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When two heads aren’t better than one

From Dr. John Windmueller’s blog.

Meeting room stencil graffiti on Flickr - Photo Sharing!
There’s a common expression that “two heads are better than one,” and that may often be the case. However, since we often bring groups together to work on resolving conflict, it’s also important to recognize when and why groups may fail at producing high-quality deliberations.

Two U Chicago scholars have released an interesting working paper on this issue, available here: http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1121400

Below is the paper’s abstract:
Many groups make their decisions through some process of deliberation, usually with the belief that deliberation will improve judgments and predictions. But deliberating groups often fail, in the sense that they make judgments that are false or that fail to take advantage of the information that their members have. There are four such failures. (1) Sometimes the predeliberation errors of group members are amplified, not merely propagated, as a result of deliberation. (2) Groups may fall victim to cascade effects, as the judgments of initial speakers or actors are followed by their successors, who do not disclose what they know. Nondisclosure, on the part of those successors, may be a product of either informational or reputational cascades. (3) As a result of group polarization, groups often end up in a more extreme position in line with their predeliberation tendencies. Sometimes group polarization leads in desirable directions, but there is no assurance to this effect. (4) In deliberating groups, shared information often dominates or crowds out unshared information, ensuring that groups do not learn what their members know. All four errors can be explained by reference to informational signals, reputational pressure, or both. A disturbing result is that many deliberating groups do not improve on, and sometimes do worse than, the predeliberation judgments of their average or median member.

(Image by flickr user clagnut and used under creative commons license)

                        author

John Windmueller

Dr. John Windmueller I’m an Assistant Professor at the University of Baltimore’s Center for Negotiations and Conflict Management. My Ph.D. is in Conflict Analysis & Resolution (George Mason University’s Institute for Conflict Analysis and Resolution) and my MA and BA degrees are in International Affairs (Florida State University). Prior to… MORE >

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