Effects of feedback and competition on behavior change, task strategy, and task performance in problem-solving groups

Mary Imelda Voelker, Marquette University


Previous empirical research on group performance has focused on task performance and task strategy. Less attention has been given to non-task related measures such as cooperation. The purpose of this project was to study the impact of variables affecting cooperation as a performance outcome in groups and to explore task strategy development schemes and whether they make a difference. Control theory, which has been used to model individual behavior, was considered as the basis for a group performance model. Group task performance and the behavioral outcome of cooperation were the dependent variables. Variables thought to influence group task and behavioral outcomes included effort, sources of motivation, goal commitment, self and group efficacy, strategy effectiveness, and type of strategy. In addition, catastrophe theory was explored as the basis for a cusp catastrophe performance model. The laboratory study utilized a group simulation of an earthquake survival exercise. Feedback and competition were experimentally manipulated to further test relationships in both models. New scales used directed and emergent adaptation as ways to develop task strategy. In general, predictions about relationships with group task performance were not supported while those involving intermediate process and behavior outcomes were. For example, feedback moderated the relationship between effort and the intermediate process variable of perceived strategy effectiveness and between effort and the outcome behavior variable of cooperation. Perceived strategy effectiveness mediated the relationship between effort and cooperation. The pattern of support leads to the conclusion that control theory models group performance relating to intermediate process outcomes such as perceived task strategy effectiveness and behavior outcomes such as cooperation in groups working with unique problem solving tasks. The role of competition was supported in the cusp catastrophe model of group performance. Without competition, cooperation and perceived strategy effectiveness are linearly related to group task performance. With competition, the level of change in task performance depends on the level of cooperation. Other results that were obtained are described about individual sources of motivation and directed versus emergent adaptation as task strategy. The discussion addresses generalizability issues, directions for future research, and implications for practice.

This paper has been withdrawn.