Group Dynamics

Current Projects:

Judgement & decision-making

Information sharing

Judgment & decision-making

Group decisions are ubiquitous in everyday life. Even when decisions are made individually, decision-makers often receive advice or suggestions from others. Thus, decisions are often social in nature and involve multiple group members. The ways group members combine their preferences to make a group decision generally falls along two dimensions: how much interaction or information exchange is allowed among the group members and how the final decision is made. On one end, group decisions can be made simply by aggregating member preferences or judgments without any interaction among members and where members have no control or say in the final judgment. One the other end, groups decisions can involve extensive member interaction and information exchanges and the final decision is reached by group consensus. In between these two endpoints, various other strategies are also possible, including prediction markets, Delphi groups, and judge-advisor systems.

There is also a fair amount of research on unethical behavior in and by groups (see Mannix, Neal, & Tenbrunsel, 2006, for a review). Even in situations where individuals behave cooperatively and abide by prior agreements, groups often defect from such agreements in order to protect or enhance the group (Wildschut, Pinter, Vevea, Insko, & Schopler, 2003; Morgan & Tindale, 2002). Thus, groups are quite likely to use the group’s welfare to guide their “moral compass” and behave in ways consistent with their self interest even when it violates typical norms of ethics (Cohen, Gunia, Kim-Jun, & Murnighan, 2009).This “group morality” (Wildschut & Insko, 2006) or group enhancement/protection norm (Tindale, 2008), at times, seems to guide group behavior in directions opposite those typically found for individuals. Groups often exacerbate tendencies found for individuals (i.e., group polarization, Stasser, Kerr, & Davis, 1989; Kameda, Tindale, & Davis, 2003), so this discontinuity (Wildschut et al., 2003) is somewhat unique in research on groups and has proved very difficult to change (though see Wolf et al., 2008; Pinter et al., 2007).

Representative publications

  • Tindale, R.S., Winget, J.R., & Hinsz, V.B. (2019). Distributed cognition in teams is influenced by type of task and nature of member interactions. In Handbook of Distributed Team Cognition.
  • Winget, J.R. & Tindale, R.S. (2019). Deception in group contexts. In Palgrave Handbook of Deceptive Communication.
  • Group moral dilemma study preprint coming soon!

Information sharing

In today’s world, most jobs involve information processing and manipulation as opposed to production and physical effort (Weber, 1998), and many tasks performed in organizations are done by groups (teams) as opposed to individuals (Thompson, 2004; Hackman & Sageman, 2005). Thus, it is not surprising research in organizational and social psychology has focused on information processing in groups (Hinsz, Tindale, & Vollrath, 1997; Brauner & Scholl, 2000; Nijstad & Stroebe, 2006). Much of this work has involved investigations of the degree to which information and/or other cognitions or cognitive processes are shared among group members (Brodbeck, Kerschreiter, Mojzisch, & Schulz-Hardt, 2007; Hinsz et al., 1997; Stasser, 1999; Tindale and Kameda, 2000). The distinction between information that is shared vs. unshared (i.e., non-redundant information that is distributed among the members) has played a critical role in guiding both theory and research on groups since Stasser and Titus (1985) first demonstrated its importance. However, sharedness at other levels (e.g., preferences, mental models, identities, motivations, etc.) has also been shown to be important for group information processing and performance (Tindale & Kameda, 2000; Tindale, Meisenhelder, Dykema-Engblade, & Hogg, 2001). Another prominent area of group information processing has focused on the concept of “transactive memory systems” (Wegner, 1987; Hollingshead, 1998; Moreland, Argote, & Krishnan, 1998). The development of a transactive memory involves distributing knowledge/information among group members to enhance overall information storage capacity of the group. Because the information is non-redundantly distributed (i.e., unshared), transactive memory systems benefit groups only if the members share knowledge of the storage structure (i.e., members know who knows what in the group).

The two main lines of research mentioned above (shared vs. unshared information and transactive memory systems) produce somewhat contradictory implications for optimal group memory. A substantial body of research shows that information recall and use is positively related to the number of people who have access to the information prior to group discussion (Lu, Yuan, & McLeod, 2012; Stasser, 1999). This implies that information should be widely shared by group members in order to maximize its usefulness to the group. Transactive memory systems, however, attempt to maximize group memory capacity by distributing the information so that each type or category of information is assigned to a specific member of the group (Wegner, 1987). This allows the group as a whole to potentially remember a greater amount of information. In addition, distributing less information to each individual member should decrease cognitive load and thus improve the percentage of information recalled by each individual member (Adams, 1980; Tindale & Sheffey, 2002; Wordsworth, 1938). Thus, for tasks requiring fairly large amounts of information, research on individual memory capacity and transactive memory would suggest low to non-existent levels of information assignment redundancy across members. However, work on group information processing in general would suggest that complete redundancy would maximize the likelihood that any given piece of information would be used by the group.

Representative publications

  • Tindale, R.S. & Winget, J.R. (2017). Learning while deciding in groups. In The Oxford Handbook of Group and Organizational Learning.

Jeremy R. Winget
Graduate Research Assistant & Lecturer
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