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A Case of Groupthink

Description of the event/story

On July 9th, 2018, President Trump nominated for the office of Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States of America, Mr. Brett Kavanaugh. He was to succeed over the retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy. Kavanaugh was the US Court of Appeal judge for the District of Columbia at the time of his nomination. He had been appointed to the latter position in 2006 by the former president, George W. Bush (Landler & Haberman, 2018).

Judge Kavanaugh was questioned by the Senate Judiciary Committee, which heard testimonies from witnesses about his nomination over four days. The hearings took place between the 4th and 7th of September, 2018. A few days later, it came to light that Dr. Christine Blasey Ford had written a letter in July to one of the Senate members- Senator Dianne Feinstein. The letter stated that Kavanaugh had sexually assaulted her while in High School in 1982. When the Committee became aware of this new development, they postponed the hearings until Blasey and Kavanaugh could both appear for the public hearing. During this interim period, two other women appeared with similar accusations against the nominated judge. Blasey and Kavanaugh testified before the Committee on September 27th, 2018. The judge’s nomination was forwarded to the full Senate the next day. The Senate committee had voted 11-10. On October 6th of the same year, and after an FBI supplementary investigation on the allegations, a 50-48 Senate vote confirmed the nomination of Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court

An explanation as to why you think it is a good example of groupthink

On October 4th, 2018, a protest ensued on the streets against Kavanaugh’s confirmation. The protestors asserted that a vote for Kavanaugh was a vote against the female gender and an open declaration that women do not matter. In a 2017 rally held in Arizona, Senator Sylvia Allen, a Republican, praised Trump as being anti-stupid, anti-PC, and anti-Left. A browse of the Facebook page ‘Proud Liberals,’ which has 2.5 million followers, shows an obsessive love for Stephen Colbert and the Obamas alongside an intense hatred for the Republican party. In 2016, there was the ‘snowflake’ definitive insult against the liberals.

There is obviously an exaggeration between parties where Republicans view the Democrats as elitist latte guzzlers, France-loving, Volvo-driving, unpatriotic, and godless. The Democrats, on the other hand, view the Republicans as religious fanatics, gun-fondling, NASCAR-obsessed, and ignorant. Although these are exaggerations, the sociopolitical world appears to operate in an ‘us vs. them’ and ‘red vs. blue’ manner, with political intolerance for each other reaching an all-time high. The assertions by the protestors chalked all the thoughtful, considerate votes that were in favor of Kavanaugh as being misogynistic without caring for his career as a DC Circuit judge. This assertion also did not consider that he possibly believed he never had in his life assaulted Blasey, and this was also seen as being irrelevant. On the other hand, when conservatives shouted ‘snowflake,’ it trivialized the valid efforts to update the law fast enough as regards social rights. The triviality made it look like citizens of the US live in a magical social utopia where there are no hate crimes, and those that share their stories of injustice are seen as seeking attention. Both sides put in so much effort to deflate each other’s veracity, which put the process at a stalemate.

In 1971, Janis wrote an article titled ‘Groupthink,’ where he analyzed the phenomenon. He said that Groupthink is characterized by eight symptoms, including ‘mindguards, unanimity, self-censorship, pressure, stereotypes, rationalization, invulnerability, and morality. Morality and invulnerability relate to how an ‘in-group’ is overestimated. The stereotypes and rationalization symptoms refer to the close-mindedness of the group. The mindguards, unanimity, self-censorship, and pressure symptoms produce coercion to have uniformity (Rose, 2011). The experiences of the in-group, according to Janis, are illusionary as regards their invulnerability to stark dangers, such as being overly optimistic, and hence, the members fail to guard themselves against any impending dangers. Further, the in-group members also rationalize away any negative feedback and warnings so as to retain an apparent validity of the basic assumptions made by the group. These basic assumptions guide all the group decisions (Brecher, 2015). The groupthink victims believe unquestionably in the group’s inherent morality and use stereotypes in dismissing out-groups as stupid, weak, and evil. For anyone who doubts the validity of the policies of the in-group, such a person is faced with direct pressure. Self-censoring follows, and members avoid deviation from what the majority of members support. Members thus choose to minimize their self-doubts as being of no importance. Following this self-censorship, the in-group achieves an illusion of unanimity. The members then appoint themselves as mindguards to support their leader and other members from information deemed to be adverse. The members may break down the complacent stance shared as regards the morality and effectiveness of the decisions made by the group.

The Republicans, despite having sufficient evidence that discredited Kavanaugh as a morally upright nominee for Associate judge, chose to go with their leader’s decision. There may have been those who were opposed to the idea of having a misogynist hold the Associate judge of the Supreme Court position. However, they voted for Kavanaugh because they did not want to appear as opposing their leader or the party. By minimizing their self-doubts, the victims’ testimonies notwithstanding, they chose to play by the ‘in-group’ rules of achieving unanimity. These members also proceeded to downplay the accusations by dismissing the women victims and also accusing the liberals of crying wolf in an attempt to stop one of their own from ascending to a powerful position in the country.

How has groupthink positively or negatively affected the event/story in your example?

Kavanaugh was confirmed and sworn in on October of 2018. Those who voted for him were viewed as misogynists. Those that voted for Kavanaugh were all the 49 Senate Republicans and 1 Democrat (West Virginia). This mindset reinforced the ‘in-group’ stance that the others were evil. They also put pressure on those in the ‘out-group’ who were dissenters to comply (Houghton, 2014). In this case, the out-group had to agree that the in-group was right or be counted as one of the misogynists. On the other side, Blasey was forced to move out of her home because of the many death threats she received because of testifying against Kavanaugh. At a Mississippi rally, President Trump mocked Blasey as the crowd cheered and laughed. He also said that Kavanaugh’s life was shredded because of the evil treatment he got from the Democrats. Groupthink was, in this case, demonstrated where the out-groups efforts to settle a credible and serious accusation against an in-group member was viewed as a baseless affront that was meant to sabotage the legitimacy of the in-group member. The reasoning had nothing to do with the possibility that the accusations could actually be the truth. In conclusion, groupthink resulted in a negative impact on the story, a possible sexual pervert holding a powerful position in the government and a polarization of the red and blue political parties.


Brecher, N. D. (2015). Breaking Bad: Stop Deceptive Groupthink. Journal of Property Management, 80(6), 45.

Houghton, D. P. (2014). Political psychology: Situations, individuals, and cases. Routledge.

Landler, M. & Haberman, M. 2018). Brett Kavanaugh Is Trump’s Pick for Supreme Court.

Rose, J. D. (2011). Diverse perspectives on the groupthink theory–a literary review. Emerging Leadership Journeys, 4(1), 37-57.


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The term groupthink refers to a process of group decision-making that is not based on a rational decision-making process, but rather the need for consensus and harmony. The concept was originally coined by a research psychologist named Irving Janis in 1972. Read the course materials on groupthink and research an example in the media of groupthink that happened in the last decade. Write a 750-1,000-word summary of the event. Be sure to explain why you believe the event is an example of groupthink.

Include the following in your summary:



  • A description of the event/story.
  • An explanation as to why you think it is a good example of groupthink.
  • How has groupthink positively or negatively affected the event/story in your example?
  • Three to five scholarly resources including the course textbook and the media groupthink

While GCU style is not required for the body of this assignment, solid academic writing is expected, and documentation of sources should be presented using GCU formatting guidelines, which can be found in the GCU Style Guide, located in the Student Success Center.

This assignment uses a rubric. Please review the rubric prior to beginning the assignment to become familiar with the expectations for successful completion.

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