Group Polarisation

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The Risky Shift: The Effects of Group Influence on Individual Risk-Taking Tee Kai Yee
Department of Psychology
University of Sheffield

This experiment is a replication of Wallach, Kogan and Bem (1962) study on Group influence on individual risk taking. The aim for this experiment is to investigate the effects of shift in risk across the pre-discussion, group-discussion and post-discussion assessment on individual decisions and group consensus. There were 154 (both sexes) undergraduates students from the University of Sheffield used in this study. The results were based on their opinions on the pre, group and post-discussion assessment and data were collected to examine whether individuals risk more as a result of group-discussion than when they were alone. Findings suggested that group-discussion does made an influence on decision-making on individual’s initial decision.

Many of us spend a significant portion of our lives making decisions individually or in groups. We make decisions about all sorts of risks differently when we are within a group or when we are alone. Wallach, Kogan and Bern (1962) found an averaging effect between individual decisions and the group consensus. It was believed that groups might seek to reach an agreement with group members that made group members move from their initial decisions. In 1961, Stoner identified a phenomenon that later became known as the “risky shift”. The phenomenon explains that group discussion produced group decisions that chose riskier decision than the average of the individual group member prior decisions. However, the participants that were used in his study were all male graduate students of industrial management and this might cause a bias results. It was believed that they were more willing to take risks because it is a desirable attribute of a potential manager (Stoner, 1961). Wallach, Kogan and Bern (1962) went on to replicate Stoner’s findings on “risky shift” and found out a much wider perspective that it is now referred to as “group polarization”. They did a similar study but with an addition of having participants for their individual opinions after the group discussion. The result of their studies showed that there was a tendency that group consensus produce riskier decisions than the average individual opinion prior to discussion (Hogg & Vaughan, 2005). They also found out that after the group discussion, individual decisions were on average riskier than prior to group discussion. Through the post group discussion, individual’s risky shift on their decision was still maintained 2 to 6 weeks, this indicates that these group decisions were not just an overt conformity but as an acceptance of the new decision. Furthermore, group consensus can sometimes be riskier or cautious in making decisions, in the direction favoured by the mean of the individual members’ initial positions. One possible explanation was proposed by Wallach, et. al (1964) that greater risks are chosen due to a diffusion of responsibility. Another explanation was explained in terms of social comparison/cultural values and persuasive arguments theory (Hogg &Vaughan, 2005) The current study sets to replicate the main findings of the original Wallach, et. al (1962) study on group polarization. The purpose of this study is to examine at the relationship between the individual decisions and the group consensus based on a pre-discussion (individual decision), group-discussion and a post-discussion (individual decision) assessments. All of the three assessments have to reach to a unanimous decision. The hypothesis is to test whether if group decisions show a shift in riskier decision compared with the pre-discussion decision and finally whether...
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