Consider this situation, A group of people have to choose between two restaurants for a meal, restaurant A which is new to the group and restaurant B which is old having been visited by the group several times, the group yet again chooses B even though silently every single person of the group wanted to try A.

In this situation,everybody wanted to try out A but choose B as a group so as to not rock the proverbial boat.

There is a name for this situation or effect, does anybody know the name?

I don't think I am looking for herd mentality, as I think that is when everybody willingly chooses the same thing right? I believe I read a similar example in a book about leadership and how voicing and hearing out opinions is important. I might be mistaken but this situation was referred to as some effect.

  • 2
    "better safe than sorry"? I think you need to give us more information about how this would occur in an actual conversation. Jun 20, 2020 at 0:25
  • I can think of multiple interpretations for this scenario. (For instance, all of the people lack the confidence to express their opinion.) What is the exact nature of the thing being described? Jun 20, 2020 at 14:39

1 Answer 1


It's called the Abilene Paradox. From Wikipedia:

In the Abilene paradox, a group of people collectively decide on a course of action that is counter to the preferences of many or all of the individuals in the group.[1][2] It involves a common breakdown of group communication in which each member mistakenly believes that their own preferences are counter to the group's and, therefore, does not raise objections. A common phrase relating to the Abilene paradox is a desire not to "rock the boat". This differs from groupthink in that the Abilene paradox is characterized by an inability to manage agreement.

Anecdote from Wikipedia article:

On a hot afternoon visiting in Coleman, Texas, the family is comfortably playing dominoes on a porch, until the father-in-law suggests that they take a trip to Abilene [53 miles (85 km) north] for dinner. The wife says, "Sounds like a great idea." The husband, despite having reservations because the drive is long and hot, thinks that his preferences must be out-of-step with the group and says, "Sounds good to me. I just hope your mother wants to go." The mother-in-law then says, "Of course I want to go. I haven't been to Abilene in a long time."

The drive is hot, dusty, and long. When they arrive at the cafeteria, the food is as bad as the drive. They arrive back home four hours later, exhausted. One of them dishonestly says, "It was a great trip, wasn't it?" The mother-in-law says that, actually, she would rather have stayed home, but went along since the other three were so enthusiastic. The husband says, "I wasn't delighted to be doing what we were doing. I only went to satisfy the rest of you." The wife says, "I just went along to keep you happy. I would have had to be crazy to want to go out in the heat like that." The father-in-law then says that he only suggested it because he thought the others might be bored.

The group sits back, perplexed that they together decided to take a trip which none of them wanted. They each would have preferred to sit comfortably, but did not admit to it when they still had time to enjoy the afternoon.

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