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Can Group Members Recognize the Effects of Group Discussion Upon Risk Taking?

Burt, Roger B.; Kogan, Nathan; Wallach, Michael A.
Publication Year:
Report Number:
ETS Research Bulletin
Document Type:
Page Count:
Subject/Key Words:
National Science Foundation (NSF), Decision Making, Group Discussion, Group Dynamics, Risk Taking Behavior, Risky Shift Phenomenon


The present investigation was designed to determine whether group members recognize the occurrence of group-induced shifts toward enhanced risk taking. The subjects, 122 male and 139 female university students, were assigned at random within sex to decision-making groups calling for discussion with or without a consensus requirement. As in previous work, groups gravitated toward increased risk taking under both conditions. Upon the completion of all decisions, the group members made judgments concerning the effect of the discussion on the groups' risk-taking levels. These judgments were significantly biased in the risky direction, but fell significantly below the actual magnitude of the risky shifts. Results were highly uniform for both sexes and for both types of group. We then inquired whether the trend toward veridicality in the judgment data reflected a genuine awareness of group outcomes or a process of assimilative projection, i.e., attribution of one's own shift behavior to the group. The findings pointed to greater genuine awareness for the females and stronger assimilative projection for males, suggesting that females may display greater interpersonal attentiveness than do males. In the case of both types of group and both sexes, group members ascribed greater forcefulness to those who in fact had higher initial risk-taking levels.

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