Groupthink Examples in Everyday Life

Groupthink is a phenomenon in which the group members arrive at a conclusion that is not profitable for the organization as it undergoes a poor decision-making process. It happens when the members of the group arrive at a consensus without a proper evaluation and analysis of the decision.

The main cause of groupthink is the desire for harmony or conformity. The concept of groupthink was introduced by Irving Janis, an American psychologist, in 1972.


#1. Swissair Collapse

Swissair, the national airline of Switzerland, which was in operation from 1931 till its bankruptcy in 2002, is an example of a groupthink phenomenon. After remaining powerful, profitable, and successful for a long time, the airline became overconfident and reduced the number of board members due to which the airline lost the management team’s industrial expertise. D

ue to having similar backgrounds and assumptions, the remaining board members did not spot bad decisions, and Swissair filed for bankruptcy in 2002.

#2. The American Auto Industry

American automobile manufacturers like Ford and General Motors lost a lot of market share in the 1970s after smaller, more fuel-efficient Japanese cars started competing successfully with them. It happened because these American companies were overconfident that their cars were more powerful and advanced, and they did not notice the emerging market for Japanese cars.

#3. The 2008 Housing Crash

This financial crisis is also known as the American subprime mortgage crisis. The crisis majorily contributed to the 2007-2008 global financial crisis.

The main cause of the crisis was a large decline in home prices in the United States due to the collapse of a housing bubble. The financial institutions are blamed for this crisis as they failed to predict a fall in home prices in the country.

#4. Wall Street Crash of 1929

Also known as the Great Crash or the Crash of ’29, the Wall Street Crash of 1929 is considered one of the biggest stock market crashes in the United States.

This is also considered one of the causes of the worldwide Great Depression. Many scholars believe that it was caused by poor Federal Reserve decisions due to which many Americans invested with borrowed money as they were convinced that the stock values would never go down.

#5. Space Shuttle Challenger Disaster

On 28 January 1986, all seven crew members aboard the American space shuttle Challenger lost their lives when the space shuttle exploded 73 seconds after its launch from the Kennedy Space Center Launch Complex 39B (LC-39B). The shuttle crashed after an o-ring seal failed.

The main cause of the disaster is considered the poor decision to launch the shuttle amid the record-low temperatures on the morning of the launch due to which the rubber O-rings got stiffened, and it reduced the ability of the rings to seal the joints.

#6. The Attack on Pearl Harbor

On 7 December 1941, the Japanese Air Force launched a military strike against the American naval base at Pearl Harbor in Honolulu, Hawaii. Senior American military officers were blamed for the attack as the officers believed that no one could attack the United States. This overconfidence caused 2,403 Americans lives, including 68 civilian lives.

#7. The Bay of Pigs Invasion

The Bay of Pigs Invasion was a failed military landing operation in Cuba aided by the U. S. government in April 1961. It is believed that John F. Kennedy and his advisors poorly planned this military invasion as they thought they would achieve a swift overthrow of Fidel Castro’s regime in Cuba.

This poor decision was based on the hope that Cubans would support them as it would liberate Cubans from communism.

#8. Twelve Angry Men

This 1957 American legal drama film is a classic example of groupthink. In the film, 11 out of 12 jury members decided to vote guilty against a teenager as they believed that the teenager was a bad boy, so it was morally acceptable to punish him.

The jury members were so sure about their decision that they did not even bother to look at the evidence or witness testimonies that clearly showed that the teenager was innocent.

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