Decision Development in Computer-Assisted Group Decision Making



    1. Marshall Scott Poole is a professor of speech communication at Texas A&M University.
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    1. Michael E. Holmes is an assistant professor of communication at the University of Utah, and is a visiting assistant professor of speech communication at the University of Minnesota.
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  • The data were drawn from a study conducted by Richard Watson, Gerardine DeSanctis, and the first author. The authors would like to thank Julie Billingsley, Ilze Zigurs, and Sarah Belknap for assistance with data collection, coding, and analysis; and Howard Giles and two anonymous reviewers for their insights and guidance. This research was supported by National Science Foundation Grant SES-8715565 to Poole and DeSanctis. The conclusions are solely those of the authors.


New computer technologies to aid group communication and decision making are becoming increasingly widespread. This study analyzes how one such technology, a group decision support system (GDSS), affected how group decisions developed over time. The study contrasted decision paths in groups using the GDSS with groups using the same procedural structures incorporated in the GDSS manually and with groups using no procedural structures. A flexible phase mapping method was employed to map group decision paths. The resulting set of seven decision paths varied in both sequence and number of decision phases. An optimal matching procedure was used to compute similarity measures among the 40 paths, and cluster analysis and multidimensional scaling were used to generate an empirical taxonomy of decision paths. Results indicated that the nature of decision paths varied both across the three conditions and within conditions. The decision path types were also related to three outcome variables: consensus change, perceived decision quality, and decision scheme satisfaction. Results indicated that those decision paths that most resembled logical normative sequences had superior outcomes to those that did not.