Group performance and interpersonal evaluations as determinants of egotistical attributions in groups1


  • 1

    The present study was supported by the Organizational Effectiveness Research Program, Office of Naval Research (Code 452), under contract No. N00014-75-C-0901, NR 170–797, and facilitated by National Science Foundation Grant BNS 77-08182, National Institute of Mental Health Grant #1 K02 MH00183-01, and the Computing Sciences Center, University of Florida.


Group members often try to claim personal credit for the successes of their group while avoiding blame for group failures. Two experiments examined the effects of evaluations from their fellows on such egotism in groups. In Experiment 1, 96 subjects participated in four-person, problem-solving groups, and, after completing the group tasks, rated the competency and worth of each of the other group members. Subjects then received bogus written feedback indicating that the group had either succeeded or failed, and that the other members had considered them: (a) the most competent member of the group, (b) the least competent, or (c) of average competence. Group performance and personal evaluations interacted in influencing subjects' perceptions of their personal performances, relative responsibility for the group performance, and potency within the group, generally supporting predictions derived from self-esteem and equity theory. Subjects claimed more responsibility for success than for failure only when they were favorably evaluated by their peers, and claimed the least responsibility for group success when they were unfavorably evaluated. The latter acceptance of negative peer evaluations was examined in Experiment 2, which manipulated the consensus of the evaluations given 76 high or low self-esteem subjects. Regardless of their self-esteem or the consensus of the evaluations, subjects again seemed to accept unfavorable evaluations. High self-esteem subjects did, though, rate their personal performance and relative responsibility higher than low self-esteem subjects.