The Situationist

Archive for April 10th, 2009

The Situation of Group Effort

Posted by The Situationist Staff on April 10, 2009

cleaning-upFrom The Globe and Mail, here are excerpts from an article, by Wallace Immen, describing a fascinating research regarding the potential impact of an individuals effort on team effort.

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Feel like a fool for pulling your weight when everyone else you’re working with is slacking off?

Maybe you should feel like an inspiration instead: If you consistently act for the good of the team, others will be moved to follow your lead, a new study finds. That’s a bit of a surprise, says Mark Weber, an assistant professor of organizational behaviour at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Business.

“The prevailing wisdom in many scholarly circles has been that consistent co-operators are suckers, and that others will take advantage of them by getting a free ride on their efforts,” he says.

“But our study found that people who start out acting in their own self-interests, but then see others consistently acting for the good of the group, tend to follow suit and become more co-operative themselves. And, as a result, everyone in the group can come out ahead,” he says.

Even if just one person in a group is consistently co-operative, he or she can shift the behaviour of the whole group to become the same way, found the study Prof. Weber did in conjunction with J. Keith Murnighan, a professor at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management. It appears in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

Their conclusions are drawn from a series of experiments with students who were given an equal amount of money, and then had to decide whether to keep it for themselves or put it into a group pot.

An experimenter matched whatever was put into the pot, with the total to be divided among all participants. Those who acted selfishly by keeping their original stake rather than putting it into the pot would wind up with more than those who shared. The twist: Each time, one participant was told in advance to always be co-operative and put his or her money into the pool.

In the first round of the experiments, nearly all other participants selfishly kept their money. But as rounds progressed, more started to follow the lead of the person who consistently shared.

Soon, everyone was putting their money into the pool. And they all came out with slightly more money than they’d started with, so the whole group wound up ahead through co-operative behaviour.

Just as important, the result shows that those who consistently co-operate clearly influence others to do the same, Prof. Weber says.

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The entire article is here.  To read some related Situationist posts, see “The Maverickiness Paradox” and “Team-Interested Decision Making.”

Posted in Positive Psychology, Social Psychology | 2 Comments »

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