The number of high profile people resigning, being arrested, being made unemployed and looking shameful is increasing by the day. As the house of cards that is the relationship between the media, the police and government continues to tumble, and MP’s who have been blackmailed for decades finally find the nerve to speak out against the Murdoch mafia, it’s a useful time to look at the concept of Groupthink.

Here’s a couple of definitions:

"A mode of thinking that people engage in when they are deeply involved in a cohesive ingroup, when the members' strivings for unanimity override their motivation to realistically appraise alternative courses of action.” Janis, 1972.

“Collective optimism and collective avoidance.” T Hart 1998

The Stamford Prison Experiment is a classic demonstration: some nice young men were randomly divided into Prisoner and Guard roles and abuse began within minutes. The psychologists involved – highly qualified and experienced professionals – became caught up in the drama and perpetuated the abuse. So did the ‘prisoners’ parents, lawyers and a chaplain, all brought in to authenticate the experiment.

In 1986 the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded, killing all the crewmembers. The engineers had told everyone, endlessly that the O rings would fail because of atmospheric conditions but the need to sell the concept of the shuttle as if it was a profit-making business led people to ignore this information.


There’s no doubt that the Murdoch’s are and are likely to remain massively successful. I see any number of clients who are successful, optimistic, positive and increasingly disturbed by their own consciences. It’s none of my business what decisions a person makes, my job is to provide the environment in which a person can discover for themselves what they believe to be best. In other words, to give clients the opportunity to step outside of Groupthink.

The most recent Groupthink research suggests that groups that contain more positive disagreement are less likely to experience disaster than everyone whoopdedooing in agreement. Individuals know what is right and wrong, we just learn expedience.

Whether you’re a part of a team with huge power and influence, or a member of group under increasing financial pressure or a person stuck with a peer group that punishes dissent, having the space to consider what you really want from your own life rather than someone else’s idea of good and bad may save you a great deal of trouble later on.

Counselling Directory is not responsible for the articles published by members. The views expressed are those of the member who wrote the article.

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