[We’re pleased to welcome authors, Dr. Lyn M. Van Swol of the University of Wisconsin–Madison, Dr. Cassandra L. Carlson-Hill Carolina of Coastal Universit, and Dr. Emily Elizabeth Acosta Lewis of Sonoma State University. They recently published an article in “Small Group Research“ entitled “Integrative Complexity, Participation, and Agreement in Group Discussions,” which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below, Dr. Van Swol discusses some of the findings of this research:]
Political and religious issues can be difficult to discuss in a group, and it can be especially difficult to convince others who disagree with your viewpoint. This paper examined the role of complexity of arguments in a group discussion of a political/religious issue. Groups discussed whether or not the words “under God” should be in the United States Pledge of Allegiance. We had hypothesized that group members whose opinion were more similar to their fellow group members would increase the complexity of their contributions to the group when they were exposed to group members with more fringe opinions, but this was not supported. However, members with more fringe opinions in the group were more successful in influencing the group towards their opinion when they used more complex arguments. Argument complexity did not matter for group members with more mainstream views in terms of how much they influenced the group decision. Because group members with more fringe and discrepant opinions cannot appeal to their opinion being normative and aligned with the majority in the group, it may be important for them to have complex arguments to be persuasive. Complex arguments tend to be more nuanced and less dogmatic, which may make someone with an opinion more different from others in the group seem more flexible and informed. Finally, arguments used by members in the group discussion were more complex when the group had a longer discussion. This highlights the benefits of extending group discussion to let more nuances of the topic of discussion get expressed.
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The main reason justifying this work was the necessity of analyzing in depth individuals’ affective reactions toward being involved in team-decision making processes. Although team decisions have shown some advantages compared with decisions made by only one person, team decision-making process can be complex and generate some negative reactions by part of team members. For this reason in this paper we paid attention to some specific factors that may influence the satisfaction of individuals with the team. We specifically focus on some personality traits (collectivism orientation and self-efficacy for teamwork), on the individuals’ perception of team decision-making process (specifically perception of team debate and decision comprehensiveness), and on the final decision of the team.
Our work highlights the necessity of considering that team members’ satisfaction with the team may depend on factors developed at different temporal moments in the team decision-making process. These results have important implications to the extent that the handling of these factors can be different.
The fact that team debate has a negative influence on team members’ satisfaction but that the decision comprehensiveness has a positive influence is an especially interesting result. This implies that although team members are satisfied when different opinions are assessed before making the decision, they prefer to avoid possible conflicts and heated debates that can be derived from this. Thus, our result highlight the necessity of studying in depth the decision-making process and try to understand when team members can be more or less comfortable in the team.
José M. de la Torre-Ruiz is an assistant professor in the business and management department at University of Granada, Spain, where he received his PhD. His primary research interests are human resource management and team management.
Vera Ferrón-Vílchez is an assistant professor in the business and management department at University of Granada, Spain, where she received her PhD in management. Her current research focuses on advanced environmental strategies, human resources management, and the achievement of cost leadership strategy.
Natalia Ortiz-de-Mandojana is an assistant professor of organization and management at the University of Islas Baleares, Spain. She received her PhD from University of Granada. Her research focuses on environmental management and corporate governance.