Group think

Groupthink is a phenomenon that occurs when the desire of a group of people to act harmoniously overrides the chances of presenting alternatives or critique. This impacts the group negatively because the decisions made are irrational and lead to dysfunctional outcomes. People engage in group think when they feel that their opinions will not be accepted or will result in disruption of group harmony. Groupthink is a phenomenon that should be avoided by giving members an opportunity to raise their opinions on ideas presented by their colleagues, give alternatives and critiques.

Groupthink occurs in a group that is highly cohesive leaving little or no room for objective opinions. Group members also tend to unanimously agree on an issue when there is an external threat (Janis 162). When members are aware that their contrary opinions will have negative consequences they tend to give an opinion about the issue being discussed. Moral problems also to groupthink since the members would not want their opinions to be dismissed by their colleagues, so they prefer to remain quiet, wait for others to contribute and agree on ideas presented.

When Group members are presented with a problematic situation, some of them will not understand the best solution for the problem. They will therefore not have any meaningful contribution to the discussion(Janis 162). This can be avoided by ensuring that the members are given adequate time to research on the issue individually and present their findings during the meeting. By so doing every person will be aware of what the problem is and have a well thought out solution.

Organizational faults such as impartial or directive leadership also lead to groupthink. Sometimes leaders are biased so they fail to treat all the members equally (Hoover).  If a leader listens to some members more than others, not all members will contribute so they will be forced to agree on what the rest have decided on.  The decisions made by such a group are not diverse and innovative because members will not have contributed might have had better solutions for the problem.

Groupthink is recognizable through symptoms such as peer pressure whereby when a member presents an opinion all the others are expected to agree. If a member opposes the view, he/she is pressured and even threatened to leave the group. Stereotyping is another symptom of group thinking whereby the members have a negative attitude towards those with the contrary opinion as they see them as enemies. In the group members act as mind guards and discourage contradicting opinions from the members. Victims of groupthink phenomenon share the illusion of unanimity whereby they believe that all the members must agree on the decisions made even if they think it is not the best.

Groupthink leads to bad decisions because there is a lack of diversity in opinions from the members. It also discourages innovation and creativity because members unanimously agree on an opinion presented by one member. It also results in overconfidence which impacts the organization and the best solution to a problem are ignored. Groupthink influences the contribution of the people when they are required to decide on a topic that they are talking about.

The 12 angry men film is an excellent example of the challenges that the people have when contributing ideas that are supposed to be accepted by other group members regarding a decision that they are making. Group members are worried that their contributions will lead to the disruption of harmony in the group. In the film, the men talk about a boy who is accused of murdering his father. The twelve judges that were handling the case had different opinions on whether the boy was innocent or guilty for committing the murder, but the judge who is leading the case tells the jury that the decision they make should be unanimous.This means that no one should be on the opposing side or offer an opinion that contradicts that agreed upon by the others.

Groupthink occurs in the scenario where the judges have different opinions regarding the case but are not sure about the responses of other judges. In the group, there is one juror who wants to take control of the group and make other group members agree on his point in the case. The behavior of one group member wanting to become the leader of the group without the consent of other group members is common in groups. The person who wants to control the group believes that they have the morality to have the control and that the other members have no say but should instead agree.

One member tries to take control over the groups such as in the movie scene where jurors had to make a decision regarding the case of one boy accused of killing his father. Other judges are not given the opportunity to express their ideas and opinions regarding the case(DeVito). Other judges that are not given the opportunity to express their thoughts might be having strong ideas but if they don’t express themselves the ideas die away. Groupthink affects the decision being made by the judges on the case because the ideas of each judge are not considered and the best idea is taken.

In the case, the judge is the leader of the case and exerts direct pressure to the jury. They have to make a unanimous decision about the fate of the boy despite having different opinions. There are those who feel that the boy is innocent even after the woman testifying against the boy. Majority of the jurors are of the opinion that the boy is guilty, but there is one juror who is getting on their way of deciding the case. This particular juror believes that the boy is innocent and requests to be given a chance to give his opinion on the verdict.

Irving Janis’ Groupthink theory is evident in this case as the juror is seen as the enemy of the group. He is seen as a naysayer since he is opposed to the opinions of the majority instead of agreeing to the verdict(DeVito). This juror feels that in the group there is someone else who is opposing the guilty verdict but is not confident enough to say so for fear of being seen as an enemy. He proposes that the twelve jury vote and he will not vote. True to his thoughts there is another jury who feel that the boy is innocent. This juror opinion had been suppressed by that of the majority soothing which is common in groupthink. This shows that there was an illusion of unanimity which is a symptom of groupthink.

It is evident from the film that the jurors were victims of groupthink. Juror eight manages to convince the other jurors that the evidence provided by the witnesses was not to depend upon; therefore they should all agree that that the defendant was not guilty of the offense (DeVito). He starts by arguing that it was impossible for one of the witnesses who was an old man to have been in the scene of a crime at that time. This argument in favor of the young boy swayed the majority of the jurors in his favor. They had saddened been influenced by the juror that they decanted their opinions about the boy. Some of the jurors however at the first voting session voted for the guilty verdict not because they had any evidence about his engagement in the murder but for personal reasons.

The boy might have killed the father but because some of the jurors have the ability to convince their colleagues otherwise he is proven not guilty. In the beginning, only one juror was of a different opinion, but during the voting session, there is another jury who thought the boy was innocent (Bell). In the process, some of the jurors are forced to vote on the not guilty verdict at the expense of their previous opinion. In the film, there is direct pressure on dissenters which means that the individuals who object the will of the majority face threat and are pressurized so that they can consent.

The symptom is witnessed in the film where juror 8 asks the three jurors who are still insisting that the boy is guilty to explain the reasons for their persistent guilty verdict. Since they are the minority, they are seen as the enemies of the decision (Gale). The speech made by juror 9 has an effect in this turn of events which ends by everyone agreeing that the boy was not guilty. The lady witness had deceived the court by saying that he had she had seen the boy commit the murder. She was not wearing glasses in the court, and it was argued that even in the time when she claimed she witnessed the murder she did not have eyeglasses. It was possible that her vision was not clear, so she had mistaken the boy for someone else.

The effects of groupthink are evident in this film where all the jurors are expected to agree on a verdict unanimously. They are finally swayed into believing that the boy was innocent although they had a contrary opinion at first (DeVito). Symptoms of groupthink such as Illusion of Unanimity are evidenced when a juror votes for not guilty verdict yet at first it had been perceived that all the jurors had consented that the boy was guilty. The dissenters also are faced with direct pressure of explaining why they persist that the defendant is guilty. Juror 3, for example, believes that the boy is innocent. However, he experiences emotional pressure related to his son who is almost the same age as the defendant and finally joins the others on the “not guilty verdict.” There is a probability that the decision made was not right which is a negative impact of groupthink. This could have been avoided if all the jurors were given an opportunity to be independent on their thoughts rather than require them to have a uniform consensus.

 

References

Bell, R. Mark. “First Century Groupthink: An Exegetical Case Study.” Journal of Biblical Integration in Business 19.1 (2016).

DeVito, Joseph A. “The interpersonal communication book.” Instructor 1 (2019): 18.

Gale, Cengage Learning. A Study Guide for Reginald Rose’s” 12 Angry Men (Film entry)”. Gale, Cengage Learning, 2016.

Hoover, J. Duane. “Vicarious Observational Learning through Visual Media: The 12 Angry Men Film as an Organizational Behavior Primer.” Developments in Business Simulation and Experiential Learning: Proceedings of the Annual ABSEL conference. Vol. 43. No. 1. 2016.

Janis, Irving L. “Groupthink: The desperate drive for consensus at any cost.” Classics of organization theory (2015): 161-168.

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