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Clark McCauley on Groupthink - Dictionary of Arguments

Haslam I 191
Group think/VsJanis/McCauley: possibilities for group think are: a) uncertainty reduction, is largely consistent with Janis’ (1972(1), 1982(2)) original formulation. In this case, groups may come to premature consensus on a decision due to a desire to avoid the collective ‘discomfort of uncertainty about an important issue’ (McCauley, 1998(3): 153). (…) group members seek refuge in a shared reality, often in the form of premature consensus.
b)‘a desire to avoid the discomfort of frank appraisal of ideas that have individuals attached to them’ (1998(3): 153). In this case, disagreement among peers is awkward and may be socially costly. McCauley (1998)(3) believed that evidence supporting the social discomfort account was stronger than that for uncertainty reduction.
Haslam I 192
McCauley thesis: the social discomfort mechanism allows for a prediction about the type of group or consensus that should give rise to groupthink. Specifically, groups founded on friendly relations and cohesion based on personal attractiveness should be most likely to create a situation in which individual members are motivated to remain on good terms with their peers. McCauley drew on laboratory evidence to support his hypothesis, most notably an old experiment by Back (1951)(4) in which high (vs. low) levels of cohesion were manipulated in a variety of ways.
>Group Cohesion/Psychological theories.


1. Janis, I.L. (1972) Victims of Groupthink. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
2. Janis, I.L. (1982) Groupthink: Psychological Studies of Policy Decisions and Fiascoes. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
3. McCauley, C. (1998) ‘Group dynamics in Janis’ theory of groupthink: Backward and forward’, Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 73: 146–62.
4. Back, K. (1951) ‘Influence through social communications’, Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 46: 9–23.



Dominic J. Packer and Nick D. Ungson, „Group Decision-Making. Revisiting Janis’ groupthink studies“, in: Joanne R. Smith and S. Alexander Haslam (eds.) 2017. Social Psychology. Revisiting the Classic studies. London: Sage Publications


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Explanation of symbols: Roman numerals indicate the source, arabic numerals indicate the page number. The corresponding books are indicated on the right hand side. ((s)…): Comment by the sender of the contribution.
The note [Author1]Vs[Author2] or [Author]Vs[term] is an addition from the Dictionary of Arguments. If a German edition is specified, the page numbers refer to this edition.
McCauley, Clark
Haslam I
S. Alexander Haslam
Joanne R. Smith
Social Psychology. Revisiting the Classic Studies London 2017


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