Devil's advocate versus authentic dissent: stimulating quantity and quality



Given the relationship between uniformity of views, premature adoption of a preferred solution and poor decision making, many suggestions have been aimed at fostering dissent, including the usage of a ‘devil's advocate.’ The hope is that such a mechanism will stimulate the kinds of reconsideration, better information processing and decision making as has been found to be stimulated by authentic dissent. In a prior study comparing these two processes, devil's advocate appeared to foster thinking that was primarily aimed at cognitive bolstering of the initial viewpoint rather than stimulate divergent thought. While that study left the actual position of the DA unknown, the present study compared conditions where the devil's advocate position was known (and consistent or inconsistent with the assigned position) or unknown. It further utilized quantity and quality of solutions as a dependent measure rather than simply cognitive activity. Results indicated that the authentic minority was superior to all three forms of ‘devil's advocate,’ again underscoring the value and importance of authenticity and the difficulty in cloning such authenticity by role-playing techniques. Copyright © 2001 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.