Coginitive Interdependence [Deep Dive] - Moreland Series Part 1

In this post, I hope to describe in more detail a few of the transactive memory studies that were conducted at the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University. Richard Moreland was typically on these studies with Linda Argote also involved in several. These researchers were continuing the series of studies that began with the seminal paper with Diane Liang as lead author that was published in 1995. This study was followed in 1996 and 1998 by other experiments. It was not until 2000 that another TMS paper by this group was accepted into an academic journal.

Richard Moreland had been involved with the transactive memory studies using the electrical circuit tasks since the beginning. He, like Daniel Wegner, was a social psychologist and was primarily interested in how this interdependent view of memory influenced what was known about group psychology. He, with frequent coauthor John Levine, had been extremely influential in the area of groups research. Dick, as Moreland often goes by, and John had both proposed a fairly comprehensive theory of group socialization throughout the 80s that had been widely accepted. The seminal aspect of this theory in the chart below.


Before and after a member joins the group, their level of commitment increases to the group up to a point. At different points in an individual's commitment, they are likely to be accepted, to put in more effort, and eventually to leave the group. Their work after these theory was, to a certain extent, focused on how group members could be brought up the commitment curve faster and be more quickly socialized. This interest, I believe, led the researchers to consider group training and transactive memory as an interesting avenue to explore.

After the initial round of studies, these researchers felt like they had a good handle on the phenomena of transactive memory development. Group members spending time together led them to have more accurate perceptions of expertise, leading the group members to more easily coordinate and trust one another. The manipulation to encourage transactive memory, however, includes more information than just expertise to the group members. It could possibly lead the group member to like one another more because they have spend more time together. A few of the experiments controlled for this factor but the researchers thought that there might be other ways to methodologically deal with this concern.

Enter, Moreland and Myaskovsky (2000). Wegner's theory and the prior papers proposed that the transactive memory of the group is composed of information about expertise. In Wegner's experiments, this was due to the romantic couple spending time together and in the earlier Moreland studies it was due to the group members interacting during the training period. In the 2000 paper, however, the researchers isolated the manipulation to just the aspect that the theory mentions, information about expertise. I think this study is perfect in that is smartly builds on prior work, isolating the mechanism, but keeps many other aspects identical which allows us to generalize the findings to past work more easily.

In Moreland and Myaskovsky (2000), all of the members engaging in the radio construction task worked independently or in a group during that first meeting. Then, for half of the independent groups, their work was systematically graded based on area of ability and compared to the other members. A member would then receive a sheet that said the rank of each group member on each of several different categories of skill. Other groups did not receive this information. The researchers found that just providing this limited information about other members, groups performed just as well as if they had been trained together. This suggests that the information about the member's relative skill is helpful for performance, and as helpful as training the group members altogether. The groups that received this performance feedback were not statistically different from the groups that trained together in their level of TMS as measured from the video tapes. Granted, the groups that received performance feedback instead of training together did perform worse and have lower TMS at a mean level, but the values were close.

This particular study attracted the US Army's attention. These researchers applied for and received a grant from the Army to more deeply investigate the effects of performance feedback on groups, especially groups that have employee turnover (like many army groups do). The Army was interested if transactive memory is helpful in small work teams and if providing individualized performance feedback to the group could be a way of quickly building a team's sense of being a group and performance. I will next discuss these studies (never formally published but available in a technical report).

**Personal information about the researchers was attained second-hand and may not be accurate.