Group Problem Solving

Group Problem Solving

Group Problem Solving

Group Problem Solving


Experimental research by social and cognitive psychologists has established that cooperative groups solve a wide range of problems better than individuals. Cooperative problem solving groups of scientific researchers, auditors, financial analysts, air crash investigators, and forensic art experts are increasingly important in our complex and interdependent society. This comprehensive textbook--the first of its kind in decades--presents important theories and experimental research about group problem solving. The book focuses on tasks that have demonstrably correct solutions within mathematical, logical, scientific, or verbal systems, including algebra problems, analogies, vocabulary, and logical reasoning problems.

The book explores basic concepts in group problem solving, social combination models, group memory, group ability and world knowledge tasks, rule induction problems, letters-to-numbers problems, evidence for positive group-to-individual transfer, and social choice theory. The conclusion proposes ten generalizations that are supported by the theory and research on group problem solving.

Group Problem Solving is an essential resource for decision-making research in social and cognitive psychology, but also extremely relevant to multidisciplinary and multicultural problem-solving teams in organizational behavior, business administration, management, and behavioral economics.


In the most general sense, a problem is a discrepancy between a current less desirable state and a future more desirable state. the current state may be a simple question such as “Who was the first President of the United States” and the desired state the answer “George Washington.” the current state may be the diameter of a circle and the desired state the circumference of the circle. the current state may be a set of clues in a crossword puzzle and the desired state the correct answers. the current state may be a new deadly contagious disease and the desired state an understanding of the etiology, vectors, treatment, and prevention of the disease.

Although problems vary widely in domain (scientific, engineering, business and financial, artistic and literary, etc.), complexity (simple or complicated), specification (well defined or poorly defined), and relationship to other problems in a larger system, all problems involve proceeding by a series of permissible logical, mathematical, scientific, physical, or linguistic operations from the current less desirable state to the future more desirable state. Scientific research teams, auditing teams, grand juries, criminal and civil juries, university hiring committees, school boards, weather forecasters, the Council of Economic Advisors, and forensic art experts are some of the many groups who attempt to solve problems in our increasingly complex and interdependent world.

Group task, structure, process, and product

Group problem solving may be analyzed in terms of four basic constructs: (a) group task, (b) group structure, (c) group process, and (d) group product. the group task is what the group is attempting to do. Group structure is the organization of the group, including (a) roles, the different positions within the group, (b) norms, the expected beliefs and behaviors for the group members, and (c) member characteristics, the demographic, physical, and psychological attributes of each group member. Group process is how the group members interact with and influence one another. Group product is the collective group response or output. the correspondence of the product to the objective of the group defines . . .

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