Coginitive Interdependence [Deep Dive] - Moreland series - Part 2

The US Army funded work by four social scientists in Pittsburgh all centered around the influence of turnover on small groups. Work groups in the Army often experience member turnover for a variety of reasons (e.g. transfer, injury, death, etc.) which makes their interest in this area very understandable. In this post, I hope to walk through some of the studies that the Army funded. As far as I know, only one of the studies in this set has been published in an academic journal. There was, however, a technical report given to the Army that I will be basing the information from this post on. This report can be found here:

On the project were 4 primary researchers: John Levine, Dick Moreland, Linda Argote, and Kathleen Carley. Dick and Linda were mentioned in prior posts on cognitive interdependence from their extremely important experiments. John Levine was a frequent collaborator with Dick and Linda who is also interested in group behavior. Kathleen Carley is a somewhat different kind of researcher, specializing in computational simulations. In computational simulations, researchers create a set of rules for a world and then see what the outcomes of the world are once the actors in the world interact for a while. The rules in the world can then be adjusted to see if the actors behave much differently or if the outcomes are different. From the abstract of the study, we can see that the researchers intended to gain insight into how personnel turnover impacted groups completing different kinds of tasks. The variety of the researchers also allowed the use of laboratory and simulation-based approaches. Due to two of the researcher's prior investment in the concept of transactive memory, this was included as a component in these studies. Indeed, the lab studies that these researchers competed were a direct extension of those studies.

Productivity Experiment 1 - Turnover and Rumors of Turnover

In the first study, groups of 3 were trained together on a construction task (it isn't made completely clear but I believe it was the radio assembly task used in Liang et al., 1995). There were two manipulations: the groups were warned that there would be turnover (or not) and groups experienced turnover (or not). The warning occurred before the group trained together and the turnover occurred at the beginning of the second performance session. The researchers measured transactive memory and two measured of performance: whether the group could recall the task without having access to the circuit and assembly errors. The results for this first study, in the words of the researchers "were difficult to interpret".

When groups didn't actually experience turnover, they recalled more of the task if they were told that they were going to experience turnover. This makes sense because the group members may have tried more to individually memorize how to do the task if they knew that they couldn't rely on each other. For groups that experienced turnover, however, groups that did not expect turnover recalled more of the task than those that did expect turnover. As for errors, if groups experienced turnover, they performed much better, regardless of whether they were warned that there could be turnover. The researchers made a guess that the newcomers may have just tried really hard, which could explain the effects with errors. In future studies, they made sure to limit the newcomers training harder than the other members.

Productivity Experiment 2 - Turnover and Expertise Information

In this study, all groups were trained together on the task. In the control condition, the group was not warned of turnover and there was no turnover. In the second condition, turnover occurred without warning. In the other three conditions, the groups were warned there would be turnover and then given information about the newcomer's skills. The conditions varied on who received the information, just oldtimers, just newcomers, or both. The researchers measured transactive memory and errors.

As expected, groups that didn't experience turnover made fewer errors than those that experienced unexpected turnover. Groups in the other three conditions where someone received information about the newcomer, all made fewer mean errors than the groups that unexpectedly experienced turnover. Groups where the oldtimers received information about the newcomer made the same number of errors as groups that didn't experience turnover. Interestingly, when the information only went to the newcomer or to both newcomers and oldtimers, groups made slightly more errors. The researchers found nearly mirror results for transactive memory. Groups that didn't experience turnover had the highest transactive memory and groups were oldtimers received information had similarly high levels of TMS.

The researchers then shifted into looking at the effects of turnover on innovation. These studies will be considered next.