The Use of Distributed Information in Decision Making Groups: The Role of Shared Task Representations Defended on Thursday, 25 January 2007
Organizations frequently rely on groups for purposes of decision making, because groups are supposed to posses more relevant informational resources than individuals, which should allow them to make higher-quality decisions. Yet, research has shown that groups tend to be quite poor users of their informational resources. That is, information that only one of the group members possesses gets exchanged less than information that all members possess. Moreover, when this information does get exchanged, groups often fail to adequately integrate it in coming to a decision. This can lead to lower-quality decisions than when groups fully capitalize upon individual members’ unique information. It therefore is of importance to identify factors that affect decision-making groups’ use of distributed information. In the present research I argue that group members’ understanding of their task and its informational requirements is critical for groups’ use of distributed information. A fundamental reason for groups’ insufficient information use seems to be that groups often fail to see the necessity of elaborating on distributed information. Group members’ understanding of the decision-making task often seems to centre more on the need to find common ground than on the discussion of information. In the present dissertation I examine the effect of groups’ understanding of their decision task, as reflected in their shared task representations, on groups’ use of distributed information by means of a series of experiments. I show that when groups hold task representations that stress the value of exchanging and integration distributed information before coming to a decision, they discuss more distributed information and make higher-quality decisions. In addition, I identify several factors, like group reflexivity and leadership, that are able to influence the development of shared task representations and therefore also group information use and performance in decision making groups with distributed information.
Group Decision Making, Information processing, Shared Task Representations