Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Group Problem Solving

Group Problem Solving

Patrick R. Laughlin
Copyright Date: 2011
Pages: 168
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Group Problem Solving
    Book Description:

    Experimental research by social and cognitive psychologists has established that cooperative groups solve a wide range of problems better than individuals. Cooperative problem solving groups of scientific researchers, auditors, financial analysts, air crash investigators, and forensic art experts are increasingly important in our complex and interdependent society. This comprehensive textbook--the first of its kind in decades--presents important theories and experimental research about group problem solving. The book focuses on tasks that have demonstrably correct solutions within mathematical, logical, scientific, or verbal systems, including algebra problems, analogies, vocabulary, and logical reasoning problems.

    The book explores basic concepts in group problem solving, social combination models, group memory, group ability and world knowledge tasks, rule induction problems, letters-to-numbers problems, evidence for positive group-to-individual transfer, and social choice theory. The conclusion proposes ten generalizations that are supported by the theory and research on group problem solving.

    Group Problem Solvingis an essential resource for decision-making research in social and cognitive psychology, but also extremely relevant to multidisciplinary and multicultural problem-solving teams in organizational behavior, business administration, management, and behavioral economics.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-3667-3
    Subjects: Psychology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-xiv)
    (pp. xv-xviii)
    (pp. 1-7)

    In the most general sense, a problem is a discrepancy between a current less desirable state and a future more desirable state. The current state may be a simple question such as “Who was the first President of the United States” and the desired state the answer “George Washington.” The current state may be the diameter of a circle and the desired state the circumference of the circle. The current state may be a set of clues in a crossword puzzle and the desired state the correct answers. The current state may be a new deadly contagious disease and the...

    (pp. 8-21)

    Small group researchers have taken two different approaches to understanding social influence and group processes, thesocial communicationapproach and thesocial combinationapproach (Baron and Kerr 2003). Thesocial communicationapproach assumes that social influence may be understood by analyzing communication between the group members: the “who says what to whom under what circumstances with what effect” of classical rhetorical theory. Thesocial combinationapproach assumes that groups combine the group member preferences by some process to formulate a single collective group response. Different assumptions of this group process may be formalized as mathematical models, and the predictions of...

    (pp. 22-44)

    In the process of problem solving, both individuals and groups process information to formulate, evaluate, and select alternatives that change a current less desirable state to a more desirable future state. After some of this information is presented in the given problem state, further information must be retrieved from the memories of the group members. Thus a basic process in group problem solving is group memory for information. Just as individual memory involves processes of encoding, storage, and retrieval of information, group memory involves the same three interpersonal processes (Hinsz, Tindale, and Vollrath 1997). Individual memory may require recognition of...

    (pp. 45-56)

    Shaw’s (1932) comparison of group versus individual problem solving was followed by further research during the next three decades that concentrated on performance on different types of group tasks. However, there was little research on the ability of the group members relative to the demands of the group task, although the Lorge and Solomon (1955) Model A and Smoke and Zajonc (1962) minimal quorum group decision scheme assumed a truth-wins social combination process and thus emphasized the importance of the ability of the best group members. We now consider research beginning late in this period that systematically varied group ability...

    (pp. 57-86)

    Induction is the search for descriptive, predictive, and explanatory generalizations, rules, and principles. As a psychological process induction begins with the perception of some pattern, regularity, or relationship. A hypothesis or tentative generalization is then formed to account for the regularity. Consideration of the hypothesis suggests predictions, which are then tested by observations and experiments. If the results of observations and experiments support the predictions, the proposed hypothesis becomes more plausible, but if the results of observation and experiment fail to support the predictions, then the hypothesis becomes less plausible and is rejected or revised. Thus the two basic processes...

    (pp. 87-108)

    In chapter 5 we have seen that, given sufficient information and time, groups performas well asthe best of an equivalent number of individuals on rule induction problems. We now report research on highly intellective letters-to-numbers coding problems on which groups performbetter thanthe best of an equivalent number of individuals. We first explain letters-to-numbers problems and present the instructions to the problem-solving group or individual. We then consider several possible strategies of increasing effectiveness. Next we report the results of three experiments comparing groups and the best of an equivalent number of individuals.

    In letters-to-numbers problems the...

    (pp. 109-123)

    Many scientific, educational, business, military, and political groups assume that people who solve problems in groups and teams will solve subsequent problems better as individuals than people without previous group problem-solving experience. This is the fundamental issue of group-to-individual transfer. The transfer problem may be the same as the training problem, definingspecificgroup-to-individual transfer, or a new problem of the same general class, defininggeneralgroup-to-individual transfer.

    Both specific and general group-to-individual transfer may be assessed in a three-stage IGI versus III design. In the IGI experimental condition participants solve problems as individuals (I), then as groups (G), and...

  11. Chapter Eight SOCIAL CHOICE THEORY
    (pp. 124-140)

    In the previous chapters we have considered social combination models of the processes by which group members combine their different preferences in a collective group response. Social choice theory in economics and political science considers how the members of a society such as voters or policy makers may make societal decisions such as selection among competing candidates to office or policies by existing or possible voting systems. Thus social combination models and social choice theory address the same basic issue: the aggregation of group member preferences to a collective group response.

    Contemporary social choice theory was inspired by two seminal...

  12. Chapter Nine CONCLUSIONS
    (pp. 141-144)

    In conclusion we propose ten generalizations that are supported by the theory and research in the previous eight chapters on group problem solving. We end with a brief retrospective and prospective.

    Group tasks are ordered on a continuum anchored by intellective and judgmental tasks.Intellective taskshave a demonstrably correct solution within a mathematical, logical, scientific, or verbal conceptual system.Judgmental tasksare evaluative, behavioral, or aesthetic judgments for which no generally accepted demonstrably correct answer exists. Intellective tasks are matters of truth and the objective for the group is to achieve the correct answer; judgmental tasks are matters of...

    (pp. 145-154)
  14. INDEX
    (pp. 155-158)