), I would not tell them how I felt or who I was going to vote for. And most my friends felt the same way. So therefore, all the data that they were reporting from polling were the same old opinions from people who do not think for themselves.

      I guess that is an assumption of group think that bites the media in the butt.

    • peoplepower73 profile image
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      Mike Russo 4 years ago from Placentia California

      Lipnancy: I think a lot of it has to do with the sound bites that are used. They make it very easy to relate to, but are really a form of propaganda and brainwashing. Thanks for dropping by.

    • Drhu profile image

      Dr. John Smith 4 years ago from The Cosmos

      So by saying you weren't trying to highlight only one party....which is universal in your hub...you likewise are not responsible for errors in it's content? Like the whole Iraq thing?

    • peoplepower73 profile image
      Author

      Mike Russo 4 years ago from Placentia California

      Drhu: What makes you think the whole Iraq thing is in error? I watched Colin Powell make that presentation to the UN. I read his book on it. He said that he knew it was B.S. But he was asked by Bush to do it. He refused many times, but Bush made him do it, by saying, you are either for me or against me. So as a good soldier, he did it. The part about the Neocons is also true. Just google it. I didn't make any of it up.

    • Drhu profile image

      Dr. John Smith 4 years ago from The Cosmos

      You didn't bother to look at any of those links I sent did you? Do you think Snopes is lying?

      Or are the Democrats the only ones allowed to use that intel?

    • peoplepower73 profile image
      Author

      Mike Russo 4 years ago from Placentia California

      Drhu: I Looked at all your links. There is a difference between having an opinion whether it be democrat or republican and actually putting together a plan to preemptively invade a country. The group thinking in this instance was that Bush and Cheny put together a group of like minded people that convinced themselves and the UN that it was the right thing to do. Bush said, you are either with me or against me. This was part of the group think to get congress to agree to war.

      Grover Norquist is doing the same thing right now with having the republican congress sign a pledge to not raise taxes ever. And he stated very clearly that if they don't sign the pledge, he will make it very tough on their chances of getting reelected. Intimidation is one of the factor of group think!

    • Drhu profile image

      Dr. John Smith 4 years ago from The Cosmos

      Bill Clinton and the Democrats put together a plan to invade. Based on the same intel that George Bush used. That Snopes article is full of group thinking but since all that does not fit this very obvious attempt to make Republicans look like folks who are unable to think for themselves you refuse to acknowledge it.

      Sorry but you have compromised your premise.

    • peoplepower73 profile image
      Author

      Mike Russo 4 years ago from Placentia California

      Yes. That's group thinking, but they didn't do it. That's the difference. I watched Fareed Zakaria's show today and he interviewed people that believe one of the reasons that Romney lost the election is because he outsourced the operation of his campaign. Because people in his campaign all agreed it would be better. That's a consequences of group think. Maybe this power point will give you a better understanding. I'm thinking about putting this link in my hub. http://www.psysr.org/about/pubs_resources/groupthi...

    • peoplepower73 profile image
      Author

      Mike Russo 4 years ago from Placentia California

      Drhu: By the way, the Bay of Pigs, was also a result of group thinking...and Clinton was the president. Are you happy now?

    • peoplepower73 profile image
      Author

      Mike Russo 4 years ago from Placentia California

      Sorry! I wrote that comment at 11:00 p.m. last night. I said Clinton, it should have been Kennedy.

    • wba108@yahoo.com profile image

      wba108@yahoo.com 4 years ago from upstate, NY

      Fine Hub and a good bit of writing! It's true that everybody is subject to groupthink to some degree or another. As a conservative I had believed Romney would win but did have some doubts in the final week before the election. The Rassmussan polls had started to turn in favor of Obama but I was still hoping the Republican turnout would turn the tide.

      I'm not sure groupthink was responsible for the Republican's surprise in the election, so much as the emotional component of the prospect of an Obama victory.

      As someone outside the liberal group, my opinion might be of some value to you. I see the Liberals as a more isolated group than the Conservatives. From what I've read and observed, liberals tend to be less aware of Conservative beliefs than the other way around. With the main-stream media and academia solidly liberal, its much easier to be unaware of opposing positions.

    • wba108@yahoo.com profile image

      wba108@yahoo.com 4 years ago from upstate, NY

      Oh, and as a side note to this discussion, I might point out that I've read and commented on a number of your Hubs but you've yet to do likewise! :)

    • peoplepower73 profile image
      Author

      Mike Russo 4 years ago from Placentia California

      wba108@yahoo.com: I just posted this in a forum: I read a book called the Righteous Mind, Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion: by a moral Psychologist Jonathan Haidt. He states everybody has a moral matrix with six sets of values: Care/harm; liberty/oppression; fariness/cheating; loyalty/betrayal; authority/subversion; and sanctity/degradation.

      In liberals, the first three are the strongest. In libertarians, the second two are the strongest; and in conservatives, the are all equal.

      The most sacred value for liberals is care for victims of oppression. The most sacred value for libertarians is the individual in the society, and the most sacred value for conservatives is preserve the institutions and traditions that sustain a moral community.

      He claims that these are actually part of our DNA and when people think their set of values is being fulfilled, it produces serotonin that make them feel better. So they will argue and fight for those values that make them feel better. I did a book review of his book. When I get into arguments with my friends and family, I can see these values come into play. But it seems like emotions override the logic. Maybe this explains why.

    • peoplepower73 profile image
      Author

      Mike Russo 4 years ago from Placentia California

      wba108@yahoo.com: I'm sorry, it wasn't done intentionally. There are so many hubs and so little time. I will read your hubs. They seem to provide a different perspective, and that is always good.

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