25 Groupthink Examples in History and Pop Cultures

Well, the concept of Groupthink was first spoken about by Irvin  Janis and Journalist Willian H.Whyte. 

According to them, Groupthink is a phenomenon where numbers of people within a group start to think erroneously. 

To understand more about groupthink, the examples from history and pop culture showed how groupthink turned out for people and events and led to disastrous moments. 

Here are the most famous groupthink examples you can find in history and pop culture. 

What Should You Know About Groupthink? 

Before anything, it’s important that you understand what groupthink is. Well, it’s a psychological phenomenon in which people focus on striving for consensus within their group. 

However, in several cases, individuals set aside their beliefs or adopt opinions that suit the rest of the people in the group. 

Well, the Groupthink term was first coined by Irving L. Janis who was a Social Psychologist in 1972. 

To those who are opposed to the decision or overriding the opinion of the group, they remain quiet and prefer to maintain the peace instead of uniformity disrupt. 

This can be a problematic phenomenon, but even the people who are well-intentioned can make decisions that are irrational when they face overwhelming pressure from their group. 

What Are The Pitfalls To Avoid In Groupthink 

  • Blindness leads to negative outcomes
  • Fail to listen to people 
  • Ignoring the information which is important
  • Inability to see information
  • Not looking for things that should be known in the group
  • Obedience to the following authority without any question
  • Lack of having creativity
  • Having overconfidence in the decisions
  • Resistance to having new ideas and information 
Groupthink

Examples Of Famous Groupthink In History And Pop Culture 

Here are the examples you should know about groupthink, not just that it can help in understanding how it works.

Here are what examples you should consider : 

The Pearl Harbor Attack 

Another excellent example that you can consider for the groupthink theory is,  Before the attacks, a hundred communications were intercepted from Japan. 

With the help of these communications, it was confirmed that there would be an attack. But yet, the command at Pearl Harbor did not believe the attack from Japan. 

Also, they were concerned with Japanese citizens who were living in Hawaii, as they believed they were a far bigger threat. 

They chose to ignore the critical information which later proved to be one of the most immense disasters in history.


The Challenger Space Shuttle Disaster 

Another famous example when it comes to group thinking is, Engineers of the space shuttle voiced their concerns regarding the safety of The Challenger repeatedly. However, the group leader within NASA ignored the warnings. 

This was mostly because they wanted to launch it on schedule. 


Kony 2012 Viral Video 

Kony 2012 was documented, which focused on the Ugandan war criminal Joseph Kony, who was a militia leader. 

The purpose behind making this movie is to bring justice and cause an international movement for it. 

The movie was successful and went viral. Within days,  it spread across social media along with millions of views. Also, it became the first-ever video in the history of Youtube to hit one million views. 

However, later it was reached that most of the information mentioned in the video wasn’t accurate or correct. 

Insolvency Of Swissair 

Well at some point, the Swiss nation was renowned for its financial stability. 

Due to having a high level of liquidity, it was also known as Flying bank. 

During the 1990s,  things turned to change, and the overconfidence and hubris led the company to take bad decisions which caused the airline to eventually collapse. 

Also, thanks to the ill-advised ‘ hunter strategy, in which the Swiss nation decided to attend as they bought the small airlines. 

With the help of this, it did give easier access to the European market but it didn’t last for too long. 

The airlines soon got overwhelmed with the debt and turned the whole thing into a disaster. 

Kodak Cameras 

There was a time when Kodak was considered as the world leader in the camera technology industry. 

They seem someone who is unbeatable and gave the company of leaders invulnerability. 

However, this changed when digital cameras were introduced. They showed the symptoms of groupthink and refused to adopt the new technology/ 

Along with other failures in some informed decisions, eventually, Kodak led to a major downfall. 

However, one of the strangest things that kodak was the first company that actually came up with the digital camera.  But they didn’t introduce it to the market,as they dropped the idea in order to protect the lucrative film processing. 

This makes Kodak one of the major examples when it comes to groupthink. 

Escalation Of The Vietnam War 

There is an incident known as the Gulf of Tonkin incident, which is known to be one of the most significant moments when it comes to the Vietnam War.

In case you are not aware, The Gulf of Tonkin was the event when the North Vietnamese attacked the U.S.S Maddox and U.S.S Turner Joy. 

This was an act of aggression, leading to the resolution and turning into a Vietnam war. 

The escalation resulted causing the bombing campaign, also known as Operation Rolling Thunder. 

Well, it also makes them part of a famous groupthink, as they acted without having information which was enough as North Vietnam did not attack without being unprovoked. 

It was shown later that Ameraux did aggress and provoked them by supporting the South Vietnamese forces and with the reconnaissance information.

Kendall Jenner Pepsi Ad 

Kendall Jenner did an appearance in an ad for Pepsi which turned highly controversial in 2017. 

The ad shows that she is attending a protest march, and in the end, she handed a can to the police officer. 

This sparked a huge outcry, which required the ad to be taken back from the television within the day. 

According to the ad, it seems no one actually thought about it who was involved as they ran the ad. 

The Switch To New Coke 

Coke, the popular beverage soda giant, got itself into a huge problem in their mid of 80s era. At that time, the company lost its market to competitors such as Pepsi. 

Also, there was growing popularity for diet sodas and fruit juices. This seems to be the root cause behind the fall of their business empire. 

To counter this, Coke came up with an aqueous marketing plan where they reformulated the product and launched it as New Coke. 

Well, the decision was not just wrong, but it also caused a big blunder. The company apprehends that the brand of coke used as a beverage drink is deeply accepted and connected to the consciousness of people and popular culture as well.   

Within days after its launch date, the company got bombed with thousands of complaints from angry customers. 

The hotline received more than angry complaint calls, 1500 per day. 

Also, they had to deal with negative attention and the press. They had to take action, reversing their demons and launching the old coke formula back into the market. 

The 2003 Invasion Of Iraq 

Another one that you can consider as famous example of groupthink is the invasion of Iraq in 2003. 

Well, what happened was that a multi-country coalition invaded Iraq, and they toppled Saddam Hussein. 

The reason behind this war was that they thought Hussein was stockpiling of weapons of the mass description of WMDs. However, after getting the new evidence, it was shown that he was not collecting any such thing. 

If you ask the experts,  this happened because intelligence agents were in a position to please their authority or seniors. 

The people who were charged were looking to have Saddam have such weapons, so agents supplied the information, which helped in comforting their biases of theirs. 

, the media and public also went along with this, helping to create support for the invasion. 

Not just that, there was another idea according to which Saddam Hussein was planning to launch the attacks, which added pressure to the group. 

The Salem Witch Trials 

To know how groupthink, the Salem Witch Trials are an ideal example to look at.  This is also a mass hysteria. Begin from February 1692 to May 1693, the town charged over 200 people for witchcraft. 

From all these people, they even executed 20 people charged with witchcraft. 

It’s interesting to consider that the community reached its goal without having any kind of evidence. 

Enron Collapse 

Enron, which was an energy giant, filed for bankruptcy on December 2, 2001. 

Well, there are different reasons behind how a company that generated revenue of more than $100 billion ended up with such results. 

But one of the biggest reasons is the accounting irregularities and groupthink. 

This is according to Sherron Watkins, who wrote the book about it, also being part of Enron as an employee. She said that small groups were the reason which controlled the company and had complete control over the decision-making.

This group believed it’s possible to increase the profits per quarter. 

So when the company started to fall, the group refused to consider or even listen to anyone else. Due to that, they ended up collapsing the company. 

David Letterman joined CBS 

Johnny Carson made a crucial decision to get retirement from the popular Talk Show known as the Tonight Show in 1992.

 The NBA sports broadcaster has a critical disease decision that they have to make. They could replace the host with David Letterman or Jay Leno.

Bob Wright, the company president, has his own personal views, which ultimately overrode the opinion of the majority as he decided to hire a comedian,  Jay Leno.

 Not only was the choice catastrophic,  but the letterman accepted a contract from  CBSE, who was the Rival, and the launch of the late-night show with David Letterman.  This turned into a direct turn into competition with the NBC show.

They eventually won the war for their rating and advertising money. 

Because of this, many boards choose the person to play the devil’s advocate.  This is important as there is a member who can argue against the opinion accepted by the group. 

Doing this can help in making better decisions for the groups. 

12 Angry Men 

Juries are also the ones who fall victim to groupthink. Members also alter their opinions for the sake of cohesion in the group.

Some of the members also seem like team players.

According to studies, this can also happen due to the statute for some people.

It has also been found that members with better education and jobs have much more influence over those with less. Also, they can change their verdict. 

12 Angry Men is also a great movie showing an example of this. 

The American Auto Industry 

Leaders in such industries believed that America wanted big and gas-guzzling cars. In reality, there was the opposite, consumers looking for a new look. 

They are into preferring small cars and cars that have more fuel efficiency. 

The automakers from Japan also fulfilled this need. 

Despite having the evidence, the American auto industry clung stubbornly to their belief, only changing their views after losing their significant market to the Japanese car manufacturers. 

Doctors Recommending Smoking 

There was a time when smoking was considered good and even healthy. 

Not just that, even a doctor advertised it and recommended people with sore throats smoke. 

These doctors are also a part of the groupthink, which made them refuse to the altar claims despite knowing the health issues caused by smoking.

Only when the evidence turns undeniable, do they have to reverse the claims. 

The 2008 Financial Crisis 

When it comes to the market being crushed, there are different reasons. One of the reasons that can be counted is groupthink. 

The involved people refuse to believe that there is anything going wrong, leading to a house price increase. 

So the economic bubble grows steadily and pops eventually, causing financial devastation and ruining many people. 

The Lord Of The Flies 

Written by British author  William Golding in 1954, the story goes like this where a boy’s group gets stranded on an island during a fictional event of World War 3. 

The group turned into chaos and anarchy.  For example, a large group of boys started to bully the boy who was overweight, leading to his murder. 

William Golding’s The Lord Of The Flies also shows what happens to groupthink and how it increases when influences from outside remove.

The Watergate Scandal 

The Watergate scandal led to the resignation of Richard Nixon. Washington broke the Watergate and led the scandal to the nation. 

Some people also include this in groupthink. The reason is that Nixon made their inner group do everything that was loyal to him. 

This group not just turned toxic but also lost their ability to make good decisions.  They also believe they are morally right and pressure others to agree with their thoughts. 

Nazi Germany 

One of the symptoms that you get in groupthink is the need to carry out whatever decision is made by the leader, person who is in charge, or project manager. 

When it comes to Nazi Germany, this is exactly what happened.  Hitler took advantage of his understanding of group dynamics and swayed others with his ability to speak in public. 

This led to world war 2, also causing the death of millions of innocent and operating groups. 

Mean Girls 

Mean girls is a teenage comedy film that was released in 2004. Also, this turned into a cult classic. 

This film focuses on a group of girls who decided to compete against for bullying another girl. 

Well, the girls, also known as The plastic, engage in groupthink daily. 

Also follow their leader blindly and fantastically, doing everything she asks them. 

The Wave

This one is a 2008 film that explored the phenomenon of groupthink and also it’s creating the choice group. 

Depending on the in-class social experiment which is done by the American teacher and author Ron Jones. 

This exercise helped in showing students why the germans accepted the Nazi Patry. And also focuses on showing why they fell under the spell of Hitler. 

The Ice Bucket Challenge 

Well, this one started as a challenge that was focused on bringing awareness to motor neuron disease. However, it also turned into a terrifying example of groupthink. 

Here, the challenge is for participants to dump the bucket of ice water over their heads and then upload it on social media. 

This also turned viral, and a lot of people participated in it.  However, without knowing what the purpose behind it was.

Cancel Culture

Another example that you can consider of groupthink is Cancel culture. 

Well, this phenomenon focuses on the worst aspect when it comes to the Groupthink concept.  It includes the total belief of what group is right. 

All they have to do is take one accusation, and the mob of unthinking locals will descend on the person.

To those who are being victims of the cancel culture, they are coated without any trial and end up destroying their lives, families, and culture. 

They have nothing to talk about, and even though some deserve to get canceled, many innocent people become the victims of cancel culture. 

Mensa

Well, one of the features that you get in groupthink is that they often have beliefs that are exaggerated when it comes to their abilities. 

Well, one of the good examples that you can consider is Mensa. 

Members of Mensa believed that they were genius when they had average intelligence. Having the belief that they are intelligent is higher; it makes them believe they are always the right ones. 

Some even consider this organization as the same, as they charge huge amounts for their membership. 


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