Group Decis Negot (2013) 22:873–896 DOI 10.
Individual Priming in Virtual Team Decision-Making
Valerie L. Bartelt · Alan R. Dennis · Lingyao Yuan · Jordan B. Barlow
Published online: 4 January 2013 © Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2012
Abstract Virtual teams have different interactions than face-to-face teams because they rely on information and communication technologies, which can impede or assist certain human cognitive processes. Past research has shown that although virtual teams exchange more information than face-to-face teams, poor decisions often result, because team members do not consider the unique information they receive from others. Drawing from cognitive psychology, our research explored a unique way to improve team decision-making through the use of cognitive priming. We proposed that priming group members to pay attention to others or to engage in counterfactual thinking would improve team members’ cognition and, therefore, team performance. Prior research with individuals and brainstorming teams has shown these forms of priming to improve performance; however, no research has attempted to use priming to improve the outcomes of virtual team decision-making, which requires deeper interaction and cognitive involvement than brainstorming. We performed two lab experiments using primes that have been found to improve the individual decision-making process. We found that priming had some impact, but it did not signiﬁcantly improve decision quality. Various reasons are discussed to explain why priming techniques may not be as powerful in teams as in individuals, and future research ideas are suggested to build on our initial work on priming in virtual team decision-making.
V. L. Bartelt Department of Information Systems, College of Business Administration, Texas A&M University-Kingsville, MSC 182, Texas A&M University-Kingsville, Kingsville, TX 78363-8202, USA A. R. Dennis · L. Yuan · J. B. Barlow (B ) Operations and Decision Technologies Department, Kelley School of Business, Indiana University, BUS 670, 1309 E. Tenth Street, Bloomington, IN 47405, USA e-mail: email@example.com
V. L. Bartelt et al.
Keywords Priming · Cognition · Virtual teams · Decision-making · Decision quality · Team performance
1 Introduction Virtual teams are groups of geographically dispersed individuals who communicate through information and communication technologies (ICT) (Bell and Kozlowski 2002). Such teams are now prevalent in organizations (Chudoba et al. 2005), and the effectiveness of virtual team interactions is a major research stream in IS and collaboration literature (Kahai et al. 2007). Prior research suggests that ICT use can reduce workloads by 50 percent or more (Reinig et al. 1995-1996). The use of ICT can affect various virtual team processes (Schmidt et al. 2001), including the decision-making process. In particular, decision quality often suffers in virtual teams (Dennis et al. 1997–1998; Martz and Shepherd 2004). Virtual teams often face the challenge of bringing together multiple perspectives from differing team members, yet virtual teams tend to have poor information exchange (Dennis 1996). Prior research has identiﬁed possible culprits affecting the information exchange process in virtual teams that may result in poor decisions. One main possibility is that team members do not fully consider the information they receive from others (Dennis 1996; Heninger et al. 2006; Hilmer and Dennis 2001). Thus a primary reason for poor team performance may not lie in the group interaction processes of social psychology, but rather in the individual thought processes of cognitive psychology (Kolfschoten 2011; Nagasundaram and Dennis 1993). Prior research shows that many types of individual cognitive challenges are common to group work (O’Leary 2011) and to virtual teams in particular (Powell 1994; Whitworth et al. 2000). There is also evidence to show that changes in individual cognition can change group level outcomes (e.g., Curseu and Schruijer 2008). Thus, we believe that improving individual-level cognition can improve group-level performance. There are many approaches researchers can take to better understand the collaboration process and the effects of individual cognition in that process. We adopt the concept of priming from cognitive psychology. Priming is a phenomenon where exposure to a stimulus causes concepts related to that stimulus to be activated in an individual’s working memory, which in turn subconsciously inﬂuences subsequent behavior. For example, if a person is primed with words associated with the concept of old age, he or she walks slower than those not primed (Bargh and Chartrand 2000) because when the concept of old age is introduced into an individual’s working memory, he or she subconsciously acts “older” and yet is completely unaware of the change in behavior (Bargh and Chartrand 2000). Priming techniques have been extensively studied in psychology research and have successfully been used to increase individuals’ decision-making performance (Bargh and Chartrand 2000; Bargh et al. 2001; Koriat and Feuerstein 1976; Reb and Connolly 2009). In information systems research, priming has also been found to improve group electronic brainstorming (Dennis et al. 2012). Despite the research on using priming
g. Many different process techniques derived from social psychology have been developed and tested in groups (Briggs et al. The need to both contribute information and consider the information from other team members increases cognitive load. priming has not been studied in group-level decisionmaking tasks that require group collaboration and deep interaction among individuals. in which the ideas and comments from many different participants needs to be considered. We propose that priming at the individual level will improve group decision making by improving individual cognition during group processes. 1995-1996) which is also vital for healthy team interactions (McGrath 1991). These barriers add additional problems and cognitive challenges to those faced by traditional teams. In an effort to improve virtual team interactions.Virtual Team Decision-Making
to change individual behavior. but also interpersonal dynamics and team consensus (Whitworth et al. 2004). Increasingly. and training that allow groups to reduce excessive cognitive loads during the collaborative process (e. employees are working in virtual teams. functioning and ultimate performance. In this paper. Kolfschoten et al.. The cognitive challenges of collaborative teams often lead to poor decision quality because team members do not pay attention to information from others on their team
2 Theory and Prior Research 2. 2005). A major barrier to higher decision quality in virtual team decision making lies in individual cognition—a failure to fully consider the information shared by others (Heninger et al. 1995-1996). Reinig and Shin 2002. Team members must process information concerning not only the task at hand. 2011. Even though ICT are helpful in virtual team formation. often to a point where team members have insufﬁcient cognitive resources to do both successfully (Heninger et al. prior research has found that these lean tools reduce the amount of emotional content shared (Reinig et al. Teamwork is a complex process. processes.. 2005). Reinig 2003. researchers have focused on various electronic collaboration outcomes— including attitudinal outcomes (Cohen and Bailey 1997) such as satisfaction and conﬁdence (e.g. Kolfschoten and Lee 2010). Reinig et al. Speciﬁcally. temporal. Chudoba et al. and organizational boundaries (Bell and Kozlowski 2002.1 Virtual Teams and Decision-Making Collaborative work creates unique cognitive challenges beyond those of individual tasks. 2006). Prior research also shows that group tasks requiring convergence are less likely to be successful virtually than face-to-face (Kerr and Murthy 2004). 2006). Chudoba et al. thus improving decision quality. we take a different approach by focusing on individual cognitive processes based on research from cognitive psychology. Virtual teams often span geographical. which face additional challenges (Bell and Kozlowski 2002. Credé and Sniezek 2003. 2000). Many research streams have investigated the creation of systems. we propose that priming can be used to increase participants’ desire to share their information and consider others’ information during virtual team discussions. Team decision-making presents unique cognitive challenges due to the need to negotiate multiple team members’ opinions (Dean and Sharfman 1996).
meaning they seek information to conﬁrm their initial impressions (Webster et al. Previous research has examined the role of individual cognition in face-to-face groups (e. In
. Decision quality tends to decrease if people justify their a priori choices and do not fully consider other information options raised during the team discussion (Dean and Sharfman 1993). and priming can be used to manipulate subconscious cognition. may be used to inﬂuence individual cognition in order to improve group level outcomes and improve team performance. 1996) rather than being open to new ideas from other team members.876
V. which involves subconscious and unintentional cognition (Graf and Schacter 1985. a word may ﬂash in front of them without their knowledge of it. particularly in virtual teams. Whitworth et al. Because of the cognitive demands of virtual teamwork. For instance. Conﬁrmation bias is a phenomenon where people interpret new information based on their current beliefs and ignore contradictory information (Ask and Granhag 2005). teams who read instructions framing the information as dangerous used more defensive strategies during negotiations. Priming activates implicit memory. Prior research shows that much of human behavior uses subconscious cognition (Bargh and Chartrand 2000). Hilmer and Dennis 2001).g. and ultimately had lower performance than neutral teams. In general. priming is implemented in research by presenting stimuli to a participant in order to activate internal representations of related concepts or attitudes. which is built on the premise that people are not comfortable with two opposing thoughts existing at the same time.g. Kersten and Cray 1996. Prior research indicates that many individuals experience conﬁrmation bias during teamwork. 2006. This cognitive need for closure often results in them locking into their initial decisions. Powell 1994. Jonas et al. individuals are not aware of any priming.
(Dennis 1996. Usually. often anchoring to their initial conclusions that were made before team discussions (Ask and Granhag 2005). team members often cut cognitive corners. 2000). Stahl 2006. Espinosa et al. Heninger et al. Bartelt et al. Under the inﬂuence of these cognition biases. Schacter 1987).2 Priming Priming is a cognitive phenomenon where exposure to a stimulus causes a behavioral response to a subsequent stimulus.. Curseu and Schruijer (2008) used framing as a method for changing cognition in face-to-face teams completing negotiation tasks. Primes can be delivered through two different levels of awareness—subliminal or supraliminal. 1997–1998. Dennis et al. This cognition bias occurs as the result of cognitive dissonance (Festinger 1957. people tend to make individual decisions based on previous information. O’Leary 2011) and virtual teams (e.. L. a similar concept. strengthening the cognitive bias toward their own impressions and stereotypes. In their study. The activation of these concepts then changes subsequent behavior (Bargh and Chartrand 2000). With subliminal priming. We propose that priming. Antunes and Ferreira 2011. 2001). people often seek easily available information instead of digging deeper to ﬁnd contrary evidence (Ask and Granhag 2005).
2. 2011. but few studies have attempted to inﬂuence individual cognition in order to improve virtual team collaboration and performance.
Galinsky and Moskowitz 2000). a concept that has been effective for individual decisionmaking tasks. DeCoster and Claypool 2004). 2012). priming may have differing effects. we discuss achievement priming. including the use of scenarios (Connolly and Reb 2003) and semantic (word) priming (Bargh and Chartrand 2000. During the Dennis et al. group performance (measured as the number of ideas generated by a group) was signiﬁcantly better for groups under a priming treatment than for groups under the placebo treatment. (2012) used priming to affect individual motivation and creativity. Second. to see which.1 Hypothesis Development Previous research shows that priming positive concepts can improve individual decision-making and task performance by improving individual cognition (Bargh et al. Bargh et al. Prior research shows that supraliminal priming can inﬂuence an individual’s attitudes and behavior in subsequent tasks (Chalfoun and Frasson 2011). Other types of group activities. such as decision-making. Subsequent research shows that priming can affect judgments. Duncker 1945). 3 Study 1: Achievement and Attention Priming 3. 2001. it would be difﬁcult to conclude that priming improves group level performance based on the results of one study. leading to an improvement of performance on a group electronic brainstorming task. Researchers have developed many sophisticated supraliminal priming techniques. we focus on priming two distinct concepts (one positive and one negative). require different cognitive and collaborative processes than those required in additive tasks such as brainstorming (Steiner 1972). Research has shown that accessing semantic networks through words can activate abstract concepts and categories that ultimately affect behavior (Bargh et al. Higgins and Chaires 1980). individuals are provided with a conscious task. (2001) postulated that priming the
. First. and individual decision-making (Bargh and Chartrand 2000). In their study. Priming is usually conducted on the individual level. 2001). has a better result on group decision-making processes in virtual teams. thus. and. if either. We believe priming is a potential method that may inﬂuence group level outcomes by changing individual cognition. but they are not aware of the prime’s effects (Bargh and Chartrand 2000. only one study has used priming at the group level (Dennis et al. Semantic networks are networks of words and concepts built in the brain through prior experience (Martin and Chao 2001). (2012) experiment. 2006).Virtual Team Decision-Making
supraliminal priming. participants performed a brainstorming task where group performance was largely a function of the sum of individual performance. The usefulness of priming ﬁrst emerged as researchers explored ways of altering the environment to cause people to unknowingly think differently (Bargh and Chartrand 2000. to our knowledge. The study by Dennis et al. we discuss regret priming. Semantic priming works by activating semantic networks in an individual’s cognition. However. goal motivation (Stajkovic et al. In our research. a concept that has been effective for both individual performance and simple group brainstorming tasks.
Groups primed for achievement generated more ideas that were also more relevant. Paying attention to other team members is even more critical in situations where each group member is in possession of some unique information that cannot otherwise be accessed by other members. L. so the achievement concept alone may not be powerful enough to change group behavior. but also stimulate group members to pay attention to one another. carpet. which led to individuals subconsciously creating goal pursuits of achievement (Bargh et al.g. This condition makes it necessary for group members to collaborate on solving the group task. succeed) and another to neutral words (e. 2001). Thus. Despite the importance of attention in cognitive processes and collaborative work. one related to achievement (e.878
V. and workable than ideas produced by the control groups.g. Bartelt et al. Dennis et al. Because decision-making tasks involve more complex team processes than simple brainstorming tasks. participants were primed with words related to achievement. They found that achievement priming leads individuals to subconsciously create high goals for themselves in their current situation. participants completed a task where they were asked to brainstorm ideas in groups of ﬁve. win. our reasoning suggests that the attention priming effect should strengthen the achievement priming effect for virtual team decision-making processes where attention is necessary for success. Being primed with words associated with achievement activated the achievement concept through the semantic networks of individuals’ cognition. compete. Achievement priming was also used in a study by Shantz and Latham (2009) to improve individual brainstorming. including the processes of disseminating and integrating crucial information.
achievement concept would improve individual task performance. In this case. rather than by using words. shampoo). One of the reasons that computer-mediated groups sometimes have low decision-making performance is that group members don’t pay attention to other group members’ information or opinions (Dennis 1996. (2012) conducted an experiment to investigate the priming effect on group level electronic brainstorming.. Individuals primed with the achievement words performed better in the subsequent tasks than those primed with neutral words.. The achievement prime activated an automatic goal in pursuit of achievement. 2006. ranch. but the key group-level concept of integrating information should be improved. the priming was done using an image of a woman winning a race. Subjects were exposed to two different sets of priming words in a word search puzzle game. However. We propose that achievement priming and attention priming together should alter individual cognition (increased focus on information). not only will individual behavior be changed. which improved their motivation and ability to brainstorm as a team. novel. we found no previous work on the effect of priming attention in individuals or groups. In the experimental group. Achievement priming was also positively related to group level performance for idea generation tasks. We believe the achievement prime should have the same effect in team decisionmaking tasks. After the priming. it should not only activate high performance goals in team members.
. Hilmer and Dennis 2001). We consider that the activation of achievement concepts in the minds of individuals should motivate them to work hard during the group task to overcome cognitive loads and biases that normally affect group decision-making tasks. for a prime to work in this complex environment. In this manner. Heninger et al.
which is known to every participant. 1. Four minutes were allowed for participants to read and
. 3. 3.Virtual Team Decision-Making
Group Information Processing
Group Decision Quality
Fig. in real groups. Researchers have used the task in previous experiments on virtual team decision-making (Dennis 1996. There were 11 teams in the neutral treatment. 1 Process of priming effects on group decision quality
which will be reﬂected in the group process (increased dissemination and integration of information). Participants were ﬁrst asked to read and learn facts about the candidates whose information would be shared. Hidden proﬁle tasks have been commonly used in team research because they are similar to the tasks real groups face (Stasser 1992). The student admission task was also appropriate because it is a hidden proﬁle task as deﬁned by Stasser (1992). The remaining 8 percent were within the 23–27 age range. and then they come together to discuss and make a team decision. not all participants have complete information to make the best decision individually. All teams selected exactly three candidates to admit.2. which will lead to higher quality decisions.2 Task The task was to choose at most three students to admit to the university from a set of ﬁve possible candidates. the hidden proﬁle task is designed to facilitate discussion among team members.1 Participants One hundred thirty undergraduate business students from a large state university were assigned to 26 ﬁve-person teams and participated in this study. and 15 teams in the achievement/attention priming treatment. We selected this particular task because the application process is familiar to most participants. The team can only come to the correct decision if all the information is shared and attended to. In a hidden proﬁle task.2. 3.2 Methodology We conducted a lab experiment to test the effect of achievement and attention priming on virtual team decision-making. 92 percent of the participants were within the age range of 19–21. Robert and Dennis 2005). each team member makes independent decisions on incomplete information. Thirty-ﬁve percent of the participants were female. as shown in Fig. Hypothesis 1 Individual team member exposure to achievement and attention priming prior to team decision-making will improve decision quality. All participants received extra credit for their participation. and unique information. Because all information must be shared to reach the best decision. which is known to only one participant. Incomplete information consists of both common information.
After the task was designed. Srull and Wyer 1979). commitment to their major. Robert and Dennis 2005). Bartelt et al.880
V. This technique has been used in prior priming research (Bargh and Chartrand 2000). Srull and Wyer 1979). An average of the directors’ scores was referenced when designing the task of admitting the students to the university. countering the possibility of decaying effects among participants. Prior research
. and math SAT scores. Consistent with prior research. Then. a form of supraliminal priming (Bargh and Chartrand 2000. We used the Scrambled Sentence Test (SST). including prior research on electronic brainstorming in teams (Dennis et al. the director of admissions determined which candidates to reject and accept. each participant was provided with six pieces of common information: the candidates’ names. L.3 Treatments There were two treatments: achievement/attention priming and neutral priming. advanced placement courses. and discuss their information with others in order to reach a team decision. Participants used Gmail Chat to work together to discuss the task. and participants were encouraged to create a headline that generated the highest score. Additional information included circumstantial information about the candidates. such as whether their high school grades have steadily improved or declined. extra-curricular activities.2. Each word was assigned a point value. motivation to attend. 3. quality of the high school. The participants sat in separate cubicles in front of individual personal computers during the study so no verbal communication occurred. missing courses. verbal SAT. gender. We used the same priming procedure used by Dennis et al. This software is similar to other group chat software in that there is one lower window in which participants type ideas. Eighteen pieces of information were distributed among the team members. read. and additional comments). and commitment to major (Dennis 1996. The participants were allowed 8 min to play the priming game.
come to an individual decision based on incomplete information. residence. Three directors of the undergraduate admissions ofﬁce individually ranked the university’s admissions criteria. with a larger scrolling window on top in which the ideas contributed by group members are displayed. GPA. Two unique pieces of information were provided to each of the ﬁve participants (including intended major. class rank. 15 min were allowed for participants to work together as a team to share. and 8 min was considered sufﬁcient for the priming to take effect (Bargh and Chartrand 2000. Prior research has determined both the strength and the duration of prime to be important factors for optimal priming effects. Two facts contained in the unique information should have led to a denial of the applicants (one student was missing two courses and another student had a lower class rank from a poor quality school). (2012)—a modiﬁed version of the SST delivered as a computer game. Participants were instructed to create an interesting headline for the university newspaper by using four out of the ﬁve words that had been provided by the game. The longer length of the game play design ensured that participants would not ﬁnish early. letters of recommendation. Prior research determined this was a sufﬁcient amount of time for this task. 2012). This was used as a scoring key for the panel of applicants that the participants were given in the experiment. parents’ afﬁliation with the university.
3. The neutral words were taken from prior research (Bargh et al.” A full list of the priming words can be found in the appendix. Teams primed for achievement and attention failed to have signiﬁcantly higher decision quality than teams receiving the neutral priming (F(1. we added one word related to “paying attention” in each set of ﬁve words. Synonyms of the intended meaning (either achievement or attention) were included in the word list.Virtual Team Decision-Making
has found the immediacy of the task following the prime to affect the similarity of participants’ responses to the intended prime (Bargh and Chartrand 2000). The decision performance scale ranges from 0–5.3 Results We analyzed the data with one-way between-groups ANOVA. Participants were told that each team member had been given both common information known to everyone and unique information only they knew. which contained both unique and common information about the candidates. In this database. (2001) in each set of ﬁve words. 2001) and validated using the Affective Norms of English Words (ANEW) database (Bradley and Lang 1999).5 Procedures Participants were randomly assigned to treatments and were provided with predetermined usernames to ensure anonymity among team members. They were informed that it was important for them to contribute the information they knew and carefully read the information they received from others in order to make a good team decision. participants worked together as a team using Gmail Chat to arrive at a team decision of no more than three candidates to admit.” and so forth. The director of admissions at the university where the study was conducted assessed each candidate and determined whether that individual would be admitted.” “noticed.24) = 0.411). Attention words included “listen.4 Dependent Variable Decision quality was determined for each team based on the correct admit/reject decision for each of ﬁve candidates. Participants began the experiment by playing the priming game. Neutral words were selected from the database that produced moderate arousal and valence levels.2. Both types of priming words were obtained as instructed in Bargh and Chartrand’s (2000) article.700. words are rated based on arousal and valance levels. participants completed a survey indicating their team’s decision and individual demographic information. In addition.” and so forth. 3.” and “short. Then.2.
. Upon ﬁnishing the priming game (or after 8 min had elapsed). Next.” “room. They were then asked to make their individual decision to admit no more than three candidates to the university.” “honor. “worker. 3. Some examples of neutral priming words included. participants were provided 4 min to read the admission task information that they had been given. Achievement words included “win. p = 0.” “award. The achievement/attention priming version of the game included one achievement word drawn from Bargh et al. Neutral words were used for the control groups.
which is adequate. Levene’s test was run to test homogeneity of variance. Information shared was not signiﬁcant ( p > 0. we used the Kruskal–Wallis test.009
0. we tested whether the data met the assumptions of an ANOVA test. indicating an equality of variance in the data. p = 0.416).24. Bartelt et al. This test was used because the normality of the data is not assumed when using this procedure (Glass 1966). We did not have the information available to test whether the priming changed how well the individuals paid attention and integrated information from others. the Shapiro–Wilk test was used on each treatment due to its appropriateness for sample sizes that are less than 50. p = 0. To determine the normality of the data. We again tested whether the data met the assumptions of an ANOVA test.411
V. df = 1. The results indicate no difference between priming treatments (F = 3. decision quality. Results are summarized in Table 1. L. indicating an equality of variance in the data.687.24. indicating normality of the data. the assumptions of the ANOVA test are met.01) in all treatments.
Kruskal–Wallis p value 0. Since decision quality was not signiﬁcant. Decision quality was not signiﬁcant (Levene statistic = 0. The results of the Kruskal–Wallis test were not statistically signiﬁcant ( p = 0.309). Levene’s test was run to test homogeneity of variance on the dependent variable. We used a one-way ANOVA to test whether the amount of information shared differed between treatments.05) in all treatments. p = 0.24) ANOVA p value 0. Hypothesis 1 was not supported. Results are summarized in Table 2. Inter-rater reliability was 81 percent (calculated as 1 . One rater coded the number of correct pieces of information in the transcript of each group. 1. However.
. Information shared was not signiﬁcant (Levene statistic = 1. A second rater independently coded half of the transcripts. the Shapiro–Wilk test was used on each treatment.24. indicating no difference in decision quality between groups.929).87 3.73
0. First. Thus. to test differences between groups. Therefore. Decision quality was found to be signiﬁcant ( p < 0. we downloaded the transcripts from the experiment and examined the information exchanged by team members to see if the amount of information contributed to the discussion was different between the two treatments.990 1.700
In order to examine one possible reason that the ANOVA tests were not statistically signiﬁcant.the number of disagreements / total number of codings).076). we conducted a post-hoc analysis of the transcripts to identify whether the prime had any effect on earlier steps of the process presented in Fig. and whether the amount of information shared in teams truly led to better decision quality. Because the data was not normal. to determine the normality of the data. indicating that the data was not normal.882 Table 1 Achievement/attention prime results (Number of correct decisions) n Mean SD ANOVA F (1. Second. so we did not use a Kruskal–Wallis test.428. First. the nonparametric alternative to ANOVA.080.929
3. df = 1. df = 1.
This seedling of doubt that is planted in your mind causes you to ask questions that consider possibilities other than the initial position you ﬁrst held.47 19. and even when team members shared more information for any reason. which means that achievement and attention priming does not improve group decision-making. Because the data is not linear. actually reinforcing the conﬁrmation bias. Priming did not lead to increased sharing of information. but it did not. indicating that even when team members shared more information. it encouraged them to become more anchored on their original decisions and focus more on what they already knew. This result was also not statistically signiﬁcant ( p = 0. Zeelenberg and Pieters 2007).
3. The positive emotions evoked by achievement priming may have affected individuals in some ways.Virtual Team Decision-Making Table 2 Achievement/attention prime results (Information shared) n Achievement/attention Neutral 15 11 Mean 13. How can we encourage team members to think more about what others contribute? Prior research in individual decision making has found self-blame regret priming to induce counter factual thinking (Reb and Connolly 2009.24) 3.27 SD 7. on group performance. but were not sufﬁcient to cause a signiﬁcant difference in overall group performance. Although its inﬂuence may induce negative emotions. other team members did not integrate that information to make a quality decision. regret. which would lead to more informed decision-making and better decisions. Counter factual thinking is the process of actively challenging the facts you currently have. to see if there was a signiﬁcant correlation between information sharing and decision quality. second-guessing what you know and asking yourself what if the facts you have are not true. It could be that the achievement priming encouraged team members to behave in a more individualistic manner to “achieve” more. regret priming has been found to improve individual decision-making (Reb and Connolly 2009.428
ANOVA p value 0.534). a common nonparametric alternative to linear regression.417). Zeelenberg and Pieters 2007). We next describe a study we conducted to explore the effects of a negative prime. we also used a Kendall’s tau correlation test.4 Discussion The results from the achievement and attention priming experiment did not support Hypothesis 1. and decision quality remained low. that is. rather than consider the new information received from other team members. participants did not fully integrate the information shared. other elements of group information processing were not strong.076
A simple linear regression testing the effect of information sharing on decision quality was not signiﬁcant ( p = 0. that is. The key question is: why didn’t achievement and attention priming have an effect? We hypothesized that this priming would increase motivation and attention to information.580 ANOVA F (1.376 8. Counter-factual thinking would result in seeking more information.
1998). and especially avoid regret-inducing feedback (Reb and Connolly 2009. Connolly and Zeelenberg 2002. Bartelt et al. 2009). Wroe et al. Reb and Connolly 2009. Since prior literature has found regret priming to improve individual decisionmaking ability by increasing attention during the process (Byrne and Girotto 2009. which led to better decisions (Reb and Connolly 2009). Reb and Connolly 2009. Wong et al.1 Hypothesis Development Regret is a counterfactual. again as depicted in Fig. Wong et al. it follows that regret priming should improve virtual team decision-making as well by affecting the cognition of team members so that they pay more attention to key information. Zeelenberg 1999). People prefer to avoid future regret (Reb 2008. 2004. Individuals who want to minimize the experience of regret about a future outcome often expend greater cognitive attention during the decision-making process (Connolly and Zeelenberg 2002. Research has found anticipated regret to affect individual decision-making (Connolly and Zeelenberg 2002.884
4 Study 2: Regret Priming 4. 2009). Zeelenberg and Beattie 1997. a series of poor decision-making typically ensues (Reb and Connolly 2009). Regret is often associated with a feeling of self-blame—a distinguishing factor between regret and disappointment (Gilbert et al. 1.
. where they consider situations in which they wished they had behaved differently (Kahneman and Miller 1986. Self-blame regret may cognitively trigger participants to pay attention to and more thoroughly consider new information proposed by others during the decisionmaking process. prior research involving a decision task with monetary incentives found self-blame regret to improve decision quality (Reb and Connolly 2009). L. As a result. those primed with self-blame regret accepted more feedback and paid attention to it. When individual decision makers do not consider alternate outcomes. or negative. For example. 1996). 2004). In that study. Zeelenberg et al. Zeelenberg and Pieters 2007). Reb and Connolly 2009. People even prefer to forego the possibility of positive outcomes in their desire to avoid negative experiences (Reb and Connolly 2009. Reb 2008. regret priming has improved individual decision-making (Reb and Connolly 2009). Regret usually involves some sort of self-berating due to wishing that the alternate decision had been made (Reb and Connolly 2009. Zeelenberg 1999). Regret priming techniques have been used to increase the desire to read and consider available information. 2004. These techniques encourage individuals to engage in hypothetical thinking (Byrne and Girotto 2009). Research has begun to examine the role of negative emotions in the decisionmaking process. they use more careful cognitive processes during decision-making. Zeelenberg et al. cognitively-based emotional experience which results from visualizing a better situation if an alternate decision had been made (Gilbert et al. increasing attention to information in order to ensure that they do not lose key information that could result in a wrong decision. especially regret (Connolly and Zeelenberg 2002). Because individuals would like to avoid feeling regret in the future. Simonson 1992). Taylor 1991).
All participants received extra credit for their participation. as described in Sect. using synonyms related to “regret” and “remorse.2.” were used to put participants in this mindset. and 20 teams in the regret prime treatment. 4. 4. We again tested whether the data met
. There were 20 teams in the neutral prime treatment. the version of the game used for Study 2 included regret words drawn from Reb and Connolly (2009). p = 0.3 Results ANOVA analysis showed that the regret priming treatment had no signiﬁcant effect on decision quality (F (1. Regret words.2.066. However.38) = 0. 4.2. 4. 4. The set of neutral words used for the neutral treatment was the same as used for the control group in Study 1.4 Dependent Variable As in Study 1. All teams again selected exactly three candidates to admit.5 Procedures The same procedures were followed for this experiment as those used in Study 1. 4.2. Demographic information for Study 2 was not available. but such information is likely very similar to the participants of Study 1. as described in Sect. The full list of priming words can be found in the appendix.Virtual Team Decision-Making
Hypothesis 2 Individual team member exposure to regret priming prior to team decision-making will improve decision quality.5.2. decision quality was determined for each team based on the correct set of candidates who were accepted to the university.2. 4.3 Treatments In this experiment.2 Methodology We conducted a second lab experiment to test the effect of regret priming on virtual team decision-making. 3. 3. instead of using words related to achievement and attention.2. 3.2.798).1 Participants Participants were 200 undergraduate business students from a large state university assigned to 40 ﬁve-person teams.3. participants played a computer game modeled after the Scrambled Sentence Test (SST).2 Task The experiment used the same task as outlined in Sect.2.
050). First.01) in all treatments.011 Kruskal–Wallis p value 0. decision quality. This result was also not statistically signiﬁcant ( p = 0. we also used a Kendall’s tau correlation test. An ANOVA indicates that the amount of information shared in the primed groups was signiﬁcantly higher than the information shared in control groups (F = 7. indicating a violation of the equality of variance assumption.495). the Shapiro–Wilk test was used on each treatment.38) ANOVA p value 0. indicating that even though the prime caused some change at the individual level.011). Because the data is not linear.174 1. The results of the Kruskal–Wallis test were not statistically signiﬁcant ( p = 0. Decision quality was found to be signiﬁcant ( p < 0. df = 1.113) in the control groups. indicating that the data was not normal.852).036.38) ANOVA p value 0.60 27. again indicating no difference in decision quality between groups. Decision quality was not signiﬁcant (Levene statistic = 0.38.0798
V. Results were statistically signiﬁcant ( p = 0. a common nonparametric alternative to linear regression.074
the assumptions of an ANOVA test.672
7. To determine the normality of the data. Levene’s test was run to test homogeneity of variance on the dependent variable. We next tested whether the data met the assumptions of an ANOVA test in order to conﬁrm these results. Hypothesis 2 is not supported. However. in the primed groups.75
20. indicating an equality of variance in the data. information shared was signiﬁcant ( p = 0. conﬁrming the difference between groups. the group level processing of information that was shared was not affected.813
3. indicating normality of the data. We again conducted a post-hoc analysis of the transcripts to count the amount of information contributed to the discussion. Information shared was signiﬁcant (Levene statistic = 21. p = 0.
. Results are summarized in Table 3. df = 1. The Kruskal–Wallis test was performed as an alternative to ANOVA.281
0. A simple linear regression testing the effect of information sharing on decision quality was not signiﬁcant ( p = 0. Information shared was not signiﬁcant ( p = 0.30 3. the Shapiro–Wilk test was used on each treatment. p = 0. Levene’s test was run to test homogeneity of variance.050
41. Therefore.699 10. L.38.38. Results are summarized in Table 4. First.074.922. Bartelt et al.
Kruskal–Wallis p value 0.001).009) indicating lack of normality.329).20
1. df = 1. to see if there was a signiﬁcant correlation between information sharing and decision quality.066
Table 4 Regret prime results (Information shared) n Mean SD ANOVA F (1.813). p < 0.886 Table 3 Regret prime results (Number of correct decisions) n Mean SD ANOVA F (1. To determine the normality of the data.
Reb and Connolly 2009). we aimed to understand whether achievement/attention and/or regret priming could affect individual cognition in such a way that individuals would pay attention to and use the information provided by other team members to improve group decision making. this study shows that this priming had a different effect on teams.1 Comparison to Previous Research A key reason that virtual teams often make poor decisions is that individuals within teams fail to consider unique information provided by others (Heninger et al. 2006). This may be due to the dual task interference that is created when participants attempt to both contribute information to discussions and read the large volume of information contributed by others (Heninger et al. 2006. The prime was strong enough to affect individual behavior. We conclude that regret priming may not be an appropriate prime for improving team decision quality because of its negative effect on emotion. It increased the amount of information contributed to the discussions. intensifying the negative tone.
5 Discussion 5. Both types of priming have been successful in research on individuals (Bargh et al.
. and achievement priming has been shown to improve the performance of electronic brainstorming groups (Dennis et al. This negativity may therefore be reinforced and become stronger in team discussions than in individual decision making. rather than fully considering information that challenges those pre-discussion decisions (Ask and Granhag 2005).Virtual Team Decision-Making
4. the table shows all known team-level priming studies.4 Discussion Although prior research has found regret priming to affect individual decision-making (Reb and Connolly 2009). However. This strong negative tone may have a detrimental impact on team decision making (Baumann and Kuhl 2005) that interferes with the counter factual thinking that is triggered in individual decision making. Some examples of previous research where priming has been successful in these areas are shown in Table 5. This interference and resulting cognitive load may increase conﬁrmation bias. but not strong enough to combat the cognitive biases and complex processes of information processing in a group decision-making task. The examples of individual-level priming in the table include only those studies that have used regret or achievement as priming concepts—there are hundreds of individual-level priming studies on other concepts being primed. which occurs when team members seek information that supports their initial pre-discussion individual decisions. more so than during individual decision making. Hilmer and Dennis 2001). and highlights the need for research on priming in group decision-making. but it had no impact on decision quality. When all team members are primed negatively. it may be that the negative emotions feed the discussion and the negative contributions build on each other. 2001. 2012). It may be that negative emotion escalates during team discussion. For these reasons.
Nonsigniﬁcant results are often not published because they do not present a clear story (Browman 1999). this study helps to inform future research by explaining key processes and issues that must be addressed and giving an example of how priming studies can be carried out for group decisionmaking tasks. Research shows that virtual teams have varying success in electronic settings depending upon the task (Kerr and Murthy 2004. (2012) Achievement prime Delivered via SST
This study was the ﬁrst to explore the effects of priming on virtual team decisionmaking. whether to suggest its revision or to point out important boundary conditions (Allchin 1999). we conclude that achievement/attention priming and regret priming do not signiﬁcantly improve group decision-making. While the results were not statistically signiﬁcant. and between individual decision-making and group decision-making that caused priming to have no impact? In the section below.
Dennis et al. but does not as easily affect performance when team members must work together to develop a consensus. 2012). Dennis et al. results that fail to conﬁrm theoretically based hypotheses can be important because they challenge existing theory. the key questions following from our two studies are: Why did individual priming not improve group decision making in these initial experiments? How can priming be reﬁned to have an effect? What is different between group brainstorming and group decision-making. The ﬁrst possible reason may be that priming inﬂuences individual performance (and by extension. Thus.888 Table 5 Examples of previous priming research by level of analysis and task Individual level Brainstorming Stajkovic et al. (2006) Achievement prime Delivered via SST Shantz and Latham (2009) Achievement prime Delivered via pictures Bargh et al. Nonetheless. 2001. we outline six plausible reasons for our results. participants performed a brainstorming
. In a study where achievement priming was used at the group level (Dennis et al. Bartelt et al. L. Santanen et al. group performance in additive tasks that are essentially a sum of individual performance). 5. Thus. (2001) Achievement prime Delivered via SST Galinsky and Moskowitz (2000) Regret prime Delivered via scenarios Reb and Connolly (2009) Regret prime Monetary delivery Group level
V.2 Alternative Explanations of Results Based on the results of two experiments. 2004). priming and other effects of individual cognition also may have differing results.
Coupled with prior ﬁndings indicating that collaborative technology lessens conﬁdence in team decisions (Credé and Sniezek 2003). in Study 1. Because of the complex nature of decision-making as compared to individual decision-making or group brainstorming tasks. multiple people interacting in an achievement mindset might induce a focus on individual achievement rather than team consensus and thus team members may have failed to focus on others’ comments. Achievement/attention priming and regret priming emphasize the importance of comprehending key information but neglect the importance of organizing information to reach consensus among group members on the shared information. the group would still have a higher number of ideas generated overall.e. also the goal of group collaboration. it is possible that multiple people interacting in a regret mindset caused the discussion to be too critical. it is important for all members of the group to pay attention to key information and arrive at the correct decision. Thus it could be that if priming is not effective for most group members. The computer game we used to deliver the
. and thus the group was not cohesive enough to reach better decisions. the regret prime might have triggered empathy with the candidates not chosen. such as accountability or personal responsibility. either by using negative emotions in Study 2. thereby reducing conﬁdence in self. 1995-1996). it is possible that the way the prime was delivered may not have been effective for the purposes of this study. Prior research has identiﬁed social loaﬁng as a common deterrent during brainstorming tasks (Shepherd et al. A second possible reason for the lack of impact on team decision-making may be that the priming techniques were not very strong. Finally. However. the number of ideas produced by a group is dependent on the sum of ideas produced by individuals). then the overall group performance improves (assuming that the idea does not inhibit the production of ideas by other group members). yet the additive nature of brainstorming tasks means that if individual performance improves and an individual contributes one additional idea. Fifth. the key to high quality team decision-making. Likewise. the individual achievement may have inadvertently sparked a spirit of competition between team members.Virtual Team Decision-Making
task. it may have limited effects on group performance for tasks that require reaching a consensus. If priming was successful on only some individuals in the group (or even one individual).. For decision-making tasks. or by focusing attention on others. the additional reduction of conﬁdence levels due to priming may have affected team decision quality to a greater extent than during individual decision-making. Also. making it harder for participants to make choice. A fourth possible reason why individual priming was not effective in group decisionmaking is that we may not have selected the proper primes. This straightforward effect of individual priming for group brainstorming is not as simple in group decision-making. Conversely. It is possible that implementing a positive prime that is conducive for thoughtfulness. A third possible reason is that the primes we used caused unintended effects on the decision-making process. Brainstorming is an additive task (Steiner 1972) in which group performance is largely a function of the sum of individual performance (i. For instance. may improve both conﬁdence and team decision quality. the priming we selected may have reduced individuals’ conﬁdence. it may be that only particular primes work. is organizing shared information according to its importance and building consensus among group members.
the prime is delivered subconsciously by using a conscious task (Bargh and Chartrand 2000. If the same prime is given to each team member. other priming words have been found to affect behavior and persuasion and may be more appropriate for group interactions. Second. 1982). Bartelt et al. 2008). Yet. 2010). Bargh et al. It is possible that other types of priming delivery methods would be more effective for team decision-making. it is possible that the general team atmosphere and dynamics were not beneﬁcial to achieving optimal decisions.3 Implications for Future Research More research needs to be devoted to overall virtual team decision-making to better understand what factors inﬂuence decision quality. a different type of priming that more appropriately affects group decisionmaking processes may be needed. Extroverts were more affected by incentive motivation and were also found to be more affected by positive priming (Robinson et al. Thus. they were able to determine the prime if it was too obvious. 2012). Jacoby and Dallas 1981. Due to greater cognitive resources devoted to the task. 2007) and social norms (Blair and Banaji 1996. Pichon et al. It is possible that either of these types of priming would be more beneﬁcial to group decision-making abilities. The primes we used were chosen based on their effects on individual decision-making abilities (Reb and Connolly 2009. Other individual differences play a role in priming effects. The prime is also delivered semantically by word association (Bargh and Chartrand 2000). During the Scrambled Sentence Test. 1982. priming experiments have explored group cohesion (Pendry and Carrick 2001.890
V. Tulving et al. 2002). Over the years. Prior research has found that those given the “conformity” prime were more likely to conform to the group than those who were given a neutral prime (Pendry and Carrick 2001). Subtle priming was more effective than blatant priming because those with a high need for cognition had a greater tendency to overanalyze situations. experiments have studied the effect of priming on memory and recall (Graf et al. Otten and Wentura 1999). L. and were less likely to conform to group pressures
. 2001) and group brainstorming (Dennis et al. priming for goal-relevant cognition was found to affect persuasion (Strahan et al. it was found that people with a high need for cognition were greater affected by subtle priming (Petty et al. First. possible differences in individual reactions to the prime may produce inconsistencies at the group level. Currently. Srull and Wyer 1979). Different personalities have been affected differently by priming. This type of prime may not have had as pronounced an effect during the team decision-making task.
Scrambled Sentence Test may not have been an effective priming delivery vehicle for group decision-making tasks. We chose text words as the priming technique because they are close to the modality of interest (typed text) and are simple to execute. 2000). Those with the “anarchy” prime reacted similarly to those who performed the task in isolation. A type of prime may be needed that speciﬁcally targets individual’s recall and memory. In an experiment about social judgment. it is possible that individual team members may have reacted differently to the primes. 5. Prior research has found words like ‘partner’ primed feelings of trust in comparison to the word ‘opponent’ (Burnham et al. Additionally.
2010). none has done an analysis at the group level. Since regret priming triggers a heightened emotional state (Larsen and Ketelaar 1991). This may counter the effects of groupthink by causing team members to have a heightened awareness of various mentalities. each team member would be approaching one another from a different mindset. brain studies could be performed to determine what is taking place in the brain throughout the decision-making process (Dimoka et al. We had our participants begin the task immediately after priming ended. the effect of the priming often lasts 10 min after the prime. Team discussions may intensify negative mindsets to a debilitating degree in comparison to the effect of the negative prime during individual decision-making. 2001).Virtual Team Decision-Making
(Pendry and Carrick 2001). Future research invoking regret priming could also assess the mood of the subjects pre. Fourth. because priming effects have not been considered in IS research. it is important to consider participants’ mindsets during the experiment. other research methods such as qualitative data may help to provide insights on how priming affects team members’ mindsets and the behaviors that ensue. These individual-level primes were found to be effective on changing group cohesion. at least for face-to-face teams (Woolley et al. but the group discussion did not start until 4 min later. 2012). and attention could be monitored. This could affect decision-making abilities. Conversely. Some prior research shows that negative emotions could impair decision-making abilities (Baumann and Kuhl 2005). Analytical software tools like Linguistic Inquiry and Word Count could be used to determine the amount of emotional and cognitive processes that may have affected the priming treatments. Perhaps priming competition or social sensitivity could improve performance. Future research could change the order of presentation. so that the group discussion begins immediately after the priming task. although the priming we used did not affect decision quality. one possible direction for future research is identifying the correct mechanism of priming that inﬂuences group decision-making. However. social sensitivity has been found to be a key factor in group decision making. Third. In this way. a team that is more competitive may result in better decisions than a team that is more cooperative (Montoya-Weiss et al. Thus. Also. emotions. If greater negative emotional content is found during the team discussions during the priming treatment. It is also possible that
. Alternately. According to Bargh and Chartrand (2000). For instance. It would also be interesting to see if group decision-making would improve if team members were given different primes. A neutralizing prime may need to be introduced prior to running experiments to ensure that each person is operating from an intended mindset. results from previous experiments need to be revisited to ensure consistency of participants’ mindsets before the experiment commences. especially during individual tasks when priming has been found to be effective (Reb and Connolly 2009). conversations in the priming treatments have elicited more emotionally charged content. It is possible that particular moments in the decision-making process are more memorable than others. it is possible that these emotions are impairing decision-making abilities. It is possible that certain individual primes work differently in group situations and should be modiﬁed for this intent.and post-priming to better understand the effects on emotion. Different brain functioning like working memory.
Our goal was to stimulate increased cognition. and because they are simple to execute. However.
. another type of prime delivery mechanism other than the computer game version of the Scrambled Sentence Test (SST) may be more appropriate for team decisions. explicit primes may be more effective due to the sensory areas that are involved. whereas images are more emotional. semantic concepts. even after the study. which may be more appealing to the emotions and team dynamics. different communication tool interventions could be implemented to combat the potential pitfalls during the decision-making process. 2004). Researchers and practitioners should fully evaluate and discuss the ethics of deploying such a technique in the ﬁeld—that is. Additionally. The idea is to invoke the semantic concepts connected to these words into working memory. Our participants gave informed consent to participate in a research study.892
V. If we were to deploy priming in the ﬁeld (separate and distinct from a research project). before putting it in practice in the ﬁeld. Based on these revealing results. Fifth. Would these effects also apply to virtual worlds?
5. The SST is a type of implicit word-association prime (Bargh and Chartrand 2000). even though the change is for the better (in that it increased the amount of information exchanged in some cases). respectively (Meyers-Levy and Zhu 2007). perceptions of freedom or conﬁnement caused consumers to choose relational or item-speciﬁc processing.4 Ethical Consideration A ﬁnal consideration of this research study is the ethical issues associated with deliberately manipulating people through subconscious means. For instance. Prior research has found contextual (Meyers-Levy and Zhu 2007) and material primes (Kay et al. 2004) to affect decision-making which may have implications for the design of 3D virtual worlds. L. Based on ceiling height. We chose text words because they are linked to these cognitive. outside of a research laboratory. it may be wise to advise participants of what is going on and obtain their informed consent to being subconsciously manipulated. We found that regret priming changed the way team members interacted with each other (though participants likely did not notice this change in behavior). ceiling height variations in architectural designs primed consumers to process information differently (Meyers-Levy and Zhu 2007).
attention could decrease as the discussion continues. and this could ultimately impair decision-making abilities. Seeing an image of a woman winning a race caused employees to more effectively brainstorm due to the activation of the achievement concept (Shantz and Latham 2009). presenting participants with business-related objects in the room caused those to perceive games to be more competitive and also affected the amount of money that the participants proposed to keep for themselves (Kay et al. We recommend that well-deﬁned rules or procedures be developed and put in place to regulate the usage of any form of priming. especially negative priming. Words of text are semantic and cognitive. primarily with regard to typed text. although they remained unaware of its intended and actual effects. Bartelt et al. The critical issue is to consider whether it is ethical to subconsciously induce changes in behavior that participants are not aware of.
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