Written 10/96 for CA266On Friday, November 15, my group and I participated in an exercise which demonstrated the differences between autocratic groups, in which members only communicate to the decision--making leader, and democratic groups, in which members partake in group discussion and then agree on the answer.
Each person was given a piece of paper, which explained the situation and the task. The situation was that ``your spaceship was scheduled to land at a base on the lighted side of the moon, but mechanical difficulties have forced a crash landing 200 miles from the base (also on the lighted side of the moon). Most of your equipment was completely destroyed in the crash, and you are left with only 15 intact items. Also, because of difficulties at the base, they will not be able to come to get you. Your survival depends on choosing the correct equipment to bring on the 200 mile hike to the base. Rank the items in terms of their importance and usefulness with `1' being the most important, and `15' being the least important.'' The list included items such as water, food concentrate, a stellar map, and others. The exact items were not important to the results of the exercise. The point was to demonstrate differences between group style.
Since my group was an autocratic group, we each gave our individual rankings to the group leader, who formulated our group result. We recorded the amount of time it took to reach the group decision, which, in our case, was just the time it took for the leader to decide. Our group took 3 minutes. For the democratic groups, it was the time it took for the group to reach consensus. Next, we were given a list of the objectively correct answers, which we used to compute our accuracy ranking. The accuracy was defined as the sum of the differences between an object's position in our group list and its position in the correct list, which means that a lower accuracy score is more accurate and vice versa. Our group accuracy was 42. The last thing we did was report each person's satisfaction with the group decision on a scale of 1 to 100, with one being ``completely and utterly dissatisfied with the decision'' and 100 being ``blissfully ecstatic and confident about the decision.'' Our average satisfaction was 50%.
The final table compiled from each group's data is the following:
There was a distinction made in lecture between group performance on group tasks and difficult tasks. For easy tasks, the autocratic groups are more accurate than the democratic groups, and members of autocratic groups are less satisfied than their counterparts in the democratic groups. For difficult tasks, the democratic groups are more accurate than the autocratic groups and the members of the democratic groups are more satisfied. According to lecture, it is always the case that the autocratic groups take less time than the democratic groups and that the democratic group members are more satisfied than the autocratic group members.
Our results show that the democratic groups, on average, were more accurate at 42 and 38, than the autocratic groups at 42 and 58. A possible explanation of there was overlap is that the task might have been ``easy'' to some groups and ``difficult'' to other groups. The average satisfaction of the democratic groups is also higher at 90 and 88 than the average satisfaction of the autocratic groups, at 50 and 93. A possible explanation for the overlap is the idiosyncrasies of that group: they all admired and trusted their leader. Research agrees that democratic groups should be more satisfied (Bonacich, 1990).
The final statistic, ``Best Member,'' was the best individual accuracy reported in a group. Research predicts that the score of a democratic group will always be less than its best individual score because even the least--accurate member must be appeased. The results we found was that all groups decreased in accuracy from the best individual accuracy, with the exception of one of the democratic groups.
The results of the exercise illustrated the differences between autocratic and democratic groups. In summary, the most important differences are that democratic groups always take more time, always have more satisfied members, and have accuracy directly proportional to task difficulty. Conversely, autocratic groups take less time, always have less satisfied members, and have accuracy inversely proportional to task difficulty.
REFERENCESBonacich, P. (1990). Communication dilemmas in social networks: an experimental study. American Sociological Review, 55 (June), 448 -- 459.