Group Decision as a Technique for Obtaining Compliance: Some Added Considerations Concerning How Altruism Leads to Callousness


  • Robert Steven Baron,

    1. University of Iowa
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      Requests for reprints should be sent to Robert Steven Baron, Department of Psychology, University of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa 52242.

  • Glenn Sanders

    1. University of Iowa
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      Thanks are due to Charles Groves, Andy Hall, Kurt Hollebrands, and Jay Sullivan for their assistance in running the study; Dave Cook for helpful comments on the concept of responsibility infusion; Dee orton for his advice on the statistical analyses; and Nick Cottrell and Penny Baron for critical comments on the manuscript.


Bennett (1955) reported that a critical condition for producing Lewin's (1958) classic group discussion-decision effect (is., high compliance with a request from an authority figure) was a group consensus strongly favoring compliance. This finding prompted investigation of variables potentially affecting such a consensus. A first study found that group consensus is significantly less likely to favor compliance if subjects are allowed to make a majority rather than an individual decision. Group size had no significant effects on decision-making. A second study replicated this effect and investigated several explanations for it. These results suggest that, at least when compliance is not in the subjects' best interest, the Lewinian group discussion-decision effect will be less likely to be found if a majority decision role is followed as opposed to an individual decision rule. The implication of these data for social engineering is discussed.