I’ll Have What She’s Having … An Explanation for Inaccurate Group Decisions

Topic:  Decision Making
Publication: Journal of Personality and Social Psychology
Article: Knowing others’ preferences degrades the quality of group decisions (MAY 2010)
Author: A. Mojzisch, S. Schulz-Hardt
Reviewed by: Sarah Teague

Not too long ago I wrote a review about a technique for generating ideas called “brainwriting.” According to Heslin (2009), asking individuals to generate ideas independently before pooling them with a group is likely to improve the final quality of ideas (compared with traditional group brainstorming) – largely because this independent initial process eliminates social pressures associated with group decisions. A recent article by Mojzisch and Schulz-Hardt (2010) provides some support for these ideas.

Hidden profiles are a traditional paradigm used to study group decision-making involves distributing providing each group member with only a few pieces to the puzzle and observing how they work toward a solution. In order to reach the correct (or best) solution, each piece must be shared AND adequately attended to. The authors of the current article proposed that a lack of attention, as opposed to a lack of information sharing, is often the root of group failure. Findings from four different experiments supported their hypothesis, showing that individual group members pay less attention to future information after learning other members’ preferences, resulting in incorrect selection decisions  

This study is directly relevant to any organization that utilizes selection committees or any other decision-making group. Results suggest that it is important for individual group members to minimize expressing preferences prior to sharing all pertinent objective information. In fact, this is one situation where “brainwriting” could prove to be extremely useful. Stay tuned for further updates on this emerging topic!

Mojzisch, A., & Schulz-Hardt, S. (2010). Knowing others’ preferences degrades the quality of group decisions. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 98(5), 794-808.