When Groupthink Occurs Silence Is Viewed As Agreement

Aaron Hermann and Hussain Rammal illustrate the negative role of the group`s thinking in the collapse of Swissair, a Swiss airline considered financially stable to earn the title of «Flying Bank». [44] The authors argue that Swissair had, among other things, two symptoms of group thinking: the belief that the group is invulnerable and faith in the morality of the group. [44]:1056 In addition, prior to the fiasco, the size of the board of directors was reduced, eliminating industrial expertise. This may have increased the likelihood of group thinking. [44]1055 Given that board members did not have expertise in this area and had similar backgrounds, standards and values, the adaptive pressure could be greater. [44]:1057 This phenomenon is called group homogeneity, which is a precursor to group thinking. Together, these conditions may have contributed to the poor decision-making process that ultimately led to the collapse of Swissair. The study of pluralistic ignorance was born from Floyd Allport, who used the term in 1928 to describe the situation in which virtually all members of a group privately reject the group`s norms and yet believe that virtually all members of the group accept them in private. Over the past eighty years, pluralistic ignorance has been empirically associated with a large number of collective phenomena, including the inability of those present to intervene in emergency situations, group thinking, the spiral of silence, and the persistence of unpopular and harmful social norms and practices. As soon as a behavior reaches a high degree of uniformity within a group, pluralistic ignorance feeds its perpetuation.

Park (1990) found that «only 16 empirical studies on group thinking have been published» and concluded that they «only resulted in partial support for her [Janis] hypotheses.» [28]230 Park concludes: «Despite Janis` assertion that group cohesiveness is the primary precursor, no research has shown a major effect of cohesiveness on group thinking.» [28]230 Park also concludes that research on the interaction between group cohesion and leadership style does not support Janis`s assertion that cohesion and leadership style interact to cause symptoms of group thinking. [28] Park presents a summary of the results of the studies analyzed. According to Park, a study by Huseman and Drive (1979) shows that group thinking occurs in both small decision-making groups and large decision-making groups within companies. [28] This is due in part to group isolation within the company. Manz and Sims (1982) conducted a study that showed that autonomous working groups are sensitive to the symptoms of collective thinking, as well as decisions made by groups within companies. [28] [29] Fodor and Smith (1982) conducted a study that found that high-motivation group leaders create atmospheres more sensitive to group thinking. [28] [30] Leaders with a high motivation for power have qualities similar to those of leaders with a «closed» leadership style – who are unwilling to respect dissenting views. The same study shows that the level of the group leader is insignificant in the prediction of group thinking. Park summarizes a study by Callaway, Marriott and Esser (1985) in which groups of highly dominant members «made higher quality choices, showed a reduced state of fear, needed more time to make a decision and made more disagreements/agreements.» [28]:232[31] Overall, groups of highly dominant members expressed characteristics that held back group thinking.