Irving L. Janis' Victims of Groupthink Author(s): Paul't Hart Source: Political Psychology, Vol. 12, No. 2 (Jun., 1991), pp. 247-278 Published by: International Society of Political Psychology Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3791464 Accessed: 11/01/2010 13:57 Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use, available at http://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp. JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use provides, in part, that unless you have obtained prior permission, you may not download an entire issue of a journal or multiple copies of articles, and you may use content in the JSTOR archive only for your personal, non-commercial use. Please contact the publisher regarding any further use of this work. Publisher contact information may be obtained at http://www.jstor.org/action/showPublisher?publisherCode=ispp. Each copy of any part of a JSTOR transmission must contain the same copyright notice that appears on the screen or printed page of such transmission. JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact email@example.com.
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Political Psychology, Vol. 12, No. 2, 1991
Classics in Political Psychology
Irving L. Janis' Victims of Groupthink
Paul 't Hart1
INTRODUCTION A Victimsof Groupthink: Psychological Studyof Foreign Policy Decisions and Fiascoes by Irving L. Janis was published for the first time in 1972. In an way, Janisappliedideas from small-groupanalysisto the explanaunprecedented tion of policy fiascoes. He made plausible the hypothesis that each of these events can, to a considerableextent, be attributedto the occurrenceof a very specific and obviously detrimentalphenomenonwithin the groups of decisionmakers involved in their making. He called this phenomenon "Groupthink," cleverly picking this highly suggestive Orwellian mode of expression ("doublethink" in Orwell's novel 1984). standsfor an excessive form of concurrenceAccordingto Janis, groupthink seeking among membersof high prestige, tightlyknit policy-makinggroups. It is excessive to the extent thatthe groupmembershave come to value the group(and their being partof it) higher than anythingelse. This causes them to strive for a quick and painless unanimityon the issues that the group has to confront. To preserve the clubby atmosphere, group members suppress personal doubts, silence dissenters, and follow the group leader's suggestions. They have a strong belief in the inherent morality of the group, combined with a decidedly evil pictureof the group's opponents. The results are devastating:a distortedview of reality, excessive optimism producinghasty and reckless policies, and a neglect of ethical issues. The combination of these deficiencies makes these groups particularlyvulnerable to initiate or sustain projects that turn out to be policy fiascoes. Janis's study has had a major influence on students of group processes (Brown, 1989), decision-making,and management.Also, it has influencedinternational-relationsanalysts in their efforts to understandthe dynamics of the of Univer'Royal Dutch Academy of Sciences ResearchFellow, Department Public Administration, sity of Leiden, PO Box 9555, 2300 RB Leiden, Netherlands. 247 0162-895X/91/0600-0247$06.50/1 ? 1991 International Society of Political Psychology
occurrence and resolution of internationalcrises. Here, we shall review the theory in view of its place within the field of groupdynamics, the researchwork that followed Janis's original formulation, and the implications of groupthink...
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