Effects of time pressure and task complexity on the emergence of group structure
Brown, Thomas M.
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An experiment was conducted to investigate the effects of time pressure and task complexity on the emergence of group structure. For purposes of this study, group structure refers to the pattern of interaction and communication that occurs within decision-making groups. It was hypothesized that groups would tend to use a centralized communication structure when performing relatively simple tasks and a decentralized structure while performing more complex tasks. In addition, it was hypothesized that this effect of task complexity would be magnified under conditions of high time pressure. Specifically, decentralization would be greatest under conditions of high task complexity and high time pressure, followed by high task complexity and no time pressure. Centralization would be greatest under conditions of low task complexity and high time pressure, followed by low task complexity and no time pressure. These predictions were tested using a 2 (time pressure vs. no time pressure) X 2 (low task complexity vs. high task complexity) factorial design. Task complexity was varied between groups by administering a task that allowed the manipulation of goals, pathways to these goals, and the information processing requirements inherent in the task. Groups in the time pressure condition were instructed as to the importance of speed in arriving at a decision, as well as the importance of the quality of their decision. Groups in the no time pressure condition were informed only of the importance of decision quality. As predicted, results indicated that communication in groups in low task complexity conditions tended to be more centralized than communication in groups in high task complexity conditions. However, the anticipated task complexity X time pressure interaction, with time pressure magnifying the effects of task complexity, was not supported.