Study of the Day: Why Teams Don't Always Make the Best Decisions

Research from the University of Pennsylvania finds that relying too much on one's team may lead to a rejection of critical outside information.

Image: Tom Wang/Shutterstock

PROBLEM: Important decisions are often reached when people collaborate. But can confidence in one's teammates also backfire?

METHODOLOGY: University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School researchers Julia A. Minson and Jennifer S. Mueller asked 252 people to estimate nine numbers related to United States geography, demographics, and commerce, either individually or in pairs after a discussion. They were then offered the estimates of other individuals and pairs and allowed to revise their own, so the final estimates could come from the efforts of two to four people. The subjects also rated their confidence in their judgments.

RESULTS: People who worked with a partner were more confident in their estimates and significantly less willing to take outside advice. Had the pairs yielded to external input, their estimates would have been significantly more accurate.

CONCLUSION: Those who put too much trust in their teammates may reject outside information and make poor decisions as a result.

IMPLICATION: Organizations need to know the potential costs of teamwork. "If people become aware that collaboration leads to an increase in overconfidence, you can set up ways to mitigate it," says Minson in a statement. "Teams could be urged to consider and process each others' inputs more thoroughly."

SOURCE: The full study, "The Cost of Collaboration: Why Joint Decision Making Exacerbates Rejection of Outside Information," is published in the journal Psychological Science.

Presented by

Hans Villarica writes for and produces The Atlantic's Health channel. His work has appeared in TIME, People Asia, and Fast Company.

The Man Who Owns 40,000 Video Games

A short documentary about an Austrian gamer with an uncommon obsession

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

The 86-Year-Old Farmer Who Won't Quit

A filmmaker returns to his hometown to profile the patriarch of a family farm

Video

Riding Unicycles in a Cave

"If you fall down and break your leg, there's no way out."

Video

Carrot: A Pitch-Perfect Satire of Tech

"It's not just a vegetable. It's what a vegetable should be."

Video

An Ingenious 360-Degree Time-Lapse

Watch the world become a cartoonishly small playground

Video

The Benefits of Living Alone on a Mountain

"You really have to love solitary time by yourself."

More in Health

Just In