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Self-Regulation and Information Exchange in Groups

Social Processes Lab




German Research Foundation (DFG)


Organizations usually rely on groups when having to make relevant decisions. In order to reach high-quality decisions and to positively affect organizational success, teams must take advantage of all their potential resources. Therefore, the information available to individual group members needs to be exchanged properly.

However, research on group decisions demonstrated that groups mostly fail to achieve their maximum performance level and that group decisions often fall below the quality of individual decisions. Therefore, this project aims at identifying conditions that facilitate information exchange within group discussions and increase group performance.

Group performance depends, among other factors, on the goals group members aim to achieve. Pursuing individual goals (e.g., gaining acceptance) is likely to impair group performance due to a reduced communication of unshared information (i.e. information that is available to only one group member) whereas when group members pursue a common goal, unshared information should be communicated more readily to reach the best possible decision as group, at least as long as all group members are aware of the common goal. If this is the case, this goal as well as related strategies for goal attainment can be considered as being socially shared among group members. This shared knowledge has a stronger influence on the individuals’ behavior than unshared knowledge.

Besides these factors, communication of information in a group discussion also depends on individual factors such as the self-regulatory focus (Higgins, 1997). Regulatory focus theory distinguishes between two motivational systems: a focus on ideals and potential gains driven by eagerness needs (promotion focus), and a focus on obligations and potential losses driven by security needs (prevention focus). These two foci differ in the way they process information. A promotion focus is related to a fast, yet sometimes inaccurate processing style, while a prevention focus is associated with slow and more accurate information processing. Within the scope of this project, it could so far be shown that individuals in a prevention focus tend to misevaluate information provided during group discussions. They tend to discount information contradicting their initial preferences while simultaneously appreciating information that is in line with their preference (i.e., they display an evaluation bias). This effect only occurs when group members pursue individual goals.

The upcoming part of the project will further investigate the role of goal setting in group decision processes as well as the impact of the sharedness of strategies and information relevant to the task between the participants in these discussions.


Sassenberg, K., Landkammer, F., & Jacoby, J. (2014). The influence of regulatory focus and group vs. individual goals on the evaluation bias in the context of group decision making. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 54, 153-164.