What’s a good example of “Groupthink?”
From the switch to a new Coke recipe to popular fandom cultures, here are nine answers to the question, “What are some good examples of groupthink?”
- The Switch to New Coke
- The Wave (Die Welle)
- The Challenger Space Shuttle Disaster
- The Bay of Pigs Invasion
- The Cuban Missile Crisis
- Jury Members Altering Their Opinions
- Mean Girls
- Fandom Culture
The Switch to New Coke
The switch to the new Coke was an epic business failure thwarted by groupthink. The Coca-Cola Company had been around for over a century and their secret recipe was one of the most successful in history.
Coke executives were so sure that New Coke’s sweeter flavor would be a hit, they didn’t consider the opinions of loyal customers who treasured the original formula. This is an excellent example of how groupthink can lead to disastrous decisions.
Thankfully, the company was able to recognize and rectify its mistake relatively quickly by bringing back the original flavor. However, it still serves as a lesson about the dangers of relying too heavily on consensus without considering other perspectives.
Michael Fischer, Founder, Elite HRT
The Wave ( Die Welle )
The Wave is a great example of groupthink. This movie shows how any group, even an otherwise high-functioning one, can fall victim to following each other blindly without question—when peer pressure and fear become more important than individualism and reason. The Wave follows the story of a history teacher’s experiment in which he creates a makeshift “class society” composed of his students. As its popularity grows and The Wave takes on a life of its own, the students make increasingly irrational decisions in the name of The Wave—and conformity within the group.
The film illustrates the dangers posed by we-thinking (as opposed to me-thinking) and serves as an effective warning against succumbing to groupthink. It is meant as an exemplary critique of and warning against extremist political ideologies, in particular Nazism.
Groupthink is the tendency of groups to lean towards the majority opinion and neglect the importance of individual differences.
To keep a good balance, it is important that every opinion is heard and respected, even if it goes against the majority. In this case, that a person is incapable of thinking for themselves is a fallacy because every opinion still comes from a person.
Groupthink is something that can occur in any kind of group, even as small as two people. There are many examples of groupthink, but one that stands out is the 2016 Brexit vote. This was a vote on whether the UK should leave the European Union. The majority voted for Brexit, but the decision has caused many problems for the UK—problems that could have been avoided if every opinion had been heard and respected.
The Challenger Space Shuttle Disaster
The Challenger Space Shuttle disaster is a terrifying example of groupthink gone wrong. NASA engineers had a hunch that there were problems with the O-rings sealing the joints of the solid rocket boosters, but didn’t have enough data points to prove it.
Ultimately, their conviction to adhere to the systems and safety protocols NASA developed kept the project on schedule despite reservations from several team members.
Although they believed they were making the right decision based on the data provided, with further analysis, the correct response should have been to ask for more data. NASA engineers failed because of their own reliance on internal protocols. They never questioned the validity of those systems and thought outside the box.
Since this tragedy, NASA has made strides to ensure that more divergent thinkers are present within their teams who can offer fresh perspectives that might go unexplored from traditional channels alone.
The Bay of Pigs Invasion
One example of groupthink, a phenomenon when people belonging to one group strive for consensus, is the Bay of Pigs Invasion.
Dwight D. Eisenhower developed the plan to invade Cuba in 1961. However, it was implemented after John Kennedy https://blog.terkel.io/examples-of-groupthinkd him as President of the United States. The new administration began implementing the plan without thinking about it, questioning the basic assumptions, or undertaking additional investigations.
Thus, the decision to attack was based on the “desire for consensus” rather than on critical thinking and objective evaluation of the options. They just acted assuming that everyone wanted it. And it was a classic case of groupthink.
Everyone thought the invasion was a bad idea. However, members of the government and Kennedy’s top advisers weren’t willing to speak against the plan and withdraw from the military operation.
The Cuban Missile Crisis
Groupthink is a dangerous phenomenon in which members of a group blindly follow popular opinion rather than making an independent or critical judgment. An excellent example of groupthink happened during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, when President John F. Kennedy and his advisers discussed how to respond to Russia’s placement of nuclear missiles in Cuba.
Despite voices advocating for an airstrike on the USSR, Kennedy’s team arrived at the same conclusion: implementing a naval blockade until further negotiations could occur and avoiding war. The decision turned out to be wise, but it was only reached because all involved took time to consider different options and speak openly about their opinions—something that might not have been possible if the team had succumbed to early pressures of consensus.
Jury Members Altering Their Opinions
A good example of groupthink is one from the court. Jury members change their own opinions for the sake of group cohesion. They may also want to seem like team players.
Interestingly, it has been scientifically proven that the status of members matters. Those with a better job and/or education are more likely to have a significant influence over lesser members and can persuade them to alter their opinions. Such a phenomenon is presented in the movie 12 Angry Men .
The characters known as “The Plastics” in the 2004 teen comedy, Mean Girls , present a classic groupthink example.
“The Plastics” are girls who follow their ring leader’s wishes in everything they do, devoid of any sense of individualism. Said girls routinely bullied their classmates and actually believed that they were morally justified in their actions because they adhered to their leader’s instructions blindly. Mean girls indeed!
As a fan of LOTR and Star Wars that has been active in various fan communities, I can assure you that one of the worst cases of groupthink I found was fandom culture.
When a fandom on a certain platform decides that a particular way of consuming media or interpreting some events is the “right” one, they become very vicious towards anyone with a different opinion.
Fandoms often even start believing “headcanon” (fan theories based on speculations) so much that it’s hard to even sometimes question some of them or just simply inform others these headcanons aren’t true.
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