Democratic Underground

Play the Groupthink Game
November 5, 2001
by RoadRunner

Printer-friendly version of this article Tell a friend about this article Discuss this article

Is the Bush administration suffering from a condition which researcher Irving Janis has pegged "groupthink?"

Janis' research was published in 1982 and was based on his study of the Watergate cover-up, the Bay of Pigs invasion, the Japanese raid on Pearl Harbor, and the mid 60s escalation of the Vietnam War. Janis considered groupthink to be an organizational pathology — a group mental illness that all too often leads to disastrous outcomes.

Janis defined groupthink as "a mode of thinking that people engage in when they are deeply involved in a cohesive in-group, when the members' strivings for unanimity override their motivation to realistically appraise alternative courses of action." The goal of the group's decision-making then becomes unanimity rather than the best solution.

Janis, with the help of other researchers in the decision sciences, identified these eight classic symptoms of groupthink:

1. Feelings of invulnerability and excessive optimism.

2. Efforts to rationalize a course of action in order to prevent reconsideration of basic assumptions.

3. An unwavering belief in their own morality, which paradoxically allows them to ignore the ethical and moral consequences of their decisions.

4. A strong tendency to equate dissent with disloyalty.

5. Self-censorship of any doubts or counterarguments in the name of being a "team player."

6. An illusion of unanimity caused by the false assumption that silence means consent.

7. The emergence of "mind-guards" — members who protect the group from any adverse information that might shatter their illusions.

8. A strong tendency to view enemy leaders as evil.

Unfortunately for our country and much of the rest of the planet, these symptoms seem to near perfectly describe the attitude and actions of the Bush administration to date.

Just for kicks, memorize these eight classic symptoms of groupthink and then play this little game, the Groupthink Game. When Bush tells us the umpteenth time about the "evil of the evildoers," shout back "Symptom 8!" When he says, "You're either with us or with the terrorists," yell back "Symptom 4!" When you hear endless talk about how much we value life, all the while bombing hospitals and old-folk homes, yell at the top of your lungs, "Symptom 3!" I could go on for pages, but you get the idea.

My friends, we're in deep shit here. Add the group mental illness of groupthink to the self-congratulatory hubris and lack of wisdom and curiosity of the current pResident, and you have a recipe for disaster on a biblical scale.

By the way, there is no known cure for groupthink.