Hidden Consequences of the Group Serving Bias: Causal Attributions and the Quality of Group Decision Making
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A long stream of research in attribution theory suggests that groups are biased toward attributing their success to factors that are internal to their group. However, the existing research has confounded two types of attributions that are both internal to the group, but theoretically distinct: (1) Attributions that differentiate between the contributions made by each individual group member and (2) attributions that focus on the group as a whole. This dichotomy is important because, drawing on theories of social influence, we predict that different types of attributions will have different consequences for the quality of group decision making. In experiment 1, individually focused attributions for past success caused groups to consider more divergent alternatives prior to making a shared decision. In experiment 2, individually focused attributions for past success facilitated the sharing of unique information and improved decision accuracy. These findings suggest that the group serving tendency to internalize success may have important consequences for group performance that have not yet been considered in current research.
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Group-serving bias; causal attribution; divergent thinking; decision making; knowledge exchange
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Required Publisher Statement: The final paper is forthcoming in Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, published by Elsevier.