Improving decision making by means of dissent

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Abstract

Antidotes to problems associated with uniformity of viewpoints have generally involved dissent in one form or another (Katzenstein, 1996), one being "devil's advocate." Research on authentic dissent has documented additional advantages in that it stimulates divergent and original thought (Nemeth, 1995). In this study, authentic dissent was compared with devil's advocate and with no dissent. Findings indicate that authentic dissent was superior in (a) stimulating a greater proportion of original thoughts, (b) considering the opposite position, and (c) direct attitude change. Devil's advocate was found to stimulate cognitive bolstering of the initial position, thus raising concerns about the unintended consequences of techniques such as devil's advocate and the subtle task facing attempts to foster original thought and yet maintain cohesion.

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Nemeth, C. J., Connell, J. B., Rogers, J. D., & Brown, K. S. (2001). Improving decision making by means of dissent. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 31(1), 48–58. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1559-1816.2001.tb02481.x

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