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The danger of groupthink: Do you recognize the 8 symptoms?

How often do you set aside your opposing beliefs and opinions in a meeting or team call because you don’t want to disrupt the group harmony? Or do you think to yourself: “Never mind, apparently I’m the only one who thinks this way?”
The phenomenon where the desire for consensus outweighs a critical consideration of facts is called groupthink. The theory of “groupthink” was developed in the 1970s by American psychologist Irving Janis. But how do you recognize groupthink?

“Groupthink is a thinking style in which the tendency to reach quick agreement impairs the members’ ability to give alternative options a fair chance.”


Groupthink primarily arises from excessive dependence on hierarchy, an instinct to avoid deviant opinions, and a desire to maintain harmony. The risk is that in the decision-making process, there is no room for alternative viewpoints, criticism, or facts. The group becomes convinced of its own correctness, regardless of the facts. “Are we all in agreement here?” These are the 8 symptoms:

#1 Illusion of invulnerability

Group members ignore clear dangers, take extreme risks, and are overly optimistic. “That will never happen to us; we are much better prepared than they were.”

#2 Collective rationalization

Valid objections from group members are rationalized away or downplayed. The shared belief of the group carries more weight than individual objections.

#3 Illusion of morality

Group members believe their decisions are morally correct and ignore the ethical consequences of their decisions. “Let’s bite the bullet now; it will get better later.”

#4 Excessive stereotyping

The group constructs negative stereotypes of external rivals, such as external experts. “This is too complicated for them.” “They don’t know our industry as well as we do.”

#5 Pressure for conformity

Group members exert pressure on anyone within the group who goes against the group’s direction. For example, by providing arguments against the stereotypes, illusions, or commitments of the group.

#6 Self-censorship

Group members withhold their differing viewpoints and counterarguments. “Never mind, they don’t want to hear it.”

#7 Illusion of unanimity

Group members falsely believe that everyone agrees with the group’s decision; silence is seen as agreement. “Everyone here is on board!” “Silence means consent.”

#8 Mindguards

Some members take on the role of protecting the group from unfavorable information that could threaten the sense of group security and consensus. “You’re only making it more complicated this way; you’re causing delays.”

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