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Last updated February 14, 2001


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Explanation of Theory: The result when group cohesion leads all members of the group to abandon realistic evaluation of the situation and follow the corporate group ideal.

Irving Janis
Primary Article:
Janis, I. L, (1972).  Victims of Groupthink: A psychological study of foreign-policy  decisionos and fiascoes (2nd edition). Boston: Houghton Mifflin. 

Individual Interpretations:
Groupthink is a theory that was developed in hindsight.  All of the examples given in the original theory were offered post hoc which is problematic.  Since its inception it has been revisted and studies have raised viable questions about the validity of the assumptions made in groupthink.

Metatheoretical Assumptions:
Being a Scientific theory the following metatheoretical assumption should be advanced.

Ontological Assumptions:
Scientific research suggest that human nature is deterministic.  Humans do 
not have control what they do.

Epistemological Assumptions:
Scientific research suggests that there is one truth, or big T truth.

Axiological Assumptions:
Research should not be value laden.  Research offers objective results.

Being a Scientific theory it should be critiqued using Chaffee & Berger's criteria.

Explanatory Power - Groupthink offers a concrete definition of what will happen when groups become cohesive.
Predictive Power -Groupthink offers a explanation that if a group becomes cohesive the group will make bad decisions.
Parsimony -Groupthink is a very simple theory that states a cohesiveness within a group will lead to poor decision making in the group.
Falsifiablity - Groupthink is a little short in this category.  There were no original criteria for groupthink so it is hard to test.  However, some researchers have attempted to develop a scale to test groupthink.
Internal Consistency - Groupthink is argued by many researchers.  Some agree but new research suggests that groupthink should be re-developed because it is not matching the current research on effective decision-making and cohesiveness.
Heuristic Provocativeness - There are several new hypothesis that can be offered about what happens in cohesive groups.  Researchers are working on new ideas as we speak.
Organizing Power - A major drawback on groupthink is there was never a specific set of criteria of what groupthink is so that it could be tested.  There were only symptoms to be interrupted by the researcher looking a group's decision.

Ideas and Implications:
It is very important to understand groupthink because of the implications of groups in today's society.  We need to know why and how groups make bad decisions and groupthink offers one explanation.  However the theory of groupthink should be carefully examined before it is offered as the sole truth of what happens in groups.

The Abbaline Paradox

Relevant Research:
    Hart, P.T. (1998).  Preventing Groupthink Revisited: Evaluating and Reforming Groups in Government. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 73, 306-326.
     Rothwell, J. D.  (1998).  In mixed company:  Small group communication.  Fort Worth, TX:  Harcourt Brace.
     Schafer, M. & Crichlow, S. (1996).  Antecedents of groupthink:  a quantitative 
study.  Journal of Conflict Resolution, 40, 415-435 
     Whyte, G. (1998).  Recasting Janis's Groupthink Model:  The Key Role of Collective Efficacy in Decision Fiascoes.  Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 73, 185-209

Location in Eight (8) Primary Communication Theory Textbooks:

     Anderson, R., & Ross, V. (1998). Questions of communication: A practical introduction to theory (2nd ed.). New York: St. Martin's Press.  N/A

     Cragan, J. F., & Shields, D.C. (1998). Understanding communication theory: The communicative forces for human action. Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon. N/A

     Griffin, E. (2000). A first look at communication theory (4th ed.). Boston, MA: McGraw-Hill. N/A

     Griffin, E. (1997). A first look at communication theory (3rd ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill. 231-

      Infante, D. A., Rancer, A. S., & Womack, D. F. (1997). Building communication theory (3rd ed.). Prospect Heights, IL: Waveland Press. N/A

      Littlejohn, S. W. (1999). Theories of human communication (6th ed). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth. N/A

      West, R., & Turner, L. H. (2000). Introducing communication theory: Analysis and application. Mountain View, CA: Mayfield. N/A

       Wood, J. T. (1997). Communication theories in action: An introduction. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth. N/A