The impact of a computer network on group decision-making: An experimental investigation.
AdvisorPingry, David E.
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractThis dissertation investigates the performance of a problem solving group whose members are constrained to communicate only through a computer network, a situation that has become commonplace with advances in computer technology. The model of group decision making adopted specifies that the group outcome is a function of six independent variables. They are group size, the incentives offered to group members, the decision rule used to combine member inputs, the distribution of information among members, the complexity of the task, and mode of communication (face-to-face or computer network). The dependent variables are group decision quality and members' perceptions of the group process. A laboratory experiment was conducted to study the effect of the computer network on the dependent variables. The group task required the generation and evaluation of alternative production plans for a candy company that has five divisions, each of which was managed by a group member. The five managers worked together as members of the corporate committee to decide on the allocation of a limited amount of Milk and Cocoa to the divisions. After this allocation was accepted, each manager decided on his/her divisional production plan subject to a local constraint. Three treatments were investigated: face-to-face (manual) groups, computer networked groups, and computer networked groups where the group members selected a Chairman to make the allocation decision. Information about the common resources and the overall profit function was public while the division information was private, but could be shared over the network. The decision rule was unanimity and each member of the group received a cash payoff based on successful completion of the task and the amount of company profit. Manual groups achieved the highest profit followed by computer groups, and computer groups with chairman, in that order. Manual groups also achieved the highest distribution efficiency and divisional efficiency suggesting that the average member attained a better understanding of the problem in the manual condition. It appears that the computer network degraded group decision performance and electing a chairman exacerbated the trend. The satisfaction of members was lower in the computer conditions that the manual condition. Contrary to some past research that used roughly similar tasks, participation by group members was not felt to be more even in the computer conditions than the manual condition. Also, manual groups perceived their group process and solutions to be more effective than the computer groups. These results would seem to indicate that if high decision quality is the primary purpose of a group meeting then face-to-face interaction among the group members may be necessary even though creating such conditions may be expensive.
Degree ProgramBusiness Administration