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EFFECTS OF STATUS ON GROUP DECISION MAKING: AD HOC VERSUS REAL GROUPS

Vitaly Dubrovsky and Sivayya Kolla. Clarkson University, Potsdam, NY 13699 Beheruz N. Sethna Lamar University, Beaumont, TX 77710 In: Proceedings of 35th Human Factors Society Annual Meeting, (959-963). San Francisco, CA: Human Factors Society, 1991.
Vitaly Dubrovsky

This study compares effects of status on group decision making in ad hoc student and real supervisor-subordinates groups. Eighteen ad hoc and eighteen real groups of three with one high status and two low status members made decisions on two standard choice-dilemma problems. For each group member, compliance, persuasion, recidivism of opinion, perceived competence-influence, and attractiveness were measured. The results of the T-test and correlational analysis, conducted upon the differences between respective values for a high and average low status individuals, revealed that in both, ad hoc and real groups, high status members had stronger actual and perceived influence on group decisions and attitudes of other group members than low status individuals. In ad hoc and real groups, high status members were the first advocates more frequently than low status members. Analysis of variance showed that the influence of high status members was the strongest, if they were also the first advocates. At the same time, the public compliance of low status members under power pressure, and therefore, consequent recidivism of opinion was significant only in the real groups and not in the ad hoc groups. High status members were first advocates much more frequently in the real groups than in the ad hoc groups. Perceived influence of group members strongly correlated with likability only in the real groups. The correlation was close to zero in the ad hoc groups. Based on our previous study on "status equalization phenomenon" in ad hoc groups communicating electronically, we suggest that in real groups as well, the influence of status can be controlled, at least partially, by technically monitoring access of group members to the first advocacy.

INTRODUCTION


Purpose

This study should be viewed in the context of experimental studies on the impact of computer media on group decision making (e.g., Kiesler, Siegel, and McGuire, 1984; Siegel, Dubrovsky, Kiesler, and McGuire, 1986; McGuire, Kiesler, and Siegel, 1987), particularly on the equalization effects of computer media (Dubrovsky, Kiesler, and Sethna, in press). The purpose of this study was validation of the results received in the previous experiments on student subjects by comparison of student ad hoc groups with real organizational groups.

Status Generalization Effects

According to common wisdom, experimental results, and empirical observations, the status of group members can influence the outcome and process of group decision making as well as the attitudes and the satisfaction of group members (Stephan & Mishler, 1952; Hoffman, 1978; Kirchler & Davis, 1986; Cyert & March, 1963; Allison, 1971; Strodtbeck & Lipinsky, 1985; Jablin, 1987). In groups, members' statuses partially derive from expectations established by their external social position, such as race, age, gender, occupation, physical attractiveness, or organizational position (Berger, 1972; Berger et al., 1977; Webster and Driskell, 1978; Ridgeway, 1982). This generalization of the external status phenomenon has impact on actual performance of group members through "burden of proof" as well as on evaluation of the performance by other group members through "status expectations", regardless of actual performance.

In our previous cross-cultural study of American and Indian ad hoc student groups (Dubrovsky, Kolla, and Sethna, 1989), we have found that in both cultures high status group members (graduate students) had higher influence on group decision and attitudes of group members, as well as were perceived as more competent-influential than low status members (freshmen or sophomores). One purpose of this study is to compare these results with real "supervisor-subordinates" groups.

Influence Source Characteristics and Attitude Change

Another body of relevant studies, pioneered by Kelman (1961) and developed by McGuire (1969) and his followers, relates to the effects of persuasive source characteristics on attitude change. There are three categories of source characteristics which determine the persuasive impact of a message: credibility, attractiveness, and power. A credible source produces attitude change through the psychological process of internalization, when the new attitude is integrated by the receiver in his/her belief and value system. This is the most lasting attitude change which does not depend on the presence of the source. The attractiveness produces attitude change through the process of identification with the source, when the recipient adopts the same attitude as the source. The new attitude usually lasts as long as the source attractiveness, and may revert to their earlier position as soon as attractiveness disappears. Power of the source produces attitude change by inducing compliance of the recipient with the source's position, when the position is adopted publicly without it's private acceptance. The new attitude will be expressed as long as the power is exercised and then recede to the previous position. Credibility, attractiveness, and power

usually are mixed in one source (Hass, 1980), and normally are associated with high status individuals. It is likely that the power component of high status members is stronger (relatively to credibility and attractiveness) in real groups than in ad hoc ones. This difference might be at least partially responsible for the difference in status influence between these two group types, if any.

The above processes underlying status influence are used in this study as a common ground for comparison of external and internal statuses of group members in ad hoc and real groups respectively.

Effects of The First Advocacy

Hofman (1979) and McGuire et al. (1987) discovered that the first person to propose a solution to a group has a decisive impact on group consensus. This "first advocate influence effect" was studied experimentally by Suzanne Weisband (in press). The study confirmed that the decisive influence of the first advocacy does occur, if the first advocate is a self-selected one and some discussion of the problem takes place before the first advocacy. In our recent study (Dubrovsky et al., in press), we found that first advocates were most influential if they also were high status group members. We also have found that high status individuals were first advocates more frequently than low status members.

Equalization Effects of Electronic Media

Earlier studies, revealed that computer media has significant equalization effect on participation of peer members in group discussions (Kiesler et al., 1984; Siegel et al., 1986). Our recent study (Dubrovsky et al., in press) showed that computer media reduces the difference between high and low status group members in both actual influence and perceived credibility. Although the electronic media reduces the overall influence of the high status members, the situational analysis suggested that in both face-to-face and electronic conditions, high status members were equally influential, if they were the only first advocates. At the same time, in most electronic mail discussions, the first advocacy was shared by low and high status members, i.e., in most electronic discussions more than one person sent a message stating their position right away, before they received and read messages from other group members. These results, obtained on ad hoc groups, suggest that the high status members, at least partially, exercise their influence by means of the first advocacy. If this is also true for real groups, the practical implications of the equalization effects of computer media can be extended on real groups as well.

METHOD

We conducted identical experimental runs on two different types of subjects, ad hoc student groups and real "supervisor-subordinates" groups, and then performed a relative comparison of the results.

Subjects

Fifty-four students, 12 MBA (11 male and 1 female), 6 senior (all male), and 36 sophomore (24 male and 12 female) students of Andhra University, India participated in the experiment as volunteers. They were randomly assigned to 18 groups of three in such a way that each group comprised of one senior or graduate (high status) and two sophomore (low status) members. There were also 18 real groups, each comprised of one supervisor and two of his actual subordinates. Six groups were professors and lecturers of Andhra University, six groups were employees of Dock Labor Board, and six groups were employees of Dredging Corporation. All the participants were male, with the exception of two female lecturers.

Discussion problems

Each group had to come to consensus on two problems selected from The Standard Choice?Dilemma Questionnaire (Kogan and Wallach, 1964). The solutions could be marked on a scale from 1 to 9.

Status manipulation

The status generalization phenomenon was used in this study as a basis for experimental status manipulation. We manipulated status by group composition. In addition, in ad hoc groups, prior to group discussions, the students introduced themselves face?to?face by stating, among other things, their academic status, thus making the status known to other members of their group. In real groups, the statuses were known to the participants before the experiment.

Experimental design and procedure

Both problems were discussed by each group face?to?face with the order of the problems randomly counterbalanced. The experimental procedure followed the standard risky shift paradigm (McGrath, 1984). The experiment was conducted in four parts.

First, upon arrival, all subjects were seated in the common room. After a general introduction was read by an experimenter, each person received a booklet with instructions and the Private Opinion Prediscussion Questionnaire containing the two standard discussion problems. After the respondents completed the questionnaire stating their private decision for each of the two problems, the booklets were collected and the groups were taken by experimenter assistants to the randomly assigned rooms for group discussion.

Second, after arrival to the group discussion room, all members were seated comfortably around the table with a tape recorder. Members of ad hoc groups were asked to introduce themselves stating, among other things, their academic status. Then each group was instructed to come to a consensus on a specified problem in 10 minutes (actually they were given 15 minutes). All group discussions were tape recorded. After reaching a consensus, each group stated the group decision on a special form.

Third, after each discussion, group members marked their private opinion on the Post Discussion Private Opinion Questionnaire on the same problem. 

Fourth, the participants filled out the Post Experimental Questionnaire stating the name of the group member who was "most persuasive" and the "most sensitive to your arguments." Then they were debriefed.

Measures

We measured influence of group members on group decision and on other group members and on perceived status. The following measures were made for each individual group member: (1) "compliance": an absolute difference between prediscussion private opinion and group decision; (2) "persuasion" an absolute difference between pre- and postdiscussion private opinion; (3) "recidivism": an absolute difference between group decision and postdiscussion private opinion; (4) "competence?influence": the number of times the member was mentioned as "the most persuasive"; and (5) "likability": the number of times the member was mentioned as "the most sensitive to your arguments". Since our experimental "subjects" were groups rather than individuals, all analysis was conducted upon the differences between the respective values for a high status and average low status individuals or upon the differences between first advocates and other group members.

  HYPOTHESES

Status effects common to ad hoc and real groups

1.Due to the status generalization effects, high status members will: (a) have more influence on group decision and other group members (will comply and be persuaded less), (b) show less recidivism, (c) play the role of the first advocate more frequently, and (d) be evaluated higher in competence? influence and likability than the low status members.

2.First advocates will have higher influence on group decision (will comply less) and will be perceived as more competent-influential than other group members. This effect will be stronger for high status first advocates than for low status first advocates.

Differences between ad hoc and real groups

3.In the real groups, low status members will comply more as a result of power pressure and less by being persuaded. In other words, the difference in persuasion between high and low status members will be less significant and the difference in recidivism will be more significant for real groups than for the ad hoc groups.

4.The frequency of the high status first advocacy will be higher for the real groups than for the ad hoc groups.

5.Since in the real groups, personal relationships already have been established, the correlation between perceived competence-influence with attractiveness will be stronger for the real groups than for the ad hoc groups.

  RESULTS AND DISCUSSION

Influence of Status in Ad Hoc and Real Groups

The results of the comparison T-test (Table 1) and correlational analysis supported most of our hypotheses. In both ad hoc and real groups, high status members had significantly higher influence on group decision (complied less) and attitudes of other group members (were persuaded less) and were perceived as significantly more competent-influential than low status members. However, the predicted difference in likability was not statistically significant for the both group types.

Table 1. Effects of formal status on group decision making.

MEASUREn

MEAN

STD

STD-ERR

P<

Ad Hoc Groups

Compliance18

-2.11

1.03

0.24

-8.67

0.0001

Persuasion18

-1.90

1.16

0.27

-6.94

0.0001

Recidivism18

-0.40

1.30

0.30

N.S.

 

First Advocacy16

0.11

0.63

0.16

N.S.

 

Competence-influence18

1.33

1.26

0.30

4.49

0.0003

Likability18

1.14

1.14

0.28

N.S.

 

Real Groups

Compliance16

-1.19  

1.50

0.37

-3.17

0.007

Persuasion17

-0.60

1.13

0.27

-2.20

0.05

Recidivism17

-0.66

0.93

0.23

-2.93

0.01

First Advocacy15

0.67

0.60

0.15

4.34

0.0007

Competence-influence18 

0.69

0.93

0.22

3.18

0.006

Likability18

0.42

1.05

0.25 

N.S.

 

 

NOTE 1:All dependent measures are the differences for each group between the high and average low status member and for average problem.

NOTE 2:Missing groups are due to damaged tape recordings or missing or incorrect questionnaire entries.

As it was predicted for both group types, the recidivism was smaller for high status members than for low status ones, and this difference reached the level of statistical significance only for real groups. Also as it was predicted, a strong correlation between perceived influence-credibility and likability was observed in real groups (0.6 for high status and 0.25 for low status members), and it was insignificant (0.08 for both, high and low status members) in ad hoc groups. According to prediction, high status members were first advocates more frequently than low status members in both group types, and this difference was statistically significant only for real groups. In 34 (2 missing) ad hoc group discussions, 17 high status members were first advocates 15 times versus 19 first advocacies out of 34 low status members. In 32 (4 missing) real group discussions, 16 high status members were first advocates 25 times versus 7 first advocacies out of 32 low status members.

Status and First Advocacy

Contrary to our predictions, comparison T-test of the first advocates versus other group members did not show any significant differences for ad hoc groups, which we attribute to the high number of low status first advocates. In the real groups, where most of the first advocates were high status individuals, the first advocates had significantly higher actual and perceived influence, i.e., complied less (T=2.16, P<0.05) and were evaluated as more competent-influential (T=3.08, P<0.01) than other group members.

Table 2. Effects of first advocacy: high status first advocate (Situation 1) versus low status first advocate (Situation 2). 

MEASURE

MEAN

F

df

P<

MEAN

F

df

P<

 

Ad Hoc Groups            

Real Groups

Compliance

 

12.40

1,12

0.005

 

6.53

1,13

0.03

Situation-1 

-1.71

 

 

 

-1.55

 

 

 

Situation-2

1.07

 

 

 

0.83

 

 

 

Persuasion

 

13.26

1,12

0.004

 

4.02

1,13

0.07

Situation-1 

-1.04

 

 

 

-0.91

 

 

 

Situation-2

1.71

 

 

 

0.67

 

 

 

Recidivism

 

N.S.

 

 

 

12.99

1,14

003

Situation-1 

-0.67

 

 

 

-0.71

 

 

 

Situation-2

0.50

 

 

 

1.84

 

 

 

Competence-infl

 

4.68

1,12

0.05

 

3.11

1.14

0.1

Situation-1 

1.33

 

 

 

0.85

 

 

 

Situation-2

-0.36

 

 

 

0.00

 

 

 

Likability

 

N.S.

 

 

 

N.S.

 

 

Situation-1 

0.00

 

 

 

0.42

 

 

 

Situation-2

0.21

 

 

 

0.50  

 

 

 

NOTE 1:All dependent measures are the differences for each group between the first advocate and average other member and for average problem.

NOTE 2:Missing groups are due to damaged tape recordings or missing or incorrect questionnaire entries.

These results suggested comparison of the first advocates versus other group members confounded with the status differences. We distinguished between two situations: Situation-1, where the first advocate was a high status individual; and Situation-2, with a low status first advocate. Analysis of variance (GLM in SAS) comparing the two situations (Table 2) supported our predictions in regard to high status first advocates. In both group types, high status first advocates (Situation-1) had higher actual influence on group decisions and attitudes of other group members (i.e., complied and were persuaded less) as well as were perceived as more competent-influential than non-first-advocates. They also had lower recidivism, which was statistically significant only for the real groups. On the contrary, the low status first advocates (Situation-1) had lower actual and perceived influence than the non-first-advocate group members. Since in the Situation-2 the high status members were among non-first-advocates, these results suggest that the influence of status is much stronger than the influence of the first advocacy. In both group types, the influence of a group member was the strongest if the member was a high status person and the first advocate at the same time.

CONCLUSIONS AND PRACTICAL IMPLICATIONS

This study has confirmed that most effects of group members' status differences on group decision making, which were observed in the previous studies on ad hoc groups, can be generalized on real groups as well. In this study, in both ad hoc and real groups, high status members had stronger actual and perceived influence on group decisions and attitudes of other group members than low status individuals. In both ad hoc and real groups, high status members were the first advocates more frequently than low status members. The influence of high status members was the strongest if they were the first advocates at the same time. 

At the same time, we observed some differences between ad hoc and real groups. The public compliance of low status members under power pressure, and therefore, consequent recidivism of opinion was significant only in the real groups and not in the ad hoc groups. High status members were first advocates much more frequently in the real groups than in the ad hoc groups. Perceived influence of group members, especially of the high status ones, strongly correlated with likability only in the real groups and was close to zero in the ad hoc groups.

In this study, both group types, ad hoc and real, had to make decisions on ad hoc problems, irrelevant to the real groups' organizational responsibilities. Therefore, these results should not be generalized beyond ad hoc group tasks without caution.

This experiment was conducted on Indian subjects. We believe that the effects that are common to ad hoc and real groups can be generalized on American groups with a high confidence. In our previous cross-cultural study (Dubrovsky et al., 1989), the effects of differences in educational status of group members on group decision making were the same for American and Indian ad hoc student groups. Considering the more status-oriented Indian culture compared to the contract-oriented American culture, caution should be exercised in generalization of the results of this study related to the differences between ad hoc and real groups. It is possible, that the differences will be not as strong for American groups as they were observed in this study.

Our previous study on status equalization effects of computer media, conducted on ad hoc groups (Dubrovsky, et al., in press) suggested that "status equalization phenomenon", which we observed in electronic mail, was at least partially, due to the "equal access" of group members to the first advocacy. In a face-to-face discussion only one member can be a first advocate, i.e., suggest solution to the problem before hearing the suggestions of other group members. Asynchronous electronic media, such as electronic mail, permit more than one group member to be a first advocate. The latter implies that the influence of status can be controlled, at least partially, by monitoring the first advocacy.

The status influence can be enhanced by permitting only high status members to be the first advocates. The status influence can be lessened by providing equal access to the first advocacy to all group members, and even more lessened by permitting only low status first advocacy. This study also suggests that electronic media can have stronger status equalization effect on real groups than on ad hoc groups, considering the higher frequency of the first advocacy in the real groups. Given the phenomenon of recidivism of low status real group members' opinion, observed in this study, the equalization can be desirable, when commitment of the members to implementation of the group decisions is important.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

This work is partially supported by the National Science Foundation, Division of Information Science and Technology, Grant No. IST?8510075 to the first author.

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