Theses Doctoral

Abstract versus concrete construal in decision-making groups: How seeing “a group” versus “individuals” shapes information processing within homogeneous and diverse teams

Carter, Ashli

Modern organizations increasingly rely on teams to act as information processors—pooling and integrating various sources of information in order to solve complex problems and reach quality decisions. Traditional frameworks for the influence of diversity suggest that diversity can enhance decision making by adding to the backgrounds and perspectives that can be applied to a given task. However, this additive view of diversity is unable to account for more recent findings that show that members of homogeneous and diverse groups differ in their decision-making processes even when they have access to identical task-relevant information. I propose a novel theoretical framework whereby in homogeneous groups, members construe the group more abstractly as a group, while members of diverse groups construe the group more concretely as individuals. These differences in cognitive orientation shape relational goals, communication norms and additional task-relevant cognitions within groups. I test some of the propositions set forth in two studies. In the first, I find that homogeneous group members’ tendency to focus on building positive relationships at the cost of thorough task consideration relative to diverse groups only occurs at more abstract levels of construal and can be eliminated by priming more concrete construal. In the second study, I find that members of diverse groups voice their unique opinions more frequently, use more first-person singular pronouns (i.e., “I”, “me”), and use more concrete language in their group discussions relative to homogeneous groups. Theoretical and practical implications, as well as future applications of this novel framework are also discussed.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Thesis Advisors
Phillips, Katherine W.
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
April 26, 2019