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Diffusion of Responsibility and Level of Risk Taking in Groups SSRC

Bem, Daryl J.; Kogan, Nathan; Wallach, Michael A.
Publication Year:
Report Number:
ETS Research Bulletin
Document Type:
Page Count:
Subject/Key Words:
National Science Foundation (NSF), Social Science Research Council (SSRC), Decision Making, Group Discussion, Group Dynamics, Responsibility


This study reports evidence supporting the following propositions: (1) Group discussion and consensus concerning decisions that involve actual risk and payoffs lead to greater risk taking than occurs in the absence of such discussion and consensus. (2) The mechanism that underlies this group-induced shift toward greater risk taking consists of a diffusion or spreading of responsibility. Using risks and payoffs based on monetary gain and loss for problem-solving performance, the above propositions received strong confirmation for male college subjects. The results of various experimental manipulations provided positive support of viewing diffusion of responsibility as the causal factor at work.

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