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Groupthink 2.0: An empirical analysis of customers' conformity-seeking in online communities

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Online communities have witnessed an ongoing interest from both digital practitioners and scholars alike. Whilst the motives for and outcomes of customers' participation have been convincingly evidenced, there is a lack of conceptual and empirical understanding on the decision-making processes within virtual groups. This study employs Janis' (1972) Groupthink theory to investigate customers' tendency to conform when making decisions in a financial online community. Based on a sample of 343 respondents and multiple regression analysis, it is shown that perceived stress and group insulation have a positive influence upon Groupthink, whilst group cohesion has a negative effect. The findings support the applicability of Groupthink theory in an online context and emphasise defective social decision-making processes in online communities as a key priority for future research. Digital marketers gain insight on strategies to manage their customers' conformity-seeking tendencies and to prevent dysfunctional decision-making processes.

Keywords: CONFORMITY; FINANCIAL SERVICES; GROUP PSYCHOLOGY; GROUPTHINK; ONLINE COMMUNITY; VIRTUAL GROUPS

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: June 1, 2015

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