Decision Making Theories
Emergence Theory (DET)
Research indicates that groups tend to
go through a variety of phases in accomplishing a group task. There
are various phase or stage theories and models of group decision making.
One popular approach is B, Aubrey Fisher's Decision Emergence Theory.
proposes that decisions emerge from group members’ verbal interaction:
Decision Emergence Theory
(DET) consists of four phases:
Interpretation: value judgement without support
(for, undecided, or against).
Substantiation: evidence, explanations, arguments
(for, undecided, or against).
Agreement or Disagreement
Phase 1: Orientation
Phase 2: Conflict
Emphasis on clarification and agreement.
High level of agreement expressed by ambiguity.
Reduces uncertainty (entropy).
Polite interaction since the group is likely
experiencing primary tension.
Phase goals are to develop roles and understand
the nature of the problem.
This phase includes getting acquainted, clarifying,
and tentatively expressing attitudes.
This is a period of forming opinions, not
rocking the boat, and getting rid of social tensions.
DET Phase 3: Emergence
Decision alternatives are addressed.
Criticism of (e.g., unfavorable attitudes
toward) decision proposals.
Primary tension has been overcome and there
is now a lack of social inhibitions -- people have a tendency to say what's
on their minds.
Attempts to persuade increase.
Ambiguous attitudes from the Orientiation
Phase now become polarized attitudes, fostering coalitions.
Argument is a group norm during this phase
and a lack or argumentativeness (or apathy) is considered deviant behavior.
Phase 4: Reinforcement
Significantly less criticism (e.g., unfavor-able
attitudes toward) of proposals.
Ambiguity emerges again. What was a strong
unfavorable attitude in the conflict stage is now an ambiguous disagreement
(modified or muted dissent).
Such a pattern allows group members to save
face as the decision emerges.
The group does not “make” decisions, rather,
decisions naturally emerge from group interaction during this phase.
Members compromise to achieve consensus.
The group progresses toward unanimity.
This is the longest (gradual) phase.
The group enters this phase with a strong
The group reaches decision consensus.
Members are committed to the decision.
The decision reflects real agreement rather
than the avoidance of conflict.
Favorable views of the decision proposal are
expressed. These views receive agreement and reinforcement.
There is a strong spirit of unity and verbal
backslapping by the members.
The decision and the group interaction process
(Chapter 18; developed by Irving Janis)
Symptoms of groupthink
1) An illusion of invulnerability makes
group members believe that they cannot fail.
2) A belief in the inherent morality of
the group makes members automatically assume the rightness of
3) Collective rationalization creates
an unquestioning atmosphere.
4) Out-group stereotypes cause group members
to disregard outsiders
5) Self-censorship eliminates the expression
6) The illusion of unanimity develops
from a lack of counterarguments.
7) Direct pressure is exerted on dissenters.
8) Self-appointed mindguards protect a
leader from troublesome ideas.
Perspective on Group Decision Making
(Chapter 19; developed by Hirokawa &
An Effective Decision-Making
Path from a Functional Perspective
Types of communication in
Hirokawa speaks of quality solutions.
Gouran refers to appropriate decisions.
The functional perspecitve illustrates the
wisdom of joint interaction.
Is Rationality Overrated?
Identification of alternatives
Evaluation of Postive and Negative
“As a result, many communication scholars
endorse the theory (Hirokawa & Gouran) as a model for group discussion
and decision making. But the exclusive focus on rational talk in
this model may be the reason why researchers get mixed results when they
test the theory’s predictions” (Griffin, 1997, p.257).