Publication Date

May 2008

Document Type



This article was presented by Karisa Guetterman at the National Conference for Undergraduate Research in 2008.


“Do You Think Your Group Thinks?”

An Examination of the Relationship between Groupthink and Small Group Type

The intent of our research was to analyize the six main groups in our culture and to determine which group, if any, suffers from groupthink more than the others. Groupthink is defined as “a strong concurrence-seeking tendency among members within a group that leads to a deterioration in the decision making process.” There are six main types of groups, primary groups, social groups, educational/theraputic groups, decision making/problem solving groups, work groups and mediated communication groups.

A literature review was conducted on previous studies about various aspects of small group and groupthink research. In 1972, Irving L. Janis studied political disasters and developed “groupthink theory”. Eight symptoms were developed to assess group think.

We determined that surveys were the best, and most efficient way to calculate these queries. Entitled, “Group Interaction Survey” our group composed a survey which consists of twelve close-ended (yes or no) questions. Each question was designed to detect one of the eight symptoms of groupthink Janis outlined. The purpose of asking these surveys was to gauge what groups are more susceptible to groupthink.

Twenty surveys were passed out to each group totalling 120 surveys. According to our research, determined by the survey, primary groups had the highest amount of groupthink. Of the people we surveyed 55% of the answers indicated group think. Problem solving groups had the lowest amount of accumulated groupthink with an outcome of only 40% of the answers indicating groupthink.

There are other ways the study could have been conducted, several other factors that could have been considered such as a wider variety of ages, greater number of surveys, or wider geographical area covered. Other methods could have been used as well to evaluate each individaul symptom.