Nov 20, 2020 in Case Studies

Grouplink in the Sweat Lodge

Grouplink in the Sweat Lodge

1. Symptoms of Groupthink


Groupthink is a psychological term, which denotes the priority of points of view of the most members of the group over a personal opinion of an individual. Social psychologist Irving Janis proposed such a term and described it as a psychological process which describes teams that put unanimous agreement ahead of reasoned problem solving (Johnson, 2012). So, it means that groupthink does not encourage the whole group to achieve the best results, it simply orients their actions in the definite direction and is not always successful.

In order to understand the groupthink better, it is necessary to give an example. The very interesting event full of unordinary things had happened with the group of the spiritual seekers, which attended a five-day Spiritual Warrior Retreat near Sedona, Arizona. During this retreat, the participants have many seminars, spiritual cleansing exercises, and other activities. The silly rule in such a company was to eat and drink nothing. As a result, many people died, and many of them were in the hospital. This fact shocked both police and the ordinary people, who could not understand the behavior and blind following of the participants of the silly rules of retreats organizers (Johnson, 2012).

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However, analyzing the behavior of participants of Spiritual Warrior Retreat, it is necessary to admit that all of them have symptoms of groupthink. Therefore, it is important to note that there are many different situations, when people fall victim to the syndrome of groupthink. They have such symptoms as cohesion, lack of ideas in the decision-making process, are under the stress, are insulated or isolated from the other groups, should be always stimulated and encouraged or have highly directive leaders and members who push for a particular solution (Johnson, 2012). All these symptoms of groupthink make a person dependent and push him/her to make not always appropriate decisions.

Moreover, it is necessary to admit the different signs of groupthink, which are possible to observe in the situation with the participants of Spiritual Warrior Retreat; they are signs of overconfidence, closed-mindedness, and group pressure. As for the signs of overconfidence, they divide into the illusion of invulnerability and belief in the inherent morality of the group. The first one expresses the thoughts of that group of people, especially if such people are experts in the interested thing and worthy of respect, are every time right and can not do wrong things. According to such optimistic mood, the participants did not take into account the risky moments, they simply relied on the experts opinion, and as a result, they suffered. As for the strict belief in the inherent morality of the group, such a rule is quite contradictory. No one can say that common actions of the whole group of people correspond to the principles of morality. In many cases, members of the group make a decision in spite of moral and ethnic rules and principals. So, according to the testimony of victims, it is impossible to observe ethic and moral principles in seminars of Spiritual Warrior. One reporter informed that it was a human cooking pot with searing lungs of retreated goers and baking their internal organs (Johnson, 2012).

It is also possible to observe the signs of closed-mindedness, which include collective rationalization in order to protect the operation from any discounted feedback and stereotypes of outside groups. The last sign means that the organizers of Spiritual Warrior Retreat did not take into account the capabilities and skills of the participants, thinking that such people aspiring to clean their spirits are not enough educated and strong. In other words, they feel their full priority. As one could notice, the result was awful.

In addition, there are signs of group pressure in such an accident, such as pressure on dissenters, self-censorship, the illusion of unanimity, and self-appointed mind guards. Pressure on dissenters excludes another opinion than the greatest number of groups members has. Self-censorship means keeping doubts of one participant of the group from the rest in order not to be isolated. The illusion of unanimity expresses the situation of the full agreement of all members of the group, because nobody wants to express his/her contradictory point of view. Self-appointer mind-guards determine the situation in the whole group, when some people support the leader and the rest try to protect the group from dissenters. It is necessary to admit that all these facts were present in this dangerous accident.

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To draw the conclusion, it is important to note that groupthink is a very complicated, risky, and in many cases incorrect method of decision-making. Trying to follow organizers of Spiritual Warrior Retreat points of view, the participants could not take into account all advantages and disadvantages of their actions. The most people of the group who were used to be under the leader simply supported him and even did not want to express another opinion, contradictory to the one that the leader possesses. That is why groupthink in this case leads to dangerous results. As the conclusion, one must think about his/her actions and make his/her own decision in spite of the rest of the group of people without following their ideas and actions.


Johnson, C. E. (2012). Organizational Ethics: A Practical Approach. Thousand Oaks, Calif: SAGE Publications.

2. Groupthink is the Greater Danger for Spiritual Groups.

According to common ordinary facts, people trying to connect their lives with the spiritual world are used to believe in extraordinary things. The psychological method of persuasion, such as groupthink, was used in Spiritual Warrior Retreat. Crowds of people follow stupid actions and ideas, and all of them believe that in such a way they clean their spirits. However, not only spiritual groups are under the influence of groupthink. Such actions may lead to quite dramatic consequences, which can be even dangerous. Irving Janis analyzed political failures and singled out many of them.

In order to investigate all aspects of groupthink, Irving Janis has analyzed major US political disasters, such as failure of the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Bay of Pigs and the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, the invasion of North Korea, the danger of escalation of the situation in Vietnam War, the disasters of the Challenger and Columbia space shuttles, and unreal facts and eve fraud concerning WorldCom, and the Iraq War. During these events, political and military leaders made great mistakes choosing the wrong ways in their decision making (Johnson, 2012). It is very important to note that all their decisions were not their own points of view to the problems; groups of people stimulated them, encouraged, and supported their opinions. The dangerous influence of groupthink has led to the awful consequences.

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Of course, all these political events are based on the historical facts, and are being investigated and analyzed by the crowd of scientists. As the result of such analysis, groupthink played an important, but not the basic, role in political decision-making. As for spiritual groups, they use groupthink as one of the main and the most appropriate methods of persuasion, because participants of such groups depend on their leaders; they even worship them in spite of all the silly ideas and stupid actions. Participants of spiritual group have all symptoms of groupthink, such as cohesion and lack of ideas in the decision-making process (Johnson, 2012). They are used to be under the stress, some of them are insulated or isolated from the other groups. In order to achieve necessary results, the participants should be always stimulated and encouraged by the experts in such a field. Therefore, they are very dependent persons, who want to be always directed.

To draw the conclusion, groupthink brings negative results not only to the spiritual groups of people; its victims may be even political and military leaders, who are very strong, confident, and decisive people. However, those, who are used to be under the pressure, and those, who are very sensitive and yielding, possess the greatest danger. There are many such people in the spiritual groups; that is why groupthink is the greater danger for the spiritual groups of people.


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