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Encyclopedia of Psychology Alan E. Kazdin, PhD, Editor-in-Chief

GROUPTHINK. Irving Janis (1918-1990) was a social psychologist who wondered whether there was any pattern to be discerned in the poor decisions that produced major fiascoes during the administrations of five American presidents. In each of the policy-making groups Janis studied, he identified a strong concurrence-seeking tendency that led members of the group to misjudge severely the ethical implications and practical consequences of their choices. Janis referred to this concurrence-seeking tendency, whereby group members become more concerned with achieving unanimity than with engaging in the tasks required for making good decisions, as groupthink.

In short, groupthink symptoms spread when group members experience high stress from external threats, retain their faith in their leader’s ability to cope with the situation, and as a result continue to believe that the leader’s preferred course of action is best.

The unique contribution of groupthink is to suggest that, apart from the usual sources of human error, cohesive groups may succumb to a powerful concurrence-seeking tendency that causes faulty judgment.


Tags: encyclopedia of psychology
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