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Groupthink: Collective Delusions in Organizations and Markets

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  • Bénabou, Roland

Abstract

I develop a model of (individually rational) collective reality denial in groups, organizations and markets. Whether participants' tendencies toward wishful thinking reinforce or dampen each other is shown to hinge on a simple and novel mechanism. When an agent can expect to benefit from other's delusions, this makes him more of a realist; when he is more likely to suffer losses from them this pushes him toward denial, which becomes contagious. This general "Mutually Assured Delusion" principle can give rise to multiple social cognitions of reality, irrespective of any strategic payoff interactions or private signals. It also implies that in hierachical organizations realism or denial will trickle down, causing subordinates to take their mindsets and beliefs from the leaders. Contagious "exuberance" can also seize asset markets, leading to evidence-resistant investment frenzies and subsequent deep crashes. In addition to collective illusions of control, the model accounts for the mirror case of fatalism and collective resignation. The welfare analysis differentiates valuable group morale from harmful groupthink and identifies a fundamental tension in organizations' attitudes toward free speech and dissent.

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Paper provided by C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers in its series CEPR Discussion Papers with number 7193.

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Date of creation: Mar 2009
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Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:7193

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Keywords: market crashes; psychology; anticipatory feelings; cognitive dissonance; groupthink; manias; market exuberance; morale; organizational culture; overconfidence; speculative bubbles; wishful thinking;

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References

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Cited by:
  1. Jakob de Haan & David-Jan Jansen, 2011. "Corporate culture and behaviour: A survey," DNB Working Papers 334, Netherlands Central Bank, Research Department.
  2. Dovern, Jonas & Fritsche, Ulrich & Loungani, Prakash & Tamirisa, Natalia, 2013. "Information Rigidities in Economic Growth Forecasts: Evidence from a Large International Panel," Annual Conference 2013 (Duesseldorf): Competition Policy and Regulation in a Global Economic Order 79936, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.
  3. Drelichman, Mauricio & Voth, Hans-Joachim, 2009. "Lending to the Borrower from Hell: Debt and Default in the Age of Philip II, 1556-1598," CEPR Discussion Papers 7276, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  4. Jonas Dovern & Ulrich Fritsche & Prakash Loungani & Natalia Tamirisa, 2014. "Information Rigidities: Comparing Average And Individual Forecasts For A Large International Panel," Working Papers 2014-001, The George Washington University, Department of Economics, Research Program on Forecasting.
  5. Muehlenbachs, Lucija & Staubli, Stefan & Cohen, Mark A., 2013. "The Effect of Inspector Group Size and Familiarity on Enforcement and Deterrence," IZA Discussion Papers 7876, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  6. Loungani, Prakash & Stekler, Herman & Tamirisa, Natalia, 2013. "Information rigidity in growth forecasts: Some cross-country evidence," International Journal of Forecasting, Elsevier, vol. 29(4), pages 605-621.

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