Psychology Dictionary of Arguments

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Haslam I 192
Group cohesion/psychological theories: [in] an old experiment by Back (1951)(1) in which high (vs. low) levels of cohesion were manipulated in a variety of ways. In particular, researchers generated high cohesion by leading pairs of participants meeting for the first time to expect that they were similar and would like one another. Participants in this condition exhibited the strongest evidence for groupthink symptoms. A subsequent meta-analysis of similar lab studies further indicated that manipulations of cohesion based on personal attractiveness (but not cohesion based on task commitment or group pride) were associated with worse group decisions (Mullen et al., 1994)(2). >Group think/psychological theories, >Group behavior/psychological theories, >Social groups/psychological theories.
Both the social identity maintenance (Turner and Pratkanis, 1998a;(3) >Group think/Pratkanis) and the social discomfort approach (McCauley, 1998(4)) include cohesion as a primary antecedent to groupthink.[anyway they differ in relation] to the nature of that cohesion.
a) Turner and Pratkanis (1998a)(3) adopt a social identity approach and define cohesion in terms of members’ identification/self-categorization with a group
b) McCauley (1998)(4), on the other hand, posits that a sense of commitment or group pride is less important than cohesion grounded in agreeable personal relations among members.
Comparison of effects: Michael Hogg and Sarah Hains (1998)(5) manipulated types of cohesion in laboratory groups, varying whether it was based on personal attractiveness (i.e., prior friendship) or social attractiveness (i.e., grounded in a shared group identity). They also measured friendship and group identification.
VsMcCauley: Their findings were mixed, but the overall pattern suggested – contrary to McCauley (1998)(4); Cf. >Group think/McCauley) – that cohesion grounded in personal relations was associated with fewer/weaker groupthink-like symptoms, whereas cohesion grounded in collective identity was associated with more/stronger symptoms (see also Haslam et al., 2006)(6).
Difference between the studies of McCauley and Hogg/Hains: McCauley focused on people meeting for the first time while Hogg and Hains examined groups of existing friends.
Friendship: Once friendly relations exist and can, at least to some extent, be taken for granted, disagreement and divergence may become more permissible (see also McKelvey and Kerr, 1988)(7).



1. Back, K. (1951) ‘Influence through social communications’, Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 46: 9–23.
2. Mullen, B., Anthony, T., Salas, E. and Driskell, J.E. (1994) ‘Group cohesiveness and quality of decision making: An integration of tests of the groupthink hypothesis’, Small Group Research, 25: 189–204.
3. Turner, M.E. and Pratkanis, A.R. (1998a) ‘A social identity maintenance model of groupthink’, Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 73: 210–35.
4. McCauley, C. (1998) ‘Group dynamics in Janis’ theory of groupthink: Backward and forward’, Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 73: 146–62.
5. Hogg, M.A. and Hains, S.C. (1998) ‘Friendship and group identification: A new look at the role of cohesiveness in groupthink’, European Journal of Social Psychology, 28: 323–41.
6. Haslam, S.A., Ryan, M.K., Postmes, T., Spears, R., Jetten, J. and Webley, P. (2006) ‘Sticking to our guns: Social identity as a basis for the maintenance of commitment to faltering organizational projects’, Journal of Organizational Behavior, 27: 607–28.
7. McKelvey, M. and Kerr, N.H. (1988) ‘Differences in conformity among friends and strangers’, Psychological Reports, 62: 759–62.



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.
Psychological Theories
Haslam I
S. Alexander Haslam
Joanne R. Smith
Social Psychology. Revisiting the Classic Studies London 2017


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