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Science And Nature

WHAT’S Groupthink Bias (And How exactly to Spot It And Challenge It)

Vicky Oliver

Writer of 6 best-selling books on job-hunting and appointment questions, business etiquette, frugalista style, advertising, and office politics. Read full profile

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Weve all been there. Most of us can recall an example where the group members we were among determined that didnt completely feel right, but that people went alongside as the group seemed decided. Its a vintage exemplory case of groupthink. Maybe we felt too intimidated to challenge the group. Maybe we nodded since it seemed easier than raising an objection. Maybe we deferred to the group, thinking, Well, the group knows best.

If youve ever swallowed your own opinion, feeling that consensus was the nobler strategy to use, you might be interested to discover that groupthink carries with it the tendency toward bias that stifles creative or innovative solutions.

WHAT’S Groupthink?

Social psychologist Irving Janis first established the insidious ramifications of groupthink through research he conducted in 1972, proving that theres a psychological drive for consensus in group decisions. People often will reserve their very own personal beliefs to look at the opinion of all of those other group.

Why? The short answer is that adopting the group opinion is really a shortcut, or sorts. We have a tendency to push reason and rational judgment aside whenever we make decisions. We unconsciously make an effort to simplify complex information. That is called Groupthink Bias. But this tendency sometimes results in misinterpretation of the reality or this information thats been provided. And, by failing woefully to examine the reality ourselves, sometimes we go with the incorrect choice.

A lot of people in groups desire to have harmony. Votes ought to be unanimous. Dissenting opinions ought to be muffled. To experience this conformity, people will most likely put their very own opinion aside and go with an idea they actually think is shoddy or unsatisfactory because a lot of the group likes it. Another term fittingly useful for this tendency is herd mentality.

Having said that, Groupthink Bias isn’t all bad. When differing opinions surface, it could stymie any decision. Groupthink can move an organization to beyond this roadblock to action. However the question is, could it be the proper action?

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When Does Groupthink Bias HAPPEN?

Forming an instant consensus without applying adequate thought, as happens with Groupthink Bias, might have detrimental ramifications. Examine these examples with the next groups:

Jury Members

Several persuasive members or perhaps a single member can rally others to go with their stance regarding whether a defendant is innocent or guilty. Because so many juries are anxious to come quickly to a decision therefore the trial will end plus they can get back again to their daily lives, everyone goes combined with the more forceful members.

But imagine if some had initially viewed the data differently and formed another opinion? Getting swept up in Groupthink could put a criminal back on the streets or an innocent person behind bars.

THE TASK Space Shuttle Engineers

After years spent designing and building the Challenger space shuttle, engineers who examined the shuttle a couple of months before it launched on January 28, 1986, realized that there have been faulty parts. Rather than reporting it, they allowed the launch to check out avoid negative press. It exploded on the Atlantic Ocean just 73 seconds after lift-off, killing seven people up to speed.

Board of Directors

In board meetings, where most board members prefer a unanimous vote, members with dissenting opinions may go with the majority only to keep carefully the agenda moving along and on schedule. Some could even exert pressure in order that no-one dissents.

Later, if your choice has negative consequences, the meeting minutes will show that everyone voted in favor, so no-one can be designated and held in charge of having poor judgment.

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Marketing Meetings

If you find one boss or key decision-maker who includes a strong opinion, it really is easier (and safer!) on her behalf underlings to nod and say yes, irrespective of their own knowledge of the marketing campaign. Revenue could be lost and the quarter could be lackluster because of this.

Medical Research Teams

Groupthink Bias may have a negative effect if medical scientists thought we would overlook critical data that points to significantly less than favorable results. Specifically, pharmaceutical companies who make an effort to demonstrate a drug is both effective and safe are pressured to create the drug to advertise as fast as possible to turn the merchandise into profit.

Uncovering Proof Groupthink

Groupthink is mainly more likely to play out in situations where there’s a time crunch, a price factor, or perhaps a power differential, as folks are more inclined to desire to keep carefully the peace than to provide up opposing opinions or evidence. They’ll defer to the group to skirt circumstances where speaking up could pose a genuine threat with their own livelihood and the groups credibility.

We humans as social animals, have a tendency to want to comply with the group, and for that reason disregard (or neglect to share) doubts in order that we dont stand in addition to the groups unity. Further, we dont want the objection we share to create others treat us being an outcast. Because of this, Groupthink more frequently is necessary among more bonded groups.

THE OUTCOMES of Groupthink

Nowadays whenever we face so many seemingly insurmountable problems, we are in need of inventive ideas and solutions as part of your. Yet with Groupthink guiding our problem-solving discussions, causing group members to self-censor or even to go with probably the most expedient resolution, we dont allow our best thinking to take root.

The expenses of Groupthink with regards to dampening new and original not forgetting accurate thinking result in mediocrity and poor problem-solving. Essential information is ignored in deference to consensus. Further, genuinely helpful solutions might not be considered since they provoke resistance.

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Additionally, Groupthink often promotes the status quo instead of allowing and incorporating diverse and divergent points of view. Sidelining the perspectives of these who are usually marginalized only perpetuates old assumptions and outmoded means of thinking.

A damaging aspect to Groupthink Bias is that people allow ourselves to obtain embroiled in whichever way the group is tending and lose confidence inside our own ideas. At its worst, Groupthink we can be mentally lazy. We behave like brainless zombies, feeble at devoting considered to our deeds.

How to prevent Groupthink

Work to combat Groupthink to invite more productive discussions. Use these pointers to permit new suggestions to surface also to improve decision-making.

1. Ask you to definitely play the role of devils advocate.

Particularly if you’ve got a one who often acts being an outspoken dissenter, ensure that you give this group members ideas consideration. Or, take turns playing the role so the group gives ample time and energy to time and energy to air any objections or alternatives.

2. Ensure feedback from more introverted members.

If the more vocal members or an assertive leader of the group have a tendency to dominate the discussion, introduce a ground rule that allows the more reticent members of the group to voice their very own ideas. This might take some tact, particularly if its in reaction to a forceful leader who prefers to pontificate than to yield the ground. In cases like this, make the suggestion in private.

3. Build in rebuttal time before finalizing big decisions.

Before any monumental decisions, schedule an assessment meeting. Allow group members time and energy to digest what theyve heard and offer the chance to express any new or remaining doubts. Resist the temptation to squelch challenges to the dominant opinion.

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4. Survey members prior to the group meeting.

Work with a survey program, such as for example Survey Monkey, to obtain a sense of where members stand before meeting. Try to provide alternative choices, offer ranges of agreement or disagreement (against yes or no) to gauge degree of alignment, and invite for questions and comments. Publicize the responses to the group and utilize the leads to start your discussion.

5. Consider inviting outside experts

Get in touch with a retired person in your organization who no more holds allegiances but has suitable technical knowledge. Ask the expert to sit in on a discussion and to supply feedback on the ideas expressed.

An impartial observer will undoubtedly be better positioned to poke holes in solutions attained through Groupthink instead of predicated on fundamental information and fact.


Society places focus on collegiality, however when the stakes are high, its easier to think without mental shackles.

Speak up for those who have a valid point or different perspective. Once you offer thoughtful opinions, it doesnt imply that youre disrespectful of others positions, but that you care that the very best, most creative, and thoughtfully considered ideas are the ones that are placed into action.

Featured photo credit: TienDat Nguyen via

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