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Effects of Physical Separation of Group Members Upon Group Risk Taking

Kogan, Nathan; Wallach, Michael A.
Publication Year:
Report Number:
ETS Research Bulletin
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Page Count:
Subject/Key Words:
National Science Foundation (NSF), Decision Making, Group Behavior, Group Dynamics, Interpersonal Communication, Risk Taking Behavior


Does the risky-shift effect observed in decision-making groups depend upon the face-to-face visual component of social interaction? The study directed to this question employed a sample of 96 undergraduate males. They were constituted as five-person groups, but each group member occupied a separate booth which precluded visual contact between the participants. All communications took place over an intercom system connecting the five booths. All subjects first made individual decisions on a 12-item Choice Dilemmas measure of risk-taking dispositions. Then subjects were requested to discuss each of the 12 decision situations--with a consensus requirement in half the groups and without a consensus requirement in the other half. In the former case, risk-taking scores were available for both consensus and postconsensus judgments; in the latter, risk taking was assessed from postdiscussion individual decisions. For both experimental conditions, significant risky shifts were obtained from initial individual decisions to subsequent group decisions and/or group-influenced individual decisions. Results were highly consistent with those previously obtained in face-to-face discussion groups. We concluded, therefore, that the visual component of communication is not a necessary condition for the diffusion of responsibility presumed to underlie the risky-shift phenomenon in small groups. Rather, the vocal component is sufficient to produce the risky-shift effect.

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