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Adaptive group coordination and role differentiation.

Roberts ME, Goldstone RL - PLoS ONE (2011)

Bottom Line: For all groups, performance improves with task experience, and group reactivity decreases over rounds.Our empirical results provide evidence for adaptive coordination in human groups, and as the coordination costs increase with group size, large groups adapt through spontaneous role differentiation and self-consistency among members.We suggest several agent-based models with different rules for agent reactions, and we show that the empirical results are best fit by a flexible, adaptive agent strategy in which agents decrease their reactions when the group feedback changes.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Department of Psychology, DePauw University, Greencastle, Indiana, United States of America. michaelroberts@depauw.edu

ABSTRACT
Many real world situations (potluck dinners, academic departments, sports teams, corporate divisions, committees, seminar classes, etc.) involve actors adjusting their contributions in order to achieve a mutually satisfactory group goal, a win-win result. However, the majority of human group research has involved situations where groups perform poorly because task constraints promote either individual maximization behavior or diffusion of responsibility, and even successful tasks generally involve the propagation of one correct solution through a group. Here we introduce a group task that requires complementary actions among participants in order to reach a shared goal. Without communication, group members submit numbers in an attempt to collectively sum to a randomly selected target number. After receiving group feedback, members adjust their submitted numbers until the target number is reached. For all groups, performance improves with task experience, and group reactivity decreases over rounds. Our empirical results provide evidence for adaptive coordination in human groups, and as the coordination costs increase with group size, large groups adapt through spontaneous role differentiation and self-consistency among members. We suggest several agent-based models with different rules for agent reactions, and we show that the empirical results are best fit by a flexible, adaptive agent strategy in which agents decrease their reactions when the group feedback changes. The task offers a simple experimental platform for studying the general problem of group coordination while maximizing group returns, and we distinguish the task from several games in behavioral game theory.

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A smaller proportion of group members changes guesses as the group approaches the solution, as measured by rounds before solution on the X-axis.Members of small groups (+s) altered their guesses on successive rounds more often than large groups (circles). The lines are best-fit lines for small and large groups, respectively.
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pone-0022377-g004: A smaller proportion of group members changes guesses as the group approaches the solution, as measured by rounds before solution on the X-axis.Members of small groups (+s) altered their guesses on successive rounds more often than large groups (circles). The lines are best-fit lines for small and large groups, respectively.

Mentions: The results so far have implied similar coordination mechanisms in small and large groups, but our final analyses show striking divergent behavior. Groups were clearly able to coordinate to shared goals in the GBS task, but our experiences in real world tasks (e.g. potluck dinners, committees, athletic teams, etc.) suggest that group size has a large effect on coordination. To this end, we calculated the variance of reactivities within individuals (Did a participant exhibit consistent reactivities across rounds?) and between individuals (Did all group members have similar average reactivities?). For each of these analyses, we used groups – rather than individuals – as the unit of analysis by averaging over the individuals within a group. Variance within individuals significantly decreases over rounds (ß = −.519, p<.001) for large groups, but marginally increases for small groups (ß = .165, p = .083). Similar results (ß = −.164, p<.001 for large groups, and ß = .117, p = .057 for small groups) are obtained when the results are analyzed at the level of individual participants rather than the group, but such an analysis may not be ideal given the inherent statistical dependencies among members of a group. The variance of reactivities across members of large groups marginally increases over games (ß = .291, p = .068), and greater variance among large group members significantly predicts faster coordination (ß = −.395, p = .012). In contrast, the variance of reactivities across small group members significantly decreases over games (ß = −.370, p<.001), and does not predict solution time. In a more detailed analysis separately examining directional and numeric games, the decreased variance of reactivities across small group members is only significant for directional feedback games (ß = −.377, p = .014), while the increased variance across large group members achieves significance for only numeric feedback games (ß = .485, p = .041). The average reactivity of large group members also decreases across games (ß = −.313, p = .049), but there is no such relationship for small groups (ß = −.04, p = .708). Finally, on any given round, a significantly smaller proportion of large than small group members adjust their guesses (Figure 4).


Adaptive group coordination and role differentiation.

Roberts ME, Goldstone RL - PLoS ONE (2011)

A smaller proportion of group members changes guesses as the group approaches the solution, as measured by rounds before solution on the X-axis.Members of small groups (+s) altered their guesses on successive rounds more often than large groups (circles). The lines are best-fit lines for small and large groups, respectively.
© Copyright Policy
Related In: Results  -  Collection

Show All Figures
getmorefigures.php?uid=PMC3139637&req=5

pone-0022377-g004: A smaller proportion of group members changes guesses as the group approaches the solution, as measured by rounds before solution on the X-axis.Members of small groups (+s) altered their guesses on successive rounds more often than large groups (circles). The lines are best-fit lines for small and large groups, respectively.
Mentions: The results so far have implied similar coordination mechanisms in small and large groups, but our final analyses show striking divergent behavior. Groups were clearly able to coordinate to shared goals in the GBS task, but our experiences in real world tasks (e.g. potluck dinners, committees, athletic teams, etc.) suggest that group size has a large effect on coordination. To this end, we calculated the variance of reactivities within individuals (Did a participant exhibit consistent reactivities across rounds?) and between individuals (Did all group members have similar average reactivities?). For each of these analyses, we used groups – rather than individuals – as the unit of analysis by averaging over the individuals within a group. Variance within individuals significantly decreases over rounds (ß = −.519, p<.001) for large groups, but marginally increases for small groups (ß = .165, p = .083). Similar results (ß = −.164, p<.001 for large groups, and ß = .117, p = .057 for small groups) are obtained when the results are analyzed at the level of individual participants rather than the group, but such an analysis may not be ideal given the inherent statistical dependencies among members of a group. The variance of reactivities across members of large groups marginally increases over games (ß = .291, p = .068), and greater variance among large group members significantly predicts faster coordination (ß = −.395, p = .012). In contrast, the variance of reactivities across small group members significantly decreases over games (ß = −.370, p<.001), and does not predict solution time. In a more detailed analysis separately examining directional and numeric games, the decreased variance of reactivities across small group members is only significant for directional feedback games (ß = −.377, p = .014), while the increased variance across large group members achieves significance for only numeric feedback games (ß = .485, p = .041). The average reactivity of large group members also decreases across games (ß = −.313, p = .049), but there is no such relationship for small groups (ß = −.04, p = .708). Finally, on any given round, a significantly smaller proportion of large than small group members adjust their guesses (Figure 4).

Bottom Line: For all groups, performance improves with task experience, and group reactivity decreases over rounds.Our empirical results provide evidence for adaptive coordination in human groups, and as the coordination costs increase with group size, large groups adapt through spontaneous role differentiation and self-consistency among members.We suggest several agent-based models with different rules for agent reactions, and we show that the empirical results are best fit by a flexible, adaptive agent strategy in which agents decrease their reactions when the group feedback changes.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Department of Psychology, DePauw University, Greencastle, Indiana, United States of America. michaelroberts@depauw.edu

ABSTRACT
Many real world situations (potluck dinners, academic departments, sports teams, corporate divisions, committees, seminar classes, etc.) involve actors adjusting their contributions in order to achieve a mutually satisfactory group goal, a win-win result. However, the majority of human group research has involved situations where groups perform poorly because task constraints promote either individual maximization behavior or diffusion of responsibility, and even successful tasks generally involve the propagation of one correct solution through a group. Here we introduce a group task that requires complementary actions among participants in order to reach a shared goal. Without communication, group members submit numbers in an attempt to collectively sum to a randomly selected target number. After receiving group feedback, members adjust their submitted numbers until the target number is reached. For all groups, performance improves with task experience, and group reactivity decreases over rounds. Our empirical results provide evidence for adaptive coordination in human groups, and as the coordination costs increase with group size, large groups adapt through spontaneous role differentiation and self-consistency among members. We suggest several agent-based models with different rules for agent reactions, and we show that the empirical results are best fit by a flexible, adaptive agent strategy in which agents decrease their reactions when the group feedback changes. The task offers a simple experimental platform for studying the general problem of group coordination while maximizing group returns, and we distinguish the task from several games in behavioral game theory.

Show MeSH
Related in: MedlinePlus