SECOND THOUGHT

Looking again at news and commentary

From the "Science of Business" column, Science 85 magazine, October 1985

"The culture of the workplace, where people are together day after day, is an arena ripe for implicit agreements not to bring up upsetting facts. Irving Janis, a social psychologist recently retired from Yale and now an adjunct professor at University of California, Berkeley, has done the most detailed analysis of this dynamic, which he dubs groupthink. In groupthink, decision makers tacitly conspire to ignore crucial information because it somehow challenges a collective view with which everyone is comfortable; members of the group cramp their attention and hobble their information-seeking to preserve a cozy unanimity. Loyalty to the group requires that members not raise embarrassing questions, attack weak arguments, or counter softheaded thinking with hard facts. Janis sums it up: 'The more amiability and esprit de corps among the members of a policy-making in-group, the greater is the danger that independent critical thinking will be replaced by groupthink.' The most likely result is a faulty decision."

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