Explaining groupthink: Do the psychological characteristics of the leader matter?

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Do psychological characteristics of leaders affect groupthink? This paper investigates the extent to which presidents' Conceptual Complexity, Belief in Ability to Control Events, and Need for Affiliation affect foreign policy decision making structures and processes in 19 Cold War crises. Independent variables are derived from personality-at-a-distance techniques using presidential press conferences. Comparative data on the presidential characteristics produce several findings including Truman's low conceptual complexity, Johnson's high belief in his ability to control events, and Nixon's low trait stability. Only Conceptual Complexity is strongly linked to groupthink phenomena using OLS regression equations, though there is directional support for the link for Affiliation and Control. Using one-way ANOVA tests to further investigate these latter two variables we find that those with the highest Affiliation and Control scores average more indicators of groupthink in their decision-making processes than those with the lowest scores. © 1999 OPA (Overseas Publishers Association) N.V. Published by license under the Harwood Academic Publishers imprint, part of The Gordon and Breach Publishing Group.

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International Interactions

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