The Allure of Groupthink in the age of Social Media.


“If it is popular, it is wrong” — Oscar Wilde

Social Psychologist Irving Janis coined the term groupthink, which happens when in-group pressures lead to a deterioration in mental efficiency, poor testing of reality, and lax moral
judgment (Janis, 1982).

Groupthink is a psychological phenomenon that occurs within a group of people. The desire for harmony or conformity in the group results in an irrational or dysfunctional decision-making outcome.

It tends to occur in highly cohesive groups in which the group members’ desire for consensus becomes more important than evaluating problems and solutions realistically. In his 1972 Book, Victims of Groupthink, Janis expounded his theory of groupthink using the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 and the Bay of Pigs disaster (the failed invasion of Castro’s Cuba in 1961) as case studies.

Janis writes:

“I use the term ‘groupthink’ as a quick and easy way to refer to a mode of thinking that people engage in when they are deeply involved in a cohesive in-group, when the members’ strivings for unanimity over-ride their motivation to realistically appraise alternative courses of action.
Groupthink is a term of the same order as the words in the Newspeak vocabulary George Orwell presents in his dismaying 1984 – a vocabulary with terms such as ‘doublethink’ and ‘crimethink’. By putting groupthink with those Orwellian words, I realise that groupthink takes on an Orwellian connotation. The invidiousness is intentional: groupthink refers to a deterioration of mental efficiency, reality testing and moral judgment.

“You might as well eat shit, fifty billion flies can’t be wrong.”