What is it about unique ideas? The effects of utility and social norming on the exchange of unique information
Parker, Susan Libby
Schneider, David J.
Doctor of Philosophy
Little is known about how groups use their most precious commodity: information held by group members. In particular, until the recent work of Stasser and his colleagues, almost nothing was known about how groups differentially use commonly held information and information that is known only by one member. Stasser's probabilistic information sampling model explains differential treatment of uniquely and commonly held information by explaining that more group members have access to commonly held than uniquely held information, so the commonly held information is more likely to be mentioned in discussion (Stasser & Titus, 1985, 1987). This model has been primarily supported for first mentions of information at the group level (Stasser, Taylor, & Hanna, 1989). In the study reported here predictions from a suggested model were tested on second and further mentions of information to determine if anything other than probability contributes to withholding of unique information by group members. It was expected that group member concerns about utility of information (including task relevance and validity) and social norms regarding sharing unique information might contribute separately and in combination to the withholding of unique information after it was discovered unique (via the first mention). Manipulations of confirmation of information utility and social norming were expected to increase repeat mentions of uniquely held information relative to commonly held information. University students read information about study abroad programs and decided as a group whether to recommend such a program for their university. Conversations of two- and three-person groups were audio-tape recorded and analyzed at both the group and individual level for mentions of commonly and uniquely held information. Perceptions of information usefulness, recognition of item uniqueness, and perceptions of group process were gathered after the group discussion. As expected, the manipulations did not affect first mentions. For second and further mentions social norming and utility confirmation singly and in combination tended to lower the advantage of commonly held information, although not always significantly. Suggestions for further research are made and recommendations for applications for decision making groups are based upon the demonstrated positive effectiveness of the utility confirmation manipulation.
Industrial psychology; Social psychology