Area of Study: Social Psychology
People behave differently when in a group or by themselves. People are attracted to being in groups because members have roughly similar views.
When we are in a group, social influence processes occur. Conformity is a day-to-day phenomenon – a change in behaviour or belief as a result of real or imagined group pressure (Kiesler and Kiesler, 1969).Stoner conducted a study in 1961 to compare the level of riskiness of decisions made by groups and by individuals. Participants had to choose between two alternatives in several dilemmas – one more risky (but with a more favourable outcome) than the other. His experiment was of a repeated measures design.
His participants first answered the questionnaire individually, then as groups, then again as individuals for the third and final time. Some participants answered the questionnaire twice only as individuals for control.Stoner discovered that on average, groups tended to be riskier. Practical consequences of this include decisions made by committees, boards, and the jury. Other studies supported his finding of the “risky shift”, but contradictions were also found – the shift was not always towards the risky end of the spectrum. At times group discussions lead to an even more cautious decision, but in those cases the initial decision was already cautious.
This showed that when in a group, decisions tended to be more extreme; this is known as group polarization. Group discussions lead to the exaggeration the initial tendencies of the member(s). Myers and Lamm (1976) showed that the effects of group polarization are also obvious in non risk-related situations.Kalven and Zeisel (1966) studied real jurors. They found that out of 215 cases, 209 showed effects of group polarization. The final outcome was an exaggeration of the initial decision of the majority.
Myers and Kaplan (1976) conducted a similar research, but into mock jurors consisting of US college students. These “jurors” were told to assess the guilt of defendants who broke traffic laws. The researchers had altered the strength of the evidence. Results showed effects of group polarization.Explanations for this include that once in a group, the consequences of such riskiness can be distributed amongst the entire group.
Individuals feel more secure, that they can afford to take on a bigger risk in a situation because they will not be solely responsible (Wallach, Kogan & Bem, 1962). Also, The interaction with others has provided the individual with a deeper understanding of the situation (Myers and Lamm, 1978). Therefore they feel that they can be more risky, or should have been less risky.RATIONALEThe background research suggests that group functions differently compared to individuals. Therefore the decisions made will be different between the two. I want to investigate this and find out how they are different because it affects a lot of situations in day-to-day life, and can affect our society (i.
e. amongst jurors, Kalven and Zeisel 1966). All the related studies were conducted about 30 years ago. I want to see if people still behave in the same way now. The studies were also carried out in Western countries, and it will be interesting to see if carrying it out in an international multi cultural city such as Hong Kong will influence findings.
AIMMy aim is to compare decisions made by an individual, and decisions made by a group. I will be focusing on the amount of risk taking in particular when it comes to decision-making. I want to find out if group decisions tended to be riskier on average than individual decisions, or vice versa.HYPOTHESISGroup decisions will be more extreme in terms of risk factor (i.e.
more cautious, or more risky), on average, than decisions made individually. Null hypothesis: The level of riskiness will be the same whether the decision was made by a group or by an individual.MethodMETHOD AND DESIGNThis research is conducted in the form of a written questionnaire. Doing so allows a lot of data to be collected with minimal time (only one questionnaire is needed to be written and can be issued to many participants). My questionnaire uses specific questions, meaning it is structured and therefore has a tight control over the type of data that will be collected. It is a field experiment.
The design of this experiment is independent measures. I have chosen this design because it avoids order effects, and both conditions can be carried out simultaneously which saves time (and therefore money.)VARIABLESThe independent variable is whether the decision is made by an individual, or in a group. The dependant variable (the variable that changes as a result) is the level of risk they are willing to take, (hence their decision) measured as the percentage of success (e.g. 20% chance of success – 80% uncertainty/risk).
PARTICIPANTSA total of 36 participants were used, with 18 boys and 18 girls. 12 of them (6 boys, and 6 girls) will answer the questionnaire individually. The remaining 24 should be split up into 6 groups of 4, with 2 boys and 2 girls in each. The participants were randomly sampled from all the year 12 students (aged 16 and 17) of an international school in Hong Kong. As each student has a unique student number, I selected numbers randomly from a random number table.
I have chosen to sample them randomly as it provides a totally unbiased sample representative of the target population.