Crucial decisions are often form in small groups. Your family is a small group. These relationships continue to follow you in life. Your family of origin and the manner in which you functioned in that group, will influence how you maintain social and career relationships in the future, (Rothwell, 1995).

Small group communication means that three or more individuals are involved in a face to face interaction for a common purpose or goal. The limit for small group communication is about ten to twelve peoples.








January 28, 1986 the space shuttle CHALLENGER blasted off and 73 seconds later the rocket disintegrated in a fiery explosion

The tragedy could and should have been avoided

A rubber O ring failed to seal a joint that caused volatile rocket fuel to spew out

Plus a flawed decision process was an important cause to contributing to the cause of the disaster


Jesse Moore has the ultimate authority to approve or scrub the shuttle mission

An engineer later testified that the o-ring seals have never been tested below 53 degrees F. Problems started when the temperature in Florida dropped in the low 20ís.

The O-rings had long been classified as a critical component of rocket motor failure that without back up could cause loss of life or the rocket.

Irving Janis, a Yale psychologist, was fascinated with the question of how an acknowledged group of experts could make such a terrible decision.

Also interested in Pearl harbor, Kennedyís Bay of Pigs fiasco, Johnsonís escalation of the Vietnam war, Nixonís Watergate break in and Reaganís Iran Contra scandal cover ups. and Clintonís approval on the Waco, (wAY-CO) Texas raid.

All victims of group think


Groupthink is defined by Janis as " a mode of thinking that people engage in when they are deeply involved in a cohesive in group, when the membersí strivings for unanimity override their motivation to realistically appraise alternate courses of action"

According to his definition groupthink only happens when cohesiveness is high

It requires that memberís share a strong "we feeling" of solidarity and desire to maintain relationships within the group at all costs. For example, fraternities

High cohesive groups are more effective at reaching their goals than low cohesive groups

But Janis concluded that the "superglue" that bonds people together often causes their mental process to get stuck

It is the concurrence-seeking tendency of close knit groups that can cause them to make inferior decisions.


Overconfidence and strong conformity pressure within the group causes groupthink

1. Illusion of Invulnerability: Everything will work out because we are a special group.

2. Belief in Inherent Morality of the Group: Members automatically assume the rightness of their cause.

3. Collective Rationalization and shared misconceptions "Hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil".







4. Outgroup stereotypes: What other people think of the group.

5. Self-Censorship: Gloss over the bad.

6. Illusion of Unanimity: Everyone has the same opinion and beliefs in the group.

7. Direct Pressure on Dissenters: The fear of looking inept, or disorganized.

8. Self-Appointed Mind Guards: Mindguards protect a leader from assault by troublesome ideas.





Janis introduced the concept of groupthink through the popular press in 1971

Not all-bad decisions are the result of groupthink and not all cases of groupthink end up failing

Groupthink most likely to happen when there are structural faults in the organization and decision making process during a time of high stress and low self esteem

Because groupthink happens when the group is close knit and insulated, a weak leader and a lack of procedural norms

Janis believes leaders can change the outcome of group think by having the group break into sub groups, draw on the expertise of trusted subordinates and allowing people to freely express their ideas and personal views. Also assigning a critical evaluator.

Groupthink makes for a speedy and amicable consensus on issues but according to Janis when a group confronts a great threat or a grand opportunity, concurrence seeking almost always produces an inferior solution.

Janis concluded that he had to spot all or most of the 8 signs before he could diagnose groupthink


E.g. of Janis groupthink could be observed in

Family Fraternity

Sorority Church group

Team Organizational Committee

School board

Group think continues to capture some of the answers why close knit groups can make terrible decisions.

According to the model, to control the antecedents (variables) that supposedly triggers groupthink would involve an experiment with 700 participants Janisís quantitative study of 19 international crisis is problematic as well

He measured the decision making process but not the cohesiveness of the groups in charge



Wood, Julia. (1997) Communication Theories in Action: An Introduction Wadsworth Publishing Company.

McClish, Glen. (1997). Instructor's Manual to Accompany EM Griffin's A First Look at Communication Theory McGraw-Hill Companies Inc.

Griffin, EM. (1997) A First Look at Communication Theory. McGraw-Hill Companies Inc.