The transmission of norms regarding group decision rules : effects of type of rule and group performance feedback
Nielsen, Michael E.
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Research on the generational transmission of group norms has focused primarily on perceptual norms. Few studies have considered the generational perpetuation of behavioral norms. This study examined the transmission of norms regarding group decision rules, which are formal ways for group members to combine their individual preferences into a group decision. This experiment compared the generational transmission of seniority rule, in which the senior group member makes the group decision, and majority rule. Confederates established either a majority or seniority group decision rule norm. After completing three group decisions, the "senior" group member—the person who had been in the group for the longest time—was excused, and was replaced by a new subject. This constituted one "generation." This procedure continued until the decision rule changed, or until the completion of the tenth generation. In addition, groups using each decision rule received either success or failure feedback regarding their performance on the group decision. Majority rule was perpetuated a greater number of generations on the average than was seniority rule. In only one instance did majority rule change, whereas seniority rule changed in every instance and always changed to majority rule. Feedback did not influence the perpetuation of the norm. Factor analysis of questionnaire responses indicated that perceptions of the decision process were characterized by three factors: the Climate of the group, Confidence in decisions, and Difficulty of decision making. The group climate was more desirable under majority- than under seniority-rule, and success feedback yielded a more favorable climate than did failure feedback. Confidence in the decision process was influenced by performance feedback; subjects in success feedback conditions expressed greater confidence than did subjects in failure feedback conditions. Feedback also influenced the perceived difficulty of the decision making, with decisions made under conditions of success being considered less difficult than those made under conditions of failure. Finally, newcomers saw the senior member as the most important member of the group, especially when seniority rule was used. Specifically, the senior member of the group was blamed for failure but not given credit for success.