Coginitive Interdependence [Deep Dive] - Moreland series - Part 3

This post describes the studies commissioned by the Army that Levine et al. explored. In Part 2, the studies on productivity were explored. In this post, I focus on the experiments about innovation.

Creativity Experiment 1 -Assigned and/or maligned (published as Choi & Levine, 2004)

The researchers then shifted away from performance as the primary variable of interest and into the effect of turnover on group innovation. These studies used a air-surveillance task that John Levine and his students have used in several papers that I know about. Groups work together to monitor the radar at a base and assign threat levels to the different radar contacts. In each of the three member groups, 2 individuals were specialists and 1 acted as the commander. The specialists essentially collect information about the radar contacts and the commander receives that information and is tasked with making a decision. There were two different strategies that could be used in the strategies to collect information that varied on whether the importance of the information the specialists collected was the same for both or whether the difficulty of getting the information was the same for both.

In the first experiment, the researchers manipulated whether the group was able to choose their strategy and how well their feedback suggested that they had performed. In the experimental setup, the group was either assigned one of the two strategies above or they were allowed to choose one. Then the group performed the task. Half the groups were told that they had performed well and the other half were told that they had performed below a passing rate. One of the specialists was then chosen and replaced with a confederate. In social psych research, a confederate is someone who pretends to be a normal participant but has been coached to act in a particular way. The newcomer then proposed that the group switch to the opposite strategy of whichever they had chosen in the first trial.

The researchers used whether the group accepted or rejected the strategy the newcomer proposed as the variable of interest. Because this could be affected by a multitude of factors, the researchers measured how committed the members were to the previous strategy, how much they liked the team, performance in the first trial, etc. The researchers found results that were inline with what they anticipated. If groups were told they failed to perform well in the first trial, they were more willing to accept the newcomers idea. The groups were also more likely to accept the idea of the newcomer if the group had not been allowed to choose their own strategy.

The researchers then did some additional analyses and proposed what led to the group's receptivity to the newcomer's proposal. The two variables the researchers proposed mediate the effect of team choice on the acceptance of the newcomer: commitment and perceived performance. If the group had a choice in their strategy, they were more committed to their strategy and they perceived their performance as better.  The researchers were fairly satisfied in these findings but they also thought that the way the newcomer proposed their innovative idea likely would have an effect on whether the group accepted it. This led to the second experiment.

Creativity Experiment 2 -An Assertive Story

This study was run very similarly to the first creativity study except that the kind of language the newcomer used was varied. As before, groups are more likely to accept the newcomer's innovation when the group was told that they had failed in the first trial. There was also what is called a statistically significant interaction. An interaction just means that whether one variable has an influence depends on another variable. When the groups were told that they had succeeded, it did not matter whether the newcomer was assertive or not, the acceptance rate was always about 45%. If the group had been told they failed, however, they were more likely to accept the ideas of the newcomer if the newcomer was assertive (~85%) versus if the newcomer was not assertive (~60%). [Note: this effect is only 'marginally significant' meaning that our confidence in the effect is not overly high.] The researchers had hoped for stronger effects but still thought this study was valuable.

Computational simulations, the shallowest dive

The last part of the technical report provides some information about a series of computational simulations that were included in this project. Very briefly, a computational simulation puts a bunch of agents into a box. Each agent represents a person, organization, etc. The agents are given some rules to live by, some of which may vary systematically (share information with another agent if they are within 2 spaces vs. share information with another agent if they occupy the same space). There is also a level of randomness that is added to the agents decisions to help simulate the real world. Simulations are becoming more and more accepted within management-type research though I am not sure how accepted they are within general social psychology.

In the series of simulations presented in the report, the authors focus on the effect of transactive memory and changes in the environment. In the first simulation, the researchers find some evidence that suggsts that the value of a transactive memory is curvilinear with the size of the group.  They found that if the group is fairly small, the difference in speed to completion of a task by the agents was about the same regardless of whether the group had a transactive memory or not. There was a definite benefit of TMS when groups were larger (between 15 and 27), but the benefit reduced for larger groups (35). I personally think that this is an artifact of how the agent's task is structured, but it does seem fairly reasonable. The last simulation suggested that transactive memory is particularly useful if the group completes multiple different kinds of tasks that are completed in alternating order. A transactive memory allows the groups to more quickly shift tasks, leading to a consistency in time to completion.

Though the studies in this report were not all successful, I found it particularly interesting. The ability to try out new ideas that this study provided also certainly helped the researchers develop their later studies and directed other researchers toward these topics.

I think this post completes my sequence on cognitive interdependence for now, though I'm sure it will crop back up :P