International Society of Political Psychology

Conference Abstracts

Groupthink and Presidential Advisory Groups: the Homogeneity and Heterogeneity of Decision Making Gr

Hanneke Derksen, Syracuse University

Conference: ISPP 2011
Affiliation: Syracuse University
Research Area: Political decision making

Policy decisions are most of the time made by groups or institutions. The notion of aggregation then becomes important. Groupthink is a concept coined by Irving Janis in 1971 which describes several traits of a group that result in sub-optimal problem solving processes and it has become one of the main theories of group decision making.
This project proposes to study one possible mechanism that leads to Groupthink: the homo- and heterogeneity of the group. The hypothesis is that people who are the same have a higher tendency to succumb Groupthink. Inversely, variation in personalities, backgrounds and viewpoints make Groupthink less likely. Using Leadership Trait Analysis (LTA) this analysis goes beyond descriptive case study and towards a more rigorous measure of the variables that lead to Groupthink. The study includes both Groupthink and non-Groupthink cases, using LTA to construct psychological profiles of presidents and their advisers in those decisionmaking groups. I will use these psychological profiles to determine whether the group is homo- or heterogeneous. I expect the groups where Groupthink is present to be more homogeneous in their psychological profiles then the groups without Groupthink.
The results of this study point to a specific mechanism that leads to Groupthink, thereby contributing to an important theoretical debate in the decision making scholarship. In addition, scholars have applied LTA mainly to leaders, especially presidents, but rarely to the presidential advisers. This study contributes to this scholarschip by gathering information on and constructing psychological profiles of members of advisory groups.