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What is groupthink bias (and how to spot and challenge it)

we were all there. We can all recall instances where a member of a group we were with made a decision that we didn’t think was entirely right, but it seemed like the group had made the decision, so we agreed. This is a classic example of “groupthink”. Maybe we were too intimidated to challenge the group. Maybe we left it to the group, thinking, “Well, the group knows best.”

If you have ever swallowed individual opinions and felt that consensus was the nobler way to go, you might be interested in learning that groupthink comes with a propensity for prejudice that stifles creative or innovative solutions. There may be.

What is Groupthink?

Through research conducted in 1972, social psychologist Irving Janis first established the insidious effects of groupthink, demonstrating that there is a psychological drive for consensus in group decision-making. People often set aside their own personal beliefs in order to adopt the opinions of the rest of the group.

why? Simply put, adopting the group’s opinion is a shortcut, a way of doing things. We tend to set aside reason and rational judgment when making decisions. We unconsciously try to simplify complex information. This is called groupthink bias. However, this trend can lead to misleading facts and certain information provided. You can also make the wrong choices by not researching the facts yourself.

Most people in the group want harmony. The vote must be “unanimous.” Dissenting opinions should be stifled. To achieve this unity, people often set aside their own opinions and go along with ideas that they consider to be shoddy or inadequate in practice simply because the majority of the group likes them. Another term aptly used for tendencies is “herd mentality”. ”

That said, groupthink bias isn’t all bad. Decision-making can be hindered when disagreements surface. Groupthink can move groups beyond this obstacle into action. But the question is, is that the right thing to do?

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When does groupthink bias occur?

Rapid consensus building without the application of proper thinking, as occurs with groupthink biases, can have detrimental effects. Consider these examples in the following groups.


A few convincing members, or even one member, can rally other members to agree with their stance on whether the defendant is innocent or guilty. Most jurors are desperate to make a decision so that the trial can end and they can return to normal life, so everyone votes for the stronger member.

But what if there were others who looked at the evidence differently and formed a different opinion first? There is a possibility that it will be stolen.

challenge space shuttle engineer

After years of designing and building the Challenger space shuttle, engineers inspecting the shuttle months before its January 28, 1986 launch found it to be defective. Instead of reporting it, they allowed the launch to proceed to avoid negative press.

board of directors

At board meetings where most board members prefer a unanimous vote, members with dissenting opinions may agree to a majority simply to keep the agenda moving forward. Some may even pressure anyone not to object.

Later, if the decision had a negative outcome, the minutes of the meeting would show that everyone voted in favor, so no one would be singled out and held accountable for the decision. There is none.

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marketing meeting

If you have one boss or key decision maker with strong opinions, it’s easier (and safer!) for that subordinate to nod and say yes, regardless of their understanding of the ad campaign. . Revenue could be lost, resulting in a lackluster quarter.

medical research team

Groupthink bias can have detrimental effects when medical researchers choose to overlook important data that show less favorable results. In particular, pharmaceutical companies trying to demonstrate that their drugs are safe and effective are under pressure to bring drugs to market as quickly as possible in order to turn their products into profits.

Reveal evidence of groupthink

Groupthink is most likely to unfold in situations where there are time constraints, cost factors, or power differences, as people tend to want to keep the peace rather than present dissent or evidence. . They defer to the group to avoid situations where speaking up could pose a real threat to their lives and the credibility of the group.

We humans are social animals and tend to want to conform to groups, so we ignore (or don’t share) doubts so as not to stray from the unity of the group. We do not want others to treat us as outcasts. For this reason, groupthink occurs more frequently among tight-knit groups.

Groupthink results

In this age of seemingly insurmountable problems, we need creative ideas and solutions more than ever.But with GroupThink guiding us problem solving Our best thoughts are not allowed to take root in discussions that cause group members to self-censor or adopt the most appropriate solutions.

The cost of groupthink in terms of dampening new and original thinking, not to mention accuracy, leads to mediocrity and poor problem solving. Critical information is ignored out of respect for consensus. Moreover, solutions that are truly useful may not be considered because they cause resistance.

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Moreover, Groupthink often promotes the status quo rather than embracing and embracing diverse and diverse perspectives. Observing the perspectives of marginalized people only perpetuates old assumptions and outdated ways of thinking.

A harmful aspect of the groupthink bias is that you become swept up in the tendencies of the group and lose confidence in your own thinking. At worst, Groupthink allows you to be mentally lazy. We act like brainless zombies and have a hard time focusing on what we are doing.

How to avoid groupthink

Fight groupthink and encourage more productive discussions. Use these tips to spark new ideas and improve your decision-making.

1. Have someone act as the devil’s advocate.

Consider what this group member thinks, especially if there are people who often act as outspoken opponents. Alternatively, take turns taking the role so that the group has enough time to air their objections and alternatives.

2. Secure feedback from more introverted members.

more vocal members – or assertive leader — Introduce ground rules that allow the more reticent members of the group to voice their thoughts, as group members tend to dominate the discussion. This can require some finesse, especially when it comes to dealing with powerful leaders who prefer to keep their dignity over giving up their voice. In this case, the proposal will be made privately.

3. Allow time for arguments before making big decisions.

Schedule a review meeting before making any major decisions. Give group members time to digest what they’ve heard, and give them the opportunity to: express new or remaining questions. Resist the temptation to challenge the prevailing opinion.

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4. Survey members before the group meeting.

Use survey programs such as: survey monkey, know where your members are standing before the meeting. We strive to provide alternative options, offer a range of agreement or disagreement (rather than yes or no), assess the level of integrity, and allow questions or comments. Publish your answers to the group and start a discussion with the results.

5. Consider inviting external experts

Contact retirees from companies that no longer hold loyalty, but have the appropriate technical knowledge. Invite experts to participate in the discussion and then provide feedback on the ideas expressed.

An impartial observer is better suited to poke holes in the solutions reached through Groupthink than based on basic information and facts.


Society values ​​solidarity, but when the risks are high, it’s better to think without mental restraints.

If you have valid points or alternative points of view, please speak up. When we express thoughtful opinions, it doesn’t mean that we disrespect others’ positions, but that we care about putting the best, most creative, thoughtful, and thoughtful ideas into action.

Featured photo credits: TienDat Nguyen via

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What is groupthink bias (and how to spot and challenge it)

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