Sunday, April 16, 2006

Group Decision making and keeping up on the Blogs you are interested in

Before I get into the heart of this post, I wanted to point out a web site that helps you keep track of blogs that do not post every day-such as mine. sends an email only on days that have your favorite blogs posts new items. Recently they have added some more features. It is easy to set up and to add blogs for it to monitor. But for me, most of the blogs update at least once per day, so I get an email every day.

Ever since a relative of mine talked about how ideas are formed from a single mind, I thought of how different ways that ideas can be created. He basically said that if it was not for that person then it would not have been created.

But I said what about "group think". Couldn't groups of people come up with ideas also. I was even thinking that society as a whole creates climates that help people come up with the answer to the problems they are looking at. I don't have any links right now, but I remember in science class that several scientists working at different corners of the world would come up with the same or similar answers to the problems they were working on. How did this phenomenon happen?

Oooops! Groupthink is more to do with the negative aspects of sheep following what others in the group believe is the concensus vs. groups that can come to good decisions since all members are able to freely contribute.
In 1972 Janice used the term to describe a process by which a group can make bad or irrational decisions. In a groupthink situation, each member of the group attempts to conform his or her opinions to what they believe to be the consensus of the group. In a general sense this seems to be a rational way to approach the situation. However this results in a situation in which the group ultimately agrees upon an action which each member might individually consider to be unwise (the risky shift).

So without getting too off track, let me say that I was looking at how different power or information structures could solve different problems better or worse.

And now we see that Cockroaches Make Group Decisions:
March 30, 2006 — Cockroaches govern themselves in a very simple democracy where each insect has equal standing and group consultations precede decisions that affect the entire group, indicates a new study.

The research determined that cockroach decision-making follows a predictable pattern that could explain group dynamics of other insects and animals, such as ants, spiders, fish and even cows.

Cockroaches, Blattella germanica, are silent creatures, save perhaps for the sound of them scurrying over a countertop. They therefore must communicate without vocalizing.

However they communicate, how can they come up with answers to the problems they face?
After much "consultation," through antenna probing, touching and more, the cockroaches divided themselves up perfectly within the shelters. For example, if 50 insects were placed in a dish with three shelters, each with a capacity for 40 bugs, 25 roaches huddled together in the first shelter, 25 gathered in the second shelter, and the third was left vacant.

When the researchers altered this setup so that it had three shelters with a capacity for more than 50 insects, all of the cockroaches moved into the first "house."

Allocation of resources of course is a significant decision by any group to make. And of course the cockroaches can not individually decide how this will be answered. So the collective "mindset" must have come into play.

Sumpter continued, "It is important because it looks both at the mechanisms underlying decision-making by animals and how those mechanisms produce a distribution of animals amongst resource sites that optimizes their individual fitness. Much previous research has concentrated on either mechanisms or optimality at the expense of the other."

For cockroaches, it seems, cooperation comes naturally.

Of course humans can handle much more complex issues than this.


Blogger hank_F_M said...


Groupthink has a different definition. I always thought the theory was somewhat post hoc to explain decisions the authors did not like, and also they failed to take into account majpor variables in their samples.

But groupthink classes used to be the rage, ended up in one every year or two. There must have been groupthink in Human Relations. I hope I never have attend one again.

Decisions by groups needs a lot more acdemic work to find out what is good and bad. Thanks for the interesting article.

4/17/2006 5:40 PM  
Blogger Ronald Rutherford said...

Hank, thanks for pointing out my use of a technical word to describe what I thought was just putting two words to create a meaning in my mind.

4/17/2006 7:33 PM  

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