The rank-order effect in group decision making

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Many studies indicate that group discussion can disproportionately reflect information known by all group members, at the expense of information known to only one group member, and this is associated with suboptimal group decisions (Stasser & Titus, 1985). The present study examined the impact of three procedural factors on information sharing and quality of group decision: (a) group decision procedure (an instruction to "rank order the alternatives" vs "choose the best alternative"), (b) information access during group discussion (reliance on memory vs complete access), and (c) communication technology (computer vs face to face). Three-person groups worked on an investment decision that was structured as a hidden-profile task where critical information was distributed unevenly prior to group discussion. The data provided support for a rank-order effect: Groups instructed to rank order the alternatives, compared to groups instructed to choose the best alternative, were more likely to fully consider all of the alternatives, exchange information about unpopular alternatives, and make the best decision. But these effects only occurred in face-to-face groups. In computer-mediated groups, there was general information suppression and no effect of group decision procedure. Access to information during group discussion increased discussion of both unique and common information, in the face-to-face conditions, but had no effect on group decision quality. Taken together, the data suggest that procedural aspects of group discussion may help overcome the impact of prediscussion preferences on information processes and group decision. © 1996 Academic Press.




Hollingshead, A. B. (1996). The rank-order effect in group decision making. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 68(3), 181–193.

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