The act or practice of reasoning or decision-making by a group, especially when characterized by uncritical acceptance or conformity to prevailing points of view.
Groupthink is defined as “a mode of thinking of people when they are deeply involved in a cohesive group. When the member’s are strivings for unanimity and they override their own motivation to realistically appraise alternative courses of action“(Anonymous, 2009). With groupthink, the individuals are unaware of that the team’s decision is wrong or risky.
The term “groupthink” was first introduced in the November 1971 issue of Psychology Today. Groupthink is a phenomenon that occurs when a group of well-intentioned people make irrational or non-optimal decisions spurred by the urge to conform or the believe that dissent is impossible.
Researchers have found that in a situation that can be characterized as groupthink, individuals tend to refrain from expressing doubts and judgments or disagreeing with the consensus. In the interest of making a decision that furthers their group cause, members may also ignore ethical or moral consequences. It may be fueled by a particular agenda—or be due to group members valuing harmony & coherence above critical thought.
While it is often invoked at the level of geopolitics or within business organizations, groupthink can also refer to subtler processes of social or ideological conformity, such as participating in bullying or rationalizing a poor decision being made by one's friends.
Why can groupthink be dangerous?
Even in minor cases, groupthink triggers decisions that aren’t ideal or that ignore critical information. In highly consequential domains—like politics or the military—groupthink can have much worse consequences, leading groups to ignore ethics or morals, prioritize one specific goal while ignoring countless collateral consequences, or, at worst, instigate death and destruction.
The Abilene paradox is when groups make ineffective decisions that are contrary to what each of the group members individually believe because they don’t want to ‘rock the boat’ (McAvoy & Butler 2007). The individuals are aware that a decision taken by the team is wrong or risky but do not voice their concerns due to action anxiety (Harvey 1988)
Have you ever been in a situation where you decided to go with the consensus, when in reality, there was no consensus and none among the group, actually in their minds, agreed to the decision? This is exactly what the ‘Abilene paradox’ reflects.