Groupthink is a psychological phenomenon that occurs within a group of people in which the desire for harmony or conformity in the group results in an irrational or dysfunctional decision-making outcome. Cohesiveness, or the desire for cohesiveness, in a group may produce a tendency among its members to agree at all costs. This causes the group to minimize conflict and reach a consensus decision without critical evaluation.
Groupthink requires individuals to avoid raising controversial issues or alternative solutions, and there is loss of individual creativity, uniqueness and independent thinking. The dysfunctional group dynamics of the "ingroup" produces an "illusion of invulnerability" (an inflated certainty that the right decision has been made). Thus the "ingroup" significantly overrates its own abilities in decision-making and significantly underrates the abilities of its opponents (the "outgroup"). Furthermore, groupthink can produce dehumanizing actions against the "outgroup". Members of a group can often feel peer pressure to "go along with the crowd" in fear of rocking the boat or of what them speaking up will do to the overall to how their teammates perceive them. Group interactions tend to favor, clear and harmonious agreements and it can be a cause for concern when little to no new innovations or arguments for better policies, outcomes and structures are called to question. (McLeod). Groupthink can often be referred to as a group of “yes men” because group activities and group projects in general make it extremely easy to pass on not offering constructive opinions.
Some methods that have been used to counteract group think in the past is selecting teams from more diverse backgrounds, and even mixing men and women for groups (Kamalnath). Groupthink can be considered by many to be a detriment to companies, organizations and in any work situations. Most positions that are senior level need individuals to be independent in their thinking. There is a positive correlation found between outstanding executives and decisiveness (Kelman). Groupthink also prohibits an organization from moving forward and innovating if no one ever speaks up and says something could be done differently.
Antecedent factors such as group cohesiveness, faulty group structure, and situational context (e.g., community panic) play into the likelihood of whether or not groupthink will impact the decision-making process.
Groupthink is a construct of social psychology, but has an extensive reach and influences literature in the fields of communication studies, political science, management, and organizational theory, as well as important aspects of deviant religious cult behaviour.
Groupthink is sometimes stated to occur (more broadly) within natural groups within the community, for example to explain the lifelong different mindsets of those with differing political views (such as "conservatism" and "liberalism" in the U.S. political context ) or the purported benefits of team work vs. work conducted in solitude. However, this conformity of viewpoints within a group does not mainly involve deliberate group decision-making, and might be better explained by the collective confirmation bias of the individual members of the group.
Most of the initial research on groupthink was conducted by Irving Janis, a research psychologist from Yale University. Janis published an influential book in 1972, which was revised in 1982. Janis used the Bay of Pigs disaster (the failed invasion of Castro's Cuba in 1961) and the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 as his two prime case studies. Later studies have evaluated and reformulated his groupthink model.