Group-sharing, not Group-think: Understanding Foreign Policy Decision-Making through a Social Sharedness Approach

Luís da Vinha

Abstract

The concept of groupthink has dominated much of group research in Foreign Policy Analysis (FPA). However, groupthink´s sucess and proliferation in academic and popular circles has led to some general misinterpretations of the concept itself. While Janis´groupthink concept has received a wide amount of attention throughout the years, it has also been subject to various strands of criticism. In fact, groupthink´s broad popularity has not been based on the success of research findings. Also, groupthink challenges much of the research of social psychology undertaken in recent decades which reveals that particular group dynamics can actually contribute to more efficient decision-making. In this paper we seek to demystify the groupthink phenomenon and present an alternative assessment of group dynamics in foreign policy decision-making. We argue in favour of adopting a social cognition approach which can advance our understanding of how decision-making groups define the particular challenges that they face in the international political environment. More precisely, we present a conceptual framework based on social sharing mechanisms for comprehending how groups develop the problem representations that inform their foreign policy decisions. Ultimately, we seek to highlight the positive contributions of groups dynamics in effective decision-making.

Key-words: group decision-making, groupthink, integration process, social psychology, social, sharing.

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