Mixed Motivations in Group Problem Solving

Deller, James C., Jr.
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Although groups are responsible for many decisions, research shows they often fail to optimally discuss and make use of information and that this, in turn, results in lower quality outcomes. A recent explanation for this effect revolves around members' social motivation (self vs group oriented). Previous research has found that individuals report being more likely to withhold and distort key information with others when incentives reward individual rather than group performance. Building on this research, I randomly assigned three-person groups to solve a logic puzzle under various conditions. Information necessary to solve the puzzle was split across the three-members. Task and incentive instructions were manipulated to induce either a pro-self or pro-social orientation among members. In addition, I manipulated whether groups were made aware of the distribution of information across members (informed condition) or unaware (uninformed condition). Group interactions were recorded and coded to determine discussion content. Coders also rated each group in terms of overall information integration that occurred over the course of the discussion. Results suggest that social motivation and awareness impact information sharing, information use, and perceptions of the task. Consistent with previous research, pro-social groups mentioned more unique information compared to pro-self groups. However, this only occurred when member were aware of the information distribution. In addition, pro-social groups rated the task higher in terms of demonstrability, and were rated as using their information more than pro-self groups.

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Group decision-making, Information sharing, Social motives