The 8 Signs of Groupthink

Groupthink is an endemic problem of groups and bureaucracies charged with making decisions when the decision makers use peer pressure to limit debate, enforce an often false consensus, and avoid conflict.

Groupthink is similar to other forms of social influence and etiquette such as Political Correctness in that one element of groupthink is the suppression of options, ideas, and viewpoints that are outside of the status quo or the comfort zone of a subset of the decision makers.

Groupthink is used in hierarchical groups to preserve the power and prestige of the leadership who view underlings with suspicion and challenges to their ideas as attacks on their authority.

Groupthink is also common in groups of true peers where individuals will avoid conflict or expressing a diversity of ideas to avoid giving offense, being seen as foolish or outlandish, or avoid sticking out or making waves.

Groupthink results in suboptimal decisions as only a limited set of options are considered and debate is suppressed. Logic, scientific, and rational paths to reach decisions are abandoned in favor of speedy, irrational but feel good solutions. Individual concerns are not voiced or are ignored and the well being of the group dynamic is placed above making optimal decisions.

Eight Signs of Groupthink:

1. A shared illusion of invulnerability, which leads to an
extraordinary degree of over-optimism and risk-taking.

2. Manifestations of direct pressure on individuals who express
disagreement with or doubt about the majority view, making it clear
that their dissent is contrary to the expected behavior of loyal group

3. Fear of disapproval for deviating from the group consensus, which
leads each member to avoid voicing his misgivings and even to minimize
to himself the importance of his doubts when most of the others seem
to agree on a proposed course of action.

4. A shared illusion of unanimity within the group concerning all the
main judgments expressed by members who speak in favor of the majority
view, partly resulting from the preceding symptom, which contributes
to the false assumption that any individual who remains silent during
any part of the discussion is in full accord with what the others are

5. Stereotyped views of the enemy leaders as evil, often accompanied
by the assumption that they are too weak or too stupid to deal
effectively with whatever risky attempts are made to outdo them.

6. An unquestioned belief in the inherent morality of the in-group,
which inclines the members to ignore the ethical or moral consequences
of their decisions.

7. The emergence of self-appointed mind guards within the
group—members who take it upon themselves to protect the leader and
fellow members from adverse information that may prevent them from
being able to continue their shared sense of complacency about the
effectiveness and morality of past decisions.

8. Shared efforts to construct rationalizations in order to be able to
ignore warnings and other forms of negative feedback, which, if taken
seriously, would lead the members to reconsider the assumptions they
continue to take for granted each time they recommit themselves to
their past policy decisions.

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About Christopher

Christopher Landauer is a fifth generation Colorado native and second generation Border Collie enthusiast. Border Collies have been the Landauer family dogs since the 1960s and Christopher got his first one as a toddler. He began his own modest breeding program with the purchase of Dublin and Celeste in 2006 and currently shares his home with their children Mercury and Gemma as well. His interest in genetics began in AP Chemistry and AP Biology and was honed at Stanford University.