Peer groups of five managers in a large company with a well developed corporate culture engaged in choice dilemma tasks using three modes of communication: face-to-face, synchronous computerized conferences with regular names, and synchronous computerized conferences with assigned pen names. This is the final technical report on the experiment, including documentation of all procedures, and reports of the tests of all hypotheses, including those which were not supported.
Choice behavior varied by problem and mode of communication. On a problem related to a major decision on the future of the company, conservative choices and conservative shifts dominated. On two choice dilemma problems related to individual level decisions, risky shifts were prevalent. Groups were more conservative in the pen name condition. The results are reviewed as they relate to conflicting theories that have been put forth to explain choice dilemma behavior in groups, including diffusion of responsibility, social comparison, and polarization models. The social comparison model recieves the strongest support.
Results are also presented for hypotheses related to the assumption that pen name conferences will exhibit more disinhibited and deindividuated behavior than conferences in which comments are signed with the real name of the contributor. Our results do support the hypothesis that pen name conferences will exhibit more deindividuation than the other modes of communication, defined as a greater likelihood of going along with the group and its norms. There was little disinhibited behavior in either mode of computerized conferencing. Pen name conferences showed consistent but statistically insignificant tendencies toward less disagreement about the final group choice, more participation, and greater equality of participation.
Subjective satisfaction of participants tends to be highest in Face-to-Face mode and lowest in the pen name computer conferences, but the differences are statistically significant only for a factor which we have named "Persuasion" and which includes social-emotional components. Very few background characteristics of the participants are related to variations in satisfaction with computerized conferencing, among this fairly homogeneous set of with pen name communication than are males.
In sum, within this particular organizational context, the pen name condition of computer conferences exhibited some significant differences in terms of process and outcome and did not produce any extremely negative results. As a result, we believe that groups of managers facing important decisions in which the welfare of the organization must be placed above the egotistical interests of the participating employees might fruitfully consider pen name conferences as a viable decision-making option.
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Computerized Conferencing & Communications Center; Hiltz, Starr Roxanne; Turoff, Murray; and Johnson, Kenneth, "Mode of communication and the "risky shift" : a controlled experiment with computerized conferencing and anonymity in a large corporation" (1985). Computerized Conferencing and Communications Center Reports. 21.