Volume 28, Issue 4, 1980
Polarization Risk-Caution in Group Decision-Making
The research presented in the article was of a descriptive nature and aimed at: (1) identifying situations in which, under the influence of the group, polarization occurred along the risk-caution line, and situations in which the polarization did not take place; (2) discovering whether the polarization depended on the type of decision-making group (male vs. female groups); (3) determining the persistence of polarization after the dissolution of the group, with regard for the relations (caution, invariability, risk) between pre-group (first individual), group and post-group (second individual) decisions; (4) discovering possible groups and individuals that consistently apphed the same methods in solving dilemmas.
Polarization was studied by means of the dilemma questionnaire of Kogan and Wallach (1964) as translated and adapted by Zaleski (1978). The subjects were students of the List two forms of secondary school aged 17 to 19. Four hundred groups of three persons were tested, twro hundred of them male and two hundred female, 1200 people in all. The first stage of the research consisted in filling out the questionnaire individually. The second stage involved solving the same dilemmas in the groups, with collective expression of opinion (following a discussion) on a single questionnaire. Finally, the subjects once again made individual decisions.
The study has revealed that:
(1) There are dilemmas in which there are more risky than cautious groups: I, III, IV, VI, VII, IX; there also are dilemmas with rm re cautious than risky groups: X, XII. Some dilemmas have been identified for which risk-taking is approximately as frequent as caution: II, VIII, X, XI. In all the twelve dilemmas there was a comparatively high percentage of subjects who did not change their individual decisions in the process of group decision-making (from 26 to 40 per cent). This clearly indicates the limited extent of polarization. Many decision-makers do not submit to group influence.
(2) There was a pronounced difference between men and women as regards group decisions. Tn women there was a stronger preference for risk-taking than for caution in dilemmas I, IV and VI, in which men exhibited no such tendency. In men, there was a stronger risk-preference in dilemma IX. It is wort noting that in most dilemmas men showed a stronger inclination to persevere in their decisions than women. Men seem to be more resistant to the influence of the group.
3) Some groups were found to be extremely cautious, risky or invariable. Among the four hundred groups 22 were extremely risky (10 of these male, 12 female), 30 were extremely cautious (12 male, 18 female) and 26 were invariable (14 male, 12 femaleh This indicates that polarization depends to some extent on the structure or other features of the group rather than on the decision-making situation as such.
(4) The results indicate that second individual decisions, following the dissolution of the group, are to a high degree consistent with the earlier group decisions, in particular as regards the dilemmas XII, IX and II, i.e. those of an existential nature, related to preservation of life or other vitally important matters. Less permanent were decisions in matter related to economic, scientific or political achievement, i.e. dilemmas III, X and XI. Four types of relation patterns between individual and group decisions have been found: invariable (about 43 per .cent) — individual decisions after the dissolution of the group are the same as those in the group; recidivist (about 41 per cent) — subjects revert to their original decisions; transitive and counter-group relation patterns were infrequent.
(5) Some decision-makers were found in the sample (about 14 per cent) who frequently exhibited the same type of relation pattern in solving most dilemmas. There also was a smaller group (about 8 per cent) of those who even exhibited identical relation patterns in solving different dilemmas. This sheds some light on so-called rigidity in solving different problems as a special personality trait of the decision-makers.
The research discussed in the article throws some light on the psychological mechanism of decision-making in everyday life, especially from the point of view of caution and risk.