Groupthink occurs when members censor their own opinions in the interest of group harmony. Specifically, group leaders often provide the opinions to the group and group members agree to maintain unity. Despite conceptual support for the theory of groupthink, there are limited experiments testing the validity of the theory. In a study of groupthink, subjects read and discussed Maier’s 1952 Parasol Subassembly Case as an example of a group of assembly line workers whose productivity has failed to meet the standards. The case was discussed by sixty groups of three. The group then reached a solution and notified the experimenter. The subjects then took a self-administered questionnaire of the process by which the group came the their conclusion regarding the case. The researchers evaluated the role of threat and cohesion within the group and its impact on group performance.
To introduce threat into the experiment, groups were provided with different degrees of potential loss. High-threat groups were told that their discussion was being videotaped and if they did not advance satisfactorily, their tape would be used for training purposes in class and in corporations. For these groups, a camera was prominently displayed in the discussion room. In low-threat groups, there was no mention of videotaping and no camera was visibly present. To introduce cohesion, high-cohesion groups wore name tags that were used for discussion amongst members prior to working on the case, while low-cohesion groups were not provided with nametags and did not socialize prior to working on the case.
Performance was measured by the quality and speed by which a decision was reached. Quality was determined by Maier’s coding scheme. Groupthink was rated using a 7-point Likert scale of groupthink symptoms. The researchers find a relationship between conditions of cohesion and threat and ineffective group performance.
Table 1. Correlation matrix for 12 Symptoms. *Correlations >0.36 are significant at the 0.01 level; **Numbers 1-11 in this row refer to the corresponding symptoms in the first column.
|5. Pressure of dissenters||-.21||.35||-.43||-.51||–|
|6. Failure to examine risks||-.51||.29||-.39||-.42||.41||–|
|7. Failure to reappraise alternatives||-.22||.18||-.32||-.23||.12||.15||–|
|8. Omission in survey of objectives||-.18||-.08||.35||.13||-.12||-.19||.23||–|
|9. Omission in survey of alternatives||-.18||-.20||-.01||-.06||-.08||.18||-.11||.12||–|
|10. Information processing bias||.24||-.08||.46||.18||-.12||-.39||-.27||.39||-.16||–|
|11. Poor information search||-.09||-.26||.009||-.12||.05||.11||-.11||.24||.27||.35||–|
|12. Contingency plans||.08||.04||.15||.13||-.12||-.30||.18||.30||.02||.15||.06|
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