Why Women Easily Fall Into Groupthink And 5 Ways To Prevent It

We humans are community creatures. We crave connection and acceptance from those around us. Usually, this is an advantageous attribute, but if we don’t choose to think independently and critically ourselves, we're at risk of falling victim to groupthink.

By Olivia Flint3 min read
Pexels/Anna Shvets

In recent years, it’s become increasingly more difficult to be a conservative thinker. The popular, mainstream narrative is to be a progressive liberal – and it’s acceptable to disrespect those who voice right-leaning views. Rather than engage in civil discourse, individuals on both the left and right have become stuck in their own echo chambers, trusting only those who voice similar views. 

The danger of these echo chambers is that we are losing the ability to think critically for ourselves. Truth becomes lost in this laziness and the desire to fit in with the group closest to us. Women, unfortunately, are more prone to conformity than men – and for good reason. But this tendency toward groupthink also puts us at a disadvantage, especially at a societal level. Here’s how to avoid falling victim to groupthink.

What Is Groupthink?

Groupthink is a psychological phenomenon that can stifle independent thinking. Groupthink involves a group of people reaching a consensus through influence from one another rather than through their own independent, critical thinking. In essence, members of a group will conform to the opinion of the majority so as to not upset the harmony of the group.

We see this in a variety of scenarios. The Covid-19 pandemic is possibly one of the greatest examples of groupthink working on a large scale in recent times. Currently, we may also be seeing anti-Israel groupthink emerging, with huge protests taking place around the world and protestors chanting the genocidal rhyme “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.” The mainstream narrative portrays those who support Palestine as on the “right side of history,” while those who voice their support for Israel’s right to defend itself are depicted as genocidal racists, Nazis, and on the “wrong side of history.” 

It seems that people may be mistaking popular opinion for accuracy and morality, deciding that Israel is the oppressor without even an ounce of knowledge of the long history of the Israel-Palestine conflict. Without doing the necessary research and critical thinking, many have decided to join in with the genocidal chant, completely unaware of which river and sea they’re referring to.

By now, it’s likely you’ve seen protestors ripping down posters of men, women, and children kidnapped by the terrorist organization Hamas. Have you noticed a lot of these videos appear to be of women?

According to British author and journalist Louise Perry, these women may be more inclined to engage in this behavior because young women are more “groupish.” She writes, “Young women are more groupish and anxious about status than any other age/sex group. So they’re the most enthusiastic about fashion, the first to manifest socially contagious mental illnesses (like ROGD [rapid-onset gender dysphoria] and dancing plagues), and the most passionate enforcers of social norms.” 

Perry continues, “I honestly don’t think these white hipster teens/20-somethings in NYC know or care much about the war. They’re mid wits who’ve decided that Israel codes as oppressor and have slotted that into the moral code that governs their local status games.” 

Are Women More Susceptible to Groupthink?

It’s not entirely accurate to say that women are inherently more susceptible to groupthink than men; however, studies show women are more likely to conform to the opinions of others to keep the peace. This is because most women are more concerned with connecting with others and maintaining group harmony. On the other hand, men are more likely to hold their ground, act independently, and refuse to conform.

Women who don’t wish to engage in conflict may go along with the seemingly most popular view at the time.

This is potentially why women are found to be more left-leaning than men. As conservatives are often shamed and abused for holding right-leaning views, women who don’t wish to engage in conflict may go along with the seemingly most popular view at the time. This could be feminist beliefs such as “all men are evil” or the support of the body positivity movement and gender ideology. Despite writing pronouns in bios, many women may not genuinely support the cause; they simply go along with the narrative because it’s easier than disagreeing.

Not only that, but conforming may be the result of women’s evolutionary instincts. “Societal conditioning to be compliant and avoid saying no can also foster groupthink. The freeze response, rather than fight or flight, is more common in women when facing external threats, making them more prone to the fawn response, further promoting conformity. Physical size differences can also make it more challenging for women to assert themselves against a group. Evolutionarily, women who conformed and were compliant may have had a survival advantage,” says Dr. Avigail Lev, psychotherapist and author

How To Protect Your Mind against Groupthink

By choosing not to conform, you may face social disapproval and isolation. However, standing up for what you truly believe fosters authenticity and growth. Deciding not to conform will enable you to be true to yourself and uphold your principles. But first, you need to decide what you do believe. Here are some tips to free your mind and protect yourself against groupthink.

  1. Do your own research. Seek out a variety of opinions from people with different backgrounds, experiences, expertise, and viewpoints. You can do this through conversation, reading books and articles, or even listening to podcasts.

  2. Play devil’s advocate and challenge the group’s beliefs. 

  3. Think critically about issues, analyze information yourself, evaluate alternatives, and question assumptions. Ask why!

  4. Educate others on groupthink, helping them to understand the pitfalls so that they can be more vigilant in avoiding it themselves.

  5. Be the first to speak up and tell the truth. Doing so could enable others to follow suit and challenge the narrative. (If you want to see an inspiring example of what one voice against many can accomplish, watch the classic courtroom drama 12 Angry Men.)

Closing Thoughts

We humans aren’t solitary creatures. We have a deep desire and need to belong to a community. In our pre-civilized past, being accepted by our community was essential to our survival, and going against the group could result in rejection and exile, stripping us of access to food, water, and shelter. Moreso, as women, we’re physically the weaker sex, and in the past, we heavily relied on men for survival, so it’s no wonder we may be more susceptible to groupthink and conformity. It’s part of our survival instinct.

Thankfully, we aren’t living in the past. We have the capacity to think critically and assess situations ourselves, without risk of exile into the wilderness alone. However, that doesn’t necessarily make it any easier. By choosing to challenge the widely accepted narrative and stand up for the truth, it’s likely you’ll find yourself in conflict with family, friends, or coworkers. Relationships may break down. However, even if you do face social disapproval, the reward you’ll receive is greater. You’ll experience growth, authenticity, and liberation, as well as the opportunity to meet genuine, like-minded individuals.

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