Group-think described

Group-think rules…

Group-think rules…

Christopher Booker, writing in the UK Telegraph, points to a fascinating extract from a book entitled “The Blunders of our Governments” by Anthony King and Ivor Crewe. The extract in question refers to the work of an American psychology professor in the 1960s, Irving J. Janis, who studied the cultural phenomenon of group-think.

When reading the following paragraphs, keep in the forefront of your mind the following:

  • the ABC (and its ideological twin the BBC);
  • John Cook and Dana Nuccitelli of Skeptical Science;
  • Stephan Lewandowsky and his psychology mates, and
  • the majority of the ‘consensus’ community in climate science

and see how much of it can be applied to them.

Janis became intrigued by a sequence of unfortunate episodes in modern American history that seemed to him to display a number of common characteristics: the Roosevelt administration’s faiure in 1941 to prepare for a Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor; the Truman administration’s rash decision in late 1950 to invade North Korea; the launching of President John F. Kennedy’s clownish Bay of Pigs expedition in 1961; and Lyndon B. Johnson’s escalation of American involvement in the Vietnam War during the mid-1960s. To that original list, he later added President Richard M. Nixon’s attempt to cover up his own and his henchmen’s complicity in the notorious Watergate break-in of 1972.

According to Janis, whose views are now almost universally accepted, group-think is liable to occur when the members of any face-to-face group feel under pressure to maintain the group’s cohesion or are anyway inclined to want to do that. It is also liable to occur when the group in question feels threatened by an outside group or comes, for whatever reason, to regard one or more outside individuals or groups as alien or hostile. Group-think need not always, but often does, manifest itself in pathological ways. A majority of the group’s members may become intolerant of dissenting voices within the group and find way, subtle or overt, of silencing them. Individual group members may begin to engage in self-censorship, suppressing any doubts they harbour about courses of action that the group seems intent on adopting. Latent disagreements may thus fail to surface, one result being that the members of the group come to believe they are unanimous when in reality they may not be. Meanwhile, the group is likely to become increasingly reluctant to engage with outsiders and to seek out information that might run counter to any emerging consensus. If unwelcome information does happen to come the group’s way, it is likely to be discounted or disregarded. Warning signs are ignored. The group at the same time fails to engage in rigorous reality-testing, with possible alternative courses of action not being realistically appraised.

And the following paragraph could have been written for our friend Professor Lewandowsky:

Group-think is also, in Janis’s view, liable to create “an illusion of invulnerability, shared by most or all the members, which creates excessive optimism and encourages taking extreme risks”. Not least, those indulging in group-think are liable to persuade themselves that the majority of their opponents and critics are, if not actually wicked, then at least stupid, misguided and probably self-interested.

Denial, conspiracy ideation, extreme free-market adherents – add those to the list and we’re done! It continues:

Irving Janis’s own conception of group-think is tightly bounded. It refers only to situations in which members of a face-to-face group feel, consciously or subconsciously, a need to maintain the internal cohesion of the group. It is, in that sense, a purely psychological concept. But of course the notion of group-think can be extended and used more widely to refer to a variety of situations in which there exists such widespread agreement among the members of a group about the desirability of a given course of action that no threats to the group’s internal cohesion ever arise. Because there really are no dissenters in the group, no one in the group ever expresses dissent. There are no nay-sayers. Everyone is agreed. But such situations can be just as dangerous as the ones Janis describes. The decision-making processes associated with unforced agreement may be just as defective as the ones associated with suppressed dissent.

As Booker concludes:

[Janis’s] account of “the illusion of unanimity”, and how group-thinkers regard anyone daring to question their belief-system as an “enemy” to be discredited, superbly characterises the mentality of that small group of “climate scientists” at the heart of driving the warming scare. This was never more clearly brought home than by those Climategate emails, showing how they were ready to fiddle their data to promote what they themselves called “the cause”, and to suppress the views of any scientists they saw as a threat to their illusory “consensus”. We all casually use the term “group-think”, but I had not known how comprehensively Janis explains so much that is puzzling about this world we live in.

Perhaps Cook, Lew, Nuccitelli and the rest of the “consensus” crew should take a good, long, hard look in the mirror now and again, instead of applying pseudo-psychology to their critics.


  1. Old Sailor Man says:

    I think this is a bit harsh on Truman, who strikes me as a hardnosed practical man of great humanity, and an outstanding President. I submit the invasion of North Korea was conducted by Macarthur in defiance of the Administration: after Inchon he knew he was untouchable and could do as he liked. Truman eventually sacked him.

    • You are correct about MacArthur OSM, this is not the place to talk about him but when you have a close look at him then he should have been court Martialed years before he got to Korea and long before he got to Japan after the war as the Supreme Post War Commander , the number of times he blatantly disobeyed orders and his actions, and in-actions, resulted in large military losses including very large losses of life, MacArthur always thought that he was untouchable yet some of the things that he did against orders could easily have seen him dishonorably discharged if not shot. The hero of Corrigidor, what a joke, his ego alone caused Halsey to be in the dark about what the 7th Fleet was doing at Leyte and visa versa, the two fleets could not talk to each other due to MacArthur not wanting them to chat behind his back, Yes, MacArthur should have face a Military Court over what he did.

      • I respectfully disagree with your assessment of Gen. MacArthur, his conduct in WW2 was for the most part far above his peers, using the metric of men lost to objectives gained. The near disaster of Leyte Gulf was Halsey taking the bait “…..where is Task Force 34? The world wonders.”
        As far as Korea, there are more than a few historians who feel had Truman backed his General instead of starting the first “politics first, strategy second, war” the situation there would be a LOT better today.
        A far better and objective view of MacArthur, than I can present, can be found in William Manchesters “American Caesar”
        Thank you.

        • The confusion at Leyte came about due to the fact that the two fleets were forbidden to talk to each other, all messages had to go through MacArthur via Manus Island and this caused hours of coding and decoding delays and when time mattered the most then no messages could be sent quickly so Halsey was kept in the dark, after Pearl Harbour MacArthur did nothing to protect his command and it was virtually destroyed less than 24hiours after the Pearl Harbour attack, when they had to flee to the Bataan Peninsular then MacArthur did nothing to prepare for that, so he did not move his Food, Munitions and Fuel so all his food and all his fuel was left behind for the use of the Japanese while MacArthur’s men starved, The Japanese Commander the one who was ;later hanged, boasted that he did not have to bring any food to feed his men for the years that they were there, when he arrived in Melbourne then all the Local press could say about MacArthur was that they had heard that there was no food for the men on Bataan but the General look very fat and healthy after his long boat trip! And that was a far the the press of the time could go in print. MacArthur describe brave and Valiant Australians as being cowards when these men were in fact the first military forces to defeat the Japanese, Australian Soldiers were the first men to turn back a Japanese landing in the Second World War at Milne Bay, Australian Soldiers turned back the Japanese when they tried to cross the Owen Stanley Ranges and MacArthur called them Cowards, I have no doubt that MacArthur was lauded in the USA as he did have a Press staff of around 200, it’s a pity that he did not care about his men as much as he cared about himself, MacArthur constantly disobeyed orders but I don’t care to list all the times that he did that as the list is far too long and in the end then to stop that behavior then the President of the USA had to sack him.

  2. Progressives = Group-think = Consensus … or is that too much of a conspiracy theory?

  3. Another of your well-spotted items, Simon. Good effort.

    Looks like the Walls of Jericho will finally come tumbling down during 2014 – in Australia particularly – and you’ll be at the front of the list of those to thank for that.

  4. Paul Sangster says:

    I am pretty sure that we have a president and surrounding bobble head cronies who are involved in the phenomenon of “group think”. Among other things. PS

    Sent from my iPhone


  5. Reblogged this on contrary2belief and commented:
    You will be assimilated.
    Absorbed. Digested.

    While it may be of comfort to all be of one mind, it’s best to make sure that that mind isn’t insane.

  6. Simon Colwell says:

    As an adherent of extreme free-markets I come across group think in my job every day and it does my head in. I work for one of the big four banks and we have climate change crap,along with every other “progressive” cause, shoved down our throats on a daily basis. And of course, all the drones just blindly go along with it.

    • Simon I am always shocked by the Lemming minds out there, the truth is there for anyone who wants to look for it, none are more blind that they who will not read.

  7. Whenever I hear or read ANYTHING whatsoever from the Ministry-Of-We-Know-Best-For-Your-Own-Good there is a reflex initiated in my brain that commands a search of the basis (evidence) and the counter-perspective of the view in order, as best I can, to test the institutional view. I have a PhD, which means in this instance I have demonstrated to the satisfaction of a university of high standing that I am competent to undertake independent research. It astounds me daily that indviduals, groups and companies, who extoll the virtues of independent thinking and who have demonstrated their prodigious resolve outside the box do any and everything but, when it comes to the Green Consensus. Folk that made massive fortunes by thinking outside the square suck up the ‘consensus’-save-the-planet-carbon-footprint-cagw-meme without the slightest pause for thought.

    Where are they when we need them to be their most original, incisive and clear thinking?

    We (my wife and me) decided to spend a few days of the holidays at a resort hotel for a break. The hotel is replete with exhortations to go green, a clear manifestation of the local application of UN agenda 21. Should you wish to ‘Go Green’ amongst other things, one don’t ask for one’s towels to be washed and one ensures that everything is turned off when one leaves one’s room.

    Complying doesn’t result in a reduction in your bill. It is assumed instead that you will ‘feel good’ saving the planet by not using the facilities for which you pay handsomely.

    Rampant profiteering by any name.

    It incites outright rebellion.


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