Ryan Powers Dr. Benita Dilley CATA 235: Small Group Communication March 21, 2006 Book: Janis, Irving L. Groupthink. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1982 Executive Summary: In this book Janis writes about the group phenomena known as groupthink. He breaks down the some of the reasons why groupthink occurs and gives theories, implications, and applications of groupthink.
Also, he connects his findings on groupthink to political fiascoes and demonstrates that groupthink is the leading cause behind these mishaps.Some of his examples are from foreign policy fiascoes such as the The Bay of Pigs, The Korean War, Pearl Harbor, Vietnam, and the Cuban Missile Crisis. Since this presentation is very short and limited I have chosen to focus directly on the Bay of Pigs fiasco and show how Janis portrays it as a product of groupthink. I.
Introduction A. Groupthink is a quick and easy way to refer to a mode of thinking that people engage in when they are deeply involved in a cohesive in-group, when the members’ strivings for unanimity override their motivation to realistically appraise alternative courses of action (9).B. Thesis: The Bay of Pigs is a United States foreign policy fiasco that is directly related to symptoms of groupthink.
C. Forecasting of Key Points: 1. There were six major miscalculations made by the presidential advisory group. 2. There were four key factors why the plan failed according to the group after the fiasco occurred. 3.
Janis counters these by proposing that the underlying reason why the plan failed was because of groupthink. II. Body A. The Bay of Pigs was bound to fail due to these six false assumptions made by the advisory committee. . No one will know that the United States was responsible for the invasion of Cuba.
Most people will believe the CIA cover story, and skeptics can easily be refuted (19). 2. The Cuban air force is so ineffectual that it can be knocked out completely just before the invasion begins (21).3.
The fourteen hundred men in the brigade of Cuban exiles have high morale and are willing to carry out the invasion without support (22). 4. Castro’s army is so weak that the small Cuban brigade will be able to establish a well-protected beachhead (23). . The invasion by the exile brigade will touch off sabotage by the Cuban underground and armed uprisings behind the lines that will effectively support the invaders and probably lead to the toppling of the Castro regime (23). 6. If the Cuban brigade does not succeed in its prime military objective, the men can retreat to the Escambray Mountains and reinforce the guerrilla units holding out against the Castro regime (26).
(internal transition) (How is possible that such able-minded people in Kennedy’s Committee could make such mistakes?Even with some of the faulty intelligence that was provided by the CIA such serious decisions should be carefully thought over and weighed for pros and cons. ) B. According Kennedy and his advisors, there were four reasons why their plan failed. 1. Political calculations 2. A new administration bottles in an old bureaucracy 3.
Secrecy-to the point of excluding the experts 4. Threats to personal reputation and status (internal transition) (Janis was dissatisfied with the four-factor explanation, so he explains the four factors through the models of groupthink. ) C. Janis says, “Groupthink does not replace the four factor explanation of the faulty decision; rather, it supplements the four factors and perhaps gives each of them added cogency in the light of group dynamics” (34). Janis finds specific symptoms of groupthink that occurred in Kennedy’s committee that contributed to poor decision making and group dynamics. 1. There was an illusion of invulnerability. a.
Essentially the notion is that “If our leader and everyone else in our group decides that it is okay, the plan is bound to succeed. Even if it is quite risky, luck will be on our side “(35).b. According to Robert Kennedy, “It seemed that, with John Kennedy leading us and with all the talent he had assembled, nothing could stop us. We believed that if we faced up to the nation’s problems and applied bold, new ideas with common sense and hard work, we would overcome whatever challenged us” (35).
c. This sentiment was echoes throughout the group which was indicated by Schlesinger’s statement, “Everything had broken right for him since 1956. He had won the nomination and the election against all the odds in the book. Everyone around him thought he had the Midas touch and could not lose” (35). . There was an illusion of unanimity.
a. In the search for group cohesion, the individual loses the ability to diverge and think for them self. b. Schlesinger says, “Our meetings took place in a curious atmosphere of assumed consensus” (38). 3. There were suppressions of personal doubts.
a. Self-censorship was a key issue, because the group members did did not want to be in conflict with other group members. b. Some of the committee members recall the doubts they had during the planning phase, but they never brought them up during meetings. Benita hates these types of group members.
)c. According to Schlesinger, “ In the months after the Bay of Pigs I bitterly reproached myself for having kept so silent during those crucial discussions in the Cabinet Room, though my feelings of guilt were tempered by the knowledge that a course of objection would have accomplished little save to gain me a name as a nuisance. I can only explain my failure to do more that raise a few timid questions by reporting that one’s impulse to blow the whistle on this nonsense was simply undone by the circumstances of the discussion”(39). . There were self-appointed mindguards in the group. a.
There is a groupthink symptom in which members of a group try to suppress the viewpoints of deviational members by confronting them, excluding them, or ignoring them. These members are usually trying to keep group cohesion strong, protect the leader of the group, and protect their personal interests. These group members are referred to as “mindguards. ” b. In the case of Kennedy’s group a deviating member maybe could have saved the plan from disaster by bringing up doubts and concerns with the plan.
. When Robert Kennedy learned that Schlesinger had doubts about the invasion he pulled him aside at a party and said this, “You may be right or you may be wrong, but the President has made his mind up. Don’t push it any further. Now is the time for everyone to help him all they can” (40). (He is a mindguard.
) III. Conclusion A. Restatement of the Thesis: According to Janis groupthink was the underlying cause of the poor decision making within Kennedy’s advisory committee that eventually lead to the fiasco called the Bay of Pigs. B. Underview:
- There were six misconceptions made by the group.
2. There were four factors of why the group failed. 3. There were symptoms of groupthink within the group that attributed to the four failing factors. C. Last Thought: In conclusion, Janis believed that if groupthink had not been operating, the four factors of failure would have been sufficiently powerful to hold sway during the months when the invasion decision was being discussed (34). This proves that if groups can overcome groupthink it is possible to make more accurate decisions and avoid major political fiascoes, like The Bay of Pigs.