Saturday 20 January 2018

Marie Murray: Don't blame 'groupthink' for bad behaviour

Troops in North Korea attend an anti-US rally. Groupthink is simply a way of washing ones hands of personal responsibility.
Troops in North Korea attend an anti-US rally. Groupthink is simply a way of washing ones hands of personal responsibility.

Marie Murray

THE term 'groupthink' has been used a lot recently in heated political debate about banks and bonds, austerity and abortion, although it's a term going back to the 1970s when it was coined by a social psychologist named Irving Janis at Yale University.

Mr Janis noticed that members of a group would conform to anything to remain part of the group. They would continue on misguided courses of action and make poor decisions that none of them would make individually just to achieve group consensus. It's like a corporate version of adolescent peer pressure; doing whatever the group wants to be part of the gang.

Groupthink is serious. Groups often make catastrophic decisions that fly in the face of evidence, ethics or common sense – and we've seen a fair few of those decisions in this country already. This is because, once 'groupthink' sets in, warning signs are ignored.

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