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Groupthink: Psychological Studies of Policy Decisions and Fiascoes [Paperback]

by Irving L. Janis
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)

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Book Description

May 19, 1982 0395317045 978-0395317044 2
Groupthink: Psychological Studies of Policy Decision and Fiascoes

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Groupthink: Psychological Studies of Policy Decisions and Fiascoes + Why Decisions Fail + Judgment in Managerial Decision Making
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 349 pages
  • Publisher: Cengage Learning; 2 edition (May 19, 1982)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0395317045
  • ISBN-13: 978-0395317044
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.5 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #250,164 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
Irving L. Janis culls together evidence regarding three fiascoes, the Bay of Pigs invasion, Pearl Harbor, and the United States' invasion into North Korea, and contrasts those with the Cuban Missile Crisis and Marshall Plan. The bottom line is that the first three incidents were examples of groupthink, the last two were able to avoid this problem.
Groupthink is the process described by Janis when a group follows a certain set of patterns that result in disastrous consequences. Clearly if the same group patterns were applied to the Cuban Missile Crises that were used in the Bay of Pigs, the world might well have been destroyed by nuclear war. The possible consequences for groups are enormous.
When a group, whether it is a business, church, school, little league, not for profit, or other organization, knows how to avoid groupthink, it can come to a much better decision for the group itself, as well as those the group represents. Janis provides the means to help groups accomplish this very important goal. This is material from which any group can benefit, if they chose to put it into practice.
I recommend this work very highly to anyone who works with groups of any kind.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A classic work in decision-making January 3, 2008
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
When you fill a room with smart, capable people, why do decisions sometimes go so wrong? Janis has one hypothesis: They can become victims of "groupthink." Groupthink refers to (Page 9) ". . .deterioration of mental efficiency, reality testing, and moral judgment that results from in-group pressures." Janis describes the dynamic thus (Page 5):

"In studies of social clubs and other small groups, conformity pressures have frequently been observed. Whenever a member says something that sounds out of line with the group's norms, the other members at first increase their communication with the deviant. . .But if they fail after repeated attempts, the amount of communication they direct toward the deviant decreases markedly. The members begin to exclude him. . . . [T]he more cohesive the group and the more relevant the issues to the goals of the group, the greater is the inclination of the members to reject a nonconformist." In short, groups will tend to reinforce their own views and reject the words of those who disagree. In this case, members of the group become "conformist to some conformity."

Janis uses several case studies of what he considers to be "groupthink"--The Bay of Pigs invasion, the escalation of the Korean War in 1950, the attack on Pearl Harbor while the "fortress slept," and escalation of the Viet Nam War. In each instance, according to Janis, top decision-makers walled themselves off from dissenting voices and tended to reinforce one another's preexisting positions. In counterpoint are two successes, where groupthink did not triumph--the Cuban Missile Crisis and the development of the Marshall Plan.

The thesis may be a bit simplistic, but it is abundantly clear from this book and from what we see around us that groupthink can be problematic.
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16 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This is a classic of social psychology June 12, 2002
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This classic of social psychology is based on the idea that people in groups might think differently and by implication less well than they would have thought as individuals on the same issue at the same time. That is probably true for some groups at some times just as it is also probably true that some groups at some times might actually think better than any individual member of that group. In fact, most of the evidence cited in this book supports the idea that group thinking, like thinking in general, goes awry when there is a failure to evaluate all the available evidence for relevance and sufficiency in quality, quantity, and weight. When a group or an individual fails to evaluate the evidence, then the group or the individual reaches a decision not justified by the data and vice versa. Failure to perceive the reality, as demonstrated by evidence, has tremendous adverse consequences as is so well illustrated by Janis' detailed account of the Bay of Pigs fiasco. Correct evaluation of the data, as demonstrated by evidence, has tremendous beneficial consequences as is so well illustrated by Janis' detailed account of the Cuban Misssile crisis. In fact, the fascinating parts of this book relate to the detailed analysis of group decisions in history, a reason enough to buy and read this fine work despite the price. Incidentally, Gilbert Murray has sought to explain the group cohesiveness thing by another myth which he calls "the groping of a lonely-souled gregarious animal to find its herd or its herd-leader." But however we attempt to account for the craving for unity in some groups, it seems to be a deeply rooted human irrational demand. Like James' "sentiment of rationality," it is a sentiment and a need long before it is justified by any discoverable facts. Our duty is to be on guard against it. Groupthink, this classic book, should boost our defenses.
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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Provocative Analysis of highly cohesive groups November 10, 2001
Janis defines groupthink as the "deterioration of mental efficiency, reality testing, and moral judgment" in the interest of group solidarity.
Pressure to conform. Formal and informal attempts are made to discourage discussion of divergent views. Groups exert great pressure on individual members to conform.
Opposing ideas dismissed. Any individual or outside group that criticizes or opposes a decision receives little or no attention from the group. Group members tend to show strong favoritism toward their own ideas in the manner by which information is processed and evaluated, thus guaranteeing that their ideas will win out.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars I recommend this book for anyone that works in a team environment
This is a fascinating read. We see the results of group think everywhere and around us every day. Truthfully, I think this book shoots holes in the superiority of theory of team... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Stephen T. Morley
5.0 out of 5 stars Good Book
It's a classic academic writing. Informative for anyone looking for more effective decision-making and conflict issues in groups and organizations.
Published 15 months ago by Barbara L
3.0 out of 5 stars Great analyzes, but repetitive.
With some great case analyzes this book make the point on why some great people working together can fail. Read more
Published on October 15, 2011 by aabraga
3.0 out of 5 stars Careful analysis
This book is at the beginning of a tradition of analyzing why people make mistakes in judgement. Rather than canvassing the whole field, Mr. Read more
Published on December 31, 2009 by Aretae
5.0 out of 5 stars these are the times that try mens souls
nice read and even more relevant with our current status and love fest between the media and big govt, amazing that this is still in print yet our "leaders" continue the lockstep... Read more
Published on August 2, 2008 by T. P. Russell
5.0 out of 5 stars A Must Read
I first used this book when I taught a course on group decision making in 1990. It is as relevant now as ever and I recommend it to my students studying national and homeland... Read more
Published on June 4, 2008 by CLAUDE D'ESTREE
5.0 out of 5 stars How to unanimously make major mistakes
The main contention of this book is that major diplomatic and political decisions are often wrongly made because of ' groupthink' i.e. Read more
Published on May 3, 2007 by Shalom Freedman
2.0 out of 5 stars I Hated This Book
I needed this book last semester for my psychology class and this book was bland and boring. It was extremely hard to get into,and I have plans on selling this item back ASAP. Read more
Published on February 24, 2007 by Dezire
5.0 out of 5 stars Overlooked for too long
Janis provides wonderful insights into human business and organisational behaviour that have been overlooked for too long in the technological, one-size-fits-all and 'formulamatic'... Read more
Published on January 9, 2007 by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Needs Updating to Include the Iraq War
I studied this book 17 years ago and as I think about it, it should have been required reading for the Bush administration. Read more
Published on June 21, 2004 by Bruce
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