Conforming to folkways and mores is natural, and it can help a society function cohesively and smoothly. There is, however, a threshold at which conforming becomes maladaptive and produces poor decisions. Crossing this threshold leads us into the phenomenon of “groupthink,” first studied by social psychologist Irving L. Janis.
Groupthink is a maladaptive manifestation of conformity in which the desire for unity by the group members results in an incorrect or deviant decision-making outcome. Groupthink is the proclivity of members of an “in-group” to conform to the prevailing view within this particular group, as well as to apply peer pressure that strongly discourages alternative views from being expressed and evaluated. These dysfunctional dynamics produce an inflated sense of certainty in the decisions of the group, and they often result in irrational and dehumanizing actions by the in-group toward an “out-group.”