Causes of groupthink


Kevin Mangelschots

Causes of groupthink

Hogg & Vaughan (2018) have reported that excessive group harmony and cohesiveness appear to be significant causes of groupthink.

Studies have identified a couple of contributing factors:

  1. Excessive group cohesiveness
  2. Exclusion of external opinion and influence
  3. Lack of impartial leadership
  4. Ideological congruence
  5. High perceived stress from external threat

Potential causes of groupthink explained

Image describing the dangers of group consensus.

  • Excessive group cohesiveness

    One of the causes of groupthink bias is excessive group cohesiveness.

    An extravagant amount of group togetherness and harmony can lead to groupthink due to individuals of a group exhibiting too little skepticism and thus, employing too few critical thinking skills in the process. 

    Excessive group cohesiveness can lead to ignorance of thoughts and ideas from people outside of one’s group.

  • Exclusion of external opinions and influences

    Image of multiple pawns standing together with one pawn standing separated alone.

    Keeping an open mind is an important aspect to prevent groupthink from taking place.

    Problems start to arise when individuals in a group start excluding external opinions and influences of people outside the group.

    Significant to know is that there’s a whole variety of individual differences between people in general and groups. Thus, it’s only logical that other people will have different opinions than us from time to time. Different ideas, opinions, and points of view are necessary to improve society.

  • Lack of impartial leadership

    When a leader lacks impartiality, strong prejudices and biases to members outside the group will be made.

    Impartial leadership means trying to engage and interact with people without any biases and as objectively as possible.

    A lack of impartial leadership inherently puts a negative bias on people outside one’s group from the start, while simultaneously rating members from the leader’s group as inherently more preferable and superior.

  • Ideological congruence

    One of the dangers of groupthink is that it promotes ideological congruence. Sometimes, individuals and groups can become ideologically possessed.

    This means that only thoughts, ideas, values, and principles that align with one’s ideologies are searched out and accepted.

    A group strives for harmony. But taking this group cohesiveness too far and being overly ideological congruent and harmonious with the other group members and their values, principles, ideas, thoughts, and general “way of thinking” can lead to groupthink.

  • High perceived stress from external threat

    When we are in, or at least perceive a high amount of external threat, our instinct kicks in and leads us to form a tight group to defend ourselves better. And what better way to protect ourselves than power in numbers?

    In times of danger, the cohesiveness of a group is even more important than in times of peace and prosperity, to keep the group members focused on the threat instead of potential infighting and conflict with one’s group members.


Image of a hand holding a card with the word “conclusions” written in blue.

There are a lot of possible causes of groupthink bias. Oftentimes, it’s a combination of multiple factors all at once that leads to this particular sheep herd mentality.

The key to preventing this from happening is to keep a healthy amount of skepticism and, as a result of that skepticism, have the ability and daring to think critically.

1 thought on “Causes of groupthink”

Comments are closed.