Communication and Group Decision-Making

Introduction

Decision-making is a process that individuals as well as groups encounter on a daily basis. However, making decisions is not a smooth process but one with many impediments, errors, biases and entrapment. The process is even more challenging for groups because of the pressure that exists in members to conform to the majority of the group members. Regardless of this, every group member should be held responsible for the decisions made by the group.

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Heuristics

The most commonly used heuristic

I believe that the most commonly heuristic is the availability heuristic. The availability heuristic refers to the tendency of people to judge the probability of an incident by the level and intensity of its availability in their mind (Nooteboom, 2002).

Information, facts, or data used in arriving at the conclusion

I arrived at my conclusion by reading widely the lectures as well as other books, and internet resources. I have read and understood each of the three heuristics clearly. The resources used during the research provide numerous examples, data and illustrations of the three heuristics at work. In one of the examples of availability at work, Groopman (2007) gave an illustration of how doctors make medical errors as a result of availability heuristic. For instance, a medical intern working in an inner-city hospital is highly likely to come across patients struggling with alcohol addiction. The intern, while treating such patients, may realize that the alcoholics suffer from delirium tremens which refer to violent shaking that result from withdrawal. As a result of such frequent experiences, the intern is likely to assume that the next patient who presents violent shaking is definitely an alcoholic. This assumption may turn out to be erroneous because violent shaking is a symptom of many other medical conditions.

A similar illustration of anchoring and adjustment heuristic was also provided by source. Anchoring and adjustment heuristic refers to the tendency of people to make judgments based on. In the illustration, a doctor misdiagnosed a patient as suffering from pneumonia simply because the patient presented symptoms similar to those found in patients suffering from pneumonia, such as fever, rapid breathing and acid-base imbalance. However, the patient also had other symptoms – lack of streaking on the chest x-ray and normal white blood cell count – which contradict pneumonia. Instead of taking into consideration other possibilities, the doctor anchored his diagnosis on the symptoms that resemble pneumonia and rationalized that the other symptoms were merely because the illness was in its earliest stage.

A good illustration of representativeness heuristic that I came across was one that involved maple trees. Representativeness heuristic refers to the possibility of an incident being evaluated based on its resemblance to stereotypes of comparable incidents. In the illustration, Groopman (2007) argues that when he comes across a tree with many branches and big, beautiful leaves, he immediately believes that it is a maple tree because maple trees look like that. However, without close scrutiny, he may be mistaken because other trees such as the oak trees also have many branches and big beautiful leaves.

Example supporting the conclusion

Availability heuristics are used on a daily basis as shortcuts to making judgments. From a personal experience, I have used availability heuristics when I hear someone complain of a blurred vision. Immediately I inform the person that he is about to suffer from migraines. The reason for this is that I have suffered from migraines on numerous occasions which always begin with a blurred vision. However, in making the judgment I fail to take into consideration the fact that blurred visions are caused by many other conditions.

Behavioral Traps

The easiest behavioral trap to fall into

The easiest trap to fall into is the time delay trap. A time delay trap takes place when an individual is unable to create a balance between long-term and short-term goals. This trap is so easy to fall into because in making decisions, people often look at the short-term consequences but fail to consider the long-term consequences. It is therefore easy for people to prefer engaging in activities which provide them with immediate results and forego activities which provide future results. This happens because people may want to save time, efforts or resources at the present or because they view the event as inconvenient or unnecessary.

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Virine and Trumper (2008) argue that in business, all project managers are always aware of the tradeoff between short-term and long-term goals but always ignore the long-term objectives in order to achieve the short-term objectives. As a result, when something goes wrong due to tine delay trap, project managers place the blame on factors caused by the running of the organization such as organizational pressure, customer relations, uncooperative employees, etcetera when in the real sense the cause was the time delay trap. The author gives example of people who are suffering from dental problems but choose to postpone their appointment with their dentists because they feel it is inconvenient to them or because they want to save a few dollars. In the end however, they end up paying more when their dental conditions worsens thereby necessitating a major dental procedure done on them.

The easiest trap to avoid

I believe that the easiest trap to avoid is the investment trap which is also referred to as the sunk-cost effect. The investment trap occurs when people are forced to spend more time, effort or resources in a project so as to justify their initial expenditure in it. People argue that once they spent some resources on a project, then the only way not to waste the resources is to spend even more resources on the same project. As such, people base their decisions on the past rather than on the consequences. Baron (2008) argues that “this is like throwing good money after bad,” (p. 305). This kind of reasoning is commonly used in personal lives as well as in the public domain. However, such reasoning is irrational because it undermines people’s and the entire society’s goals. Once people have established that the most desirable course of action to take is to alter the initial plans, then the time, effort or monetary resources that have already been spent on the project are not significant at all. Continuing with the original project will not correct the original decision if it was wrong. The investment trap is easy to avoid because people can do an analysis of the project to determine its future consequences. Once the people dealing with the project realize that the project will not be beneficial to the owners or the community, it is only best to terminate the project and begin another one. To do this, it requires the commitment and the will of the persons in charge of the project regardless of the amount of resources that have already gone into the project.

Group Decision-making

Responsibility for the decisions made in a group should fall on each of the group members and not on the person who came up with the idea. Groups usually display numerous biases that individual decision makers experience. Nevertheless, groups are usually better able to make effective decisions than individuals particularly if dissenting opinions are encouraged within the group. However, groups often face some impediments that individuals never face in decision-making. These impediments include groupthink, conformity, and group polarization which may hinder a group from making the best possible decision. Conformity refers to the tendency of some members of a group to agree to decisions made by other members in an effort to please them or due to fear. Groupthink refers to the pressures that group members exert on each other thereby forcing members to make collective decisions which they would otherwise not have agreed to in the absence of the group. Group polarization refers to the tendency of a group to adopt more extreme ideas than the initial ideas of the individual members (Hirokawa & Poole, 1996). This often arises when there is the presence of majority. For instance, if 90 percent of the members support a certain idea and the remaining 10 percent support a different idea regarding an issue at hand, polarization occurs if the group decided to adopt the idea suggested by the 90 percent. In most cases, the decision of the majority may not necessarily be the ideal one. Despite these impediments facing groups, each member of the group is responsible for the decision made by the group.

The responsibility of each of the group members in decision-making is due to a number of reasons. First, the group leader should minimize his role in decision-making by giving his opinion last. This will avoid the common situation in which group members tend to agree with the leader’s opinion so as to please him. Second, the group should avoid giving votes in public. This will encourage the shy or weaker members of the group to give their own opinions without the pressure of conforming to the majority or stronger members of the group. Third, the group should appoint the devil’s advocate whose role is to oppose any opinion given by the members. The group should also encourage dissenting opinions which will enable the group to view the decision from all possible angles. Critical evaluation of the opinions given is also important in making sure that the group makes the right decision. This entails the evaluation of the pros and cons of each opinion given by the group members. Another important measure that groups should take is to work in subgroups. Each of the subgroups then discusses the issue at hand and the possible solutions. Once the subgroups are through, they should then come together and voice the decisions made from which the entire group decides on the best decision to take. These measures ensure that each of the group members is actively involved in the decision-making process (Hirokawa & Poole, 1996). As a result, all the group members should be responsible for the consequences of their decisions.

Reference List

Baron, J. (2008). Thinking and deciding. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Groopman, J.E. (2007). How doctors think. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company.

Hirokawa, R.Y., & Poole, M.S. (1996). Communication and group decision-making. Thousand Oaks, CA: Thousand Oaks.

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Nooteboom, B. (2002). Trust: forms, foundations, functions, failures and figures. Northampton, MA: Edward Elgar Publishing, Inc.

Virine, L., & Trumper, M. (2008). Project decisions: The art and science. Vienna, VA: Management Concepts, Inc.

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