Task constraints and normative and informational influence in group decision making
Denton, Deborah S.
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The effects of sex, interactive goal, and issue type in small group decision making were examined in terms of the impact on the degree of shift from pre- to postdiscussion judgment (polarization), the mode of influence utilized, and the degree of member satisfaction with the group discussion and final group decision. Ninety female sorority members and 82 male fraternity members met in same-sex groups to discuss and decide two issues, one intellective in nature and the other judgmental. Subjects participated in groups which emphasized a task interactive goal orientation or a group interactive goal orientation. It was expected that the aligned or homogeneous conditions of task goal-intellective issue and group goal- judgmental issue would lead to greater polarization, greater use of the compatible influence mode (informational influence with task goal-intellective issue and normative influence with group goal-judgmental issue), and greater satisfaction among members with the discussion and group decision. It was further expected that these results would vary according to sex, with females demonstrating this pattern in the conditions aligned to facilitate normative influence, and males in the conditions aligned to facilitate informational influence. Predictions regarding the impact of aligned conditions on polarization and influence mode were not uniformly supported. The results regarding polarization were consistent with predictions for females, who showed significant polarization only with the judgmental issue. Males did not respond differentially with regard to issue type, but shifted significantly from pre- to postdiscussion judgments with both the intellective and judgmental issues. All subjects engaged in more normative than informational influence during the final third of discussion, and males in groups which had a task orientation used normative influence more when discussing the intellective issue. Subjects in groups which emphasized harmony among members felt greater tension during discussion and greater pressure to agree with the final group decision. The results were discussed in light of the possible impact of a pre-existing orientation to group activities. It was further suggested that the interactive goal of a group may have greater bearing on the relative impact which normative or informational appeals have on group members, as opposed to influencing the output of such appeals.