The concepts of conformism have typically been frowned upon in western society for the past several decades, whereas individuality and self-expression have received praise. Overall, the current social perception of unwillingness to develop individual characteristics has been presented mostly in a negative light as the focus on complacency and the loss of humanity (Riccobono et al, p. 611). The specified sentiment is quite understood on multiple levels, starting from the basic concept of the human need to be valued as an individual down to a much more nuanced assessment of the adverse social effects of complacency and conformism. Therefore, the notion of groupthink as the propensity toward following the crowd in one’s assessment of specific phenomena and people, as well as the development of a critical position on a particular topic, has been generally negative. Due to the destructive nature of groupthink, which leads to the erasure of individuality and, therefore, the threat of creating a foundation for poor decision-making, the phenomenon of groupthink must be avoided.
The phenomenon of groupthink has been observed in the global community for ages, yet the opportunity to define the propensity toward selecting the decisions that align with the currently held societal opinion on the issue has appeared only recently. The subject matter can be described as the propensity to follow the mentality of the group without questioning the legitimacy of its power and the reasoning behind its choices (Van Bavel et al, p. 67). As a rule, the phenomenon of groupthink is likely to cause adverse effects due to the disregard of the crucial needs of participants.
The presence of groupthink is quite easy to detect in most cases. For instance, the invulnerability of leaders and the persuasiveness of their arguments are rather clear indicators of the promotion of groupthink within a team. In addition, the promotion of stereotypes and the negligence of obvious moral controversies in the proposed solutions are also the signs of groupthink being enacted in a specific environment (Leung and Law, p. 6). Therefore, being on the lookout for the specified signs allows one to detect the groupthink problem fast and respond appropriately and immediately.
How to stop
The task of putting an end to groupthink is very difficult since one will have to fight not only against the repressive leader but also against the aggressive crowd. Therefore, in order to put an end to groupthink, one will have not only to dismantle the authority of the leader but also to emphasize the individuality of each team member. By pointing to the advantages of diversity and leveraged discussion, one will be able to subvert the mentality that encourages groupthink.
How to prevent
The phenomenon of groupthink is quite preventable, yet it will require a substantial effort from the parties involved. Namely, the encouragement of group discussion and the active participation of team members will be needed. Thus, the participants will realize that their opinions are also valued and that they can contribute to the conversation. Moreover, the mentality of groupthink can be subverted by acknowledging the presence of biases in the existing arguments and taking time to consider every opinion.
However, the phenomenon of groupthink does not necessarily imply entirely negative outcomes. The propensity toward following the majority when making a decision or passing a judgment allows one to avoid the scenarios in which the lack or absence of specific knowledge or understanding has caused one to fail to recognize the merits of a specific work of art or address a controversial social problem (Annas and Annas, p. 45). Therefore, the application of the notion of groupthink to the scenarios that clearly involve the unavailability of ab individual to evaluate a certain situation adequately needs to be considered with due caution.
Despite the seemingly harmless shape that most manifestations of groupthink take in modern western society, it still poses a plethora of risks that one has to account for as the factors that may affect the implementation of a particular plan. Among the key risks that groupthink entails, one should draw a clear distinction between the ones that do not lead to any lasting psychological damage and the ones that entail life-altering outcomes and, therefore, create the potential for a vast societal change.
Overall, as the analysis performed above indicates, the presence of risks in modern society is linked to the problem of failing to access the situation objectively and, therefore, producing a biased solution to a problem. The described issue becomes a problem when operating in a setting where one does not have the access to multiple resources on the issue and at the same time has the social and ethnic minority having a tangible impact on the choices that individuals will make, as well as the line of thinking that they will most likely have,
Therefore, in most cases, groupthink as a phenomenon tends to undermine the performance of the participants involved and reduce their efficacy. Therefore, the notion of groupthink, especially in the context of a policy with which everyone is expected to comply, should be disapproved of in a very direct and visible way. The phenomenon of groupthink affects.
Stanford Prison Experiment
The threats of groupthink as a notion have been studied extensively in the experiment that has received infamy as the Stanford prison experiment. Although the specified research has been termed as unethical, and its outcomes have been brought into questioning, the general outcome of the specified study can be considered of tremendous importance for the assessment of the effects that groupthink may have on individuals. Namely, the experiment conducted by Philip Zimbardo required that participants were divided into guards and prisoners, the latter being ordered to harass the latter (Zimbardo, p. 3). Remarkably, a substantial number of the participants accepted the role of the superior force, effectively harming those that were in their subordination (Woodward, p. 2). Therefore, although being ethically questionable ad clearly breaking a range of moral standards accepted within the field of research, the Stanford Prison Experiment indicated that people are highly prone to the development of groupthink and fail to stop when they realize that their actions harm others.
The Challenger Explosion
Likewise, other real-life scenarios have shown the dangers of groupthink quite clearly. For example, the infamous case of the Challenger explosion proves that groupthink is likely to cause drastic and even tragic outcomes, especially when uncontrolled. Namely, a range of studies tends to agree that the Challenger explosion was largely caused by the propensity toward groupthink among the people involved in its management. Namely, the existing records of the tragedy mention the fact that the launch of the Challenger took place in an environment where most Americans had already been bored by the standstill to which the exploration of outer space was brought due to technological limitations. Thus, the O-ring theory, which was used as the basis for the flight analysis, and which proved to be tragically erroneous, was lauded and actively promoted by most scientists, as well as the general population (Wright, p. 716). The absence of questioning of the specified premise, based on which the launch of the shuttle would take place, led to tragic consequences, namely, the fault of the tank and the subsequent explosion. The fact that the shuttle crew did not die on impact instantly but instead, had to suffer several agonizing hours, also serves as a grim reminder of how dangerous the phenomenon of groupthink is.
“Lord of the Flies”
Perhaps, one of the most famous analyses of groupthink in the history of literature, “Lord of the Flies” by William Golding points to the exact dangers that the phenomenon in question causes. Although the specified example is a complete work of fiction that addresses the situations faced by children, it still offers a legitimate criticism of the notion of groupthink as a dangerous notion that causes a dogmatic approach toward managing social issues. Namely, in the novel, the presence of groupthink leads to children losing their sense of morality and, ultimately, their identity. The dangers of groupthink and mob mentality are reflected in the following quote: “At once the crowd surged after it, poured down the rock, leaped on to the beast, screamed, struck, bit, tore” (Golding, p. 156). The specified quote shows how the vulnerabilities of most people enable them to follow the established opinions without questioning them and, thus, contributing to the reinforcement and the following perpetuation of harm.
When dissecting the novel, one will realize that the lead characters started following the philosophy of groupthink as soon as the balance of power shifted toward aaa, establishing him as a leader. As a result, weaker boys succumbed to compliance with his decisions fearing that their unwillingness to follow the questionable leader will cause even greater issues. The fear of controversy and the unwillingness to accept the responsibilities of decision-making compels the rest of the boys to follow their leader and meet his standards even when the outcomes were evidently detrimental to the team.
The examples mentioned above are quite different in their premise, the key facts, and the outcomes, yet all of them point to one major flaw of groupthink, namely, the failure to introduce critical thinking into the assessment of the proposed theories. Being based on the feelings of enthusiasm and euphoria that collective thinking entails, groupthink causes people to lose their ability to approach a situation critically and assess its different aspects. As a result, the phenomenon of groupthink may entail significantly negative outcomes.
The idea of groupthink has been viewed mostly as the negative force, including both contemporary literature and older books, showing that the focus on producing the basis for complete conformity and the active disapproval of anything that does not meet the established standard is also a rather unreasonable position to take. Therefore, the notion of groupthink, which has been defined as the propensity toward following the lead of the majority when making decisions appears to be the easiest path to take, yet it is definitely not the right one. Instead, it needs to be seen as the concept that leads to significant controversies and, ultimately, to the development of an authoritarian environment where any dissenting opinion is punished. The tendency toward agreeing with the majority leads to the development of a significant moral ambiguity and reduces the opportunity to produce new ideas. In other words, the phenomenon of groupthink affects people’s ability to think critically and analyze issues thoroughly, which, in turn, may cause adverse consequences ranging from the loss of personal identity to people dying as a result of groupthink-caused miscalculations. Thus, the phenomenon of groupthink needs to be eradicated from society.
- Annas, George J., and Catherine L. Annas. ““Unusual Care”: Groupthink and Willful Blindness in the SUPPORT Study.” The American Journal of Bioethics, vol. 20, no. 1, 2020, pp. 44-46.
- Golding, William. Lord of the Flies. Penguin, 1987.
- Leung, Lawrence, and Nancy Law. “Exploring the Effectiveness of Online Role Play Simulations in Tackling Groupthink in Crisis Management Training.” International Journal of Gaming and Computer-Mediated Simulations (IJGCMS), vol. 8, no. 3, 2016, pp. 1-18.
- Riccobono, Francesca, et al. “Groupthink and Project Performance: The Influence of Personal Traits and Interpersonal Ties.” Production and Operations Management, vol. 25, no. 4, 2016, pp. 609-629.
- Van Bavel, Jay J., et al. “Breaking Groupthink: Why Scientific Identity and Norms Mitigate Ideological Epistemology.” Psychological Inquiry, vol. 31, no. 1, 2020, pp. 66-72.
- Woodward, Vanessa. “Stanford Prison Experiment.” The Encyclopedia of Corrections, vol. 1, 2017, pp. 1-3.
- Wright, Jan Folkmann. “Risk Management: A Behavioural Perspective.” Journal of Risk Research, vol. 21, no. 6, 2018, pp. 710-724.
- Zimbardo, Philip. “Revisiting the Stanford Prison Experiment: A Lesson in the Power of Situation.” Perspectives on Contemporary Issues, vol. 309, 2007, pp. 1-5.