Decision-making as a social process

Date

2019-04-11

Authors

Johnson, Trudy Lynn Elizabeth

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Abstract

North American social psychology has evolved within a culture that values an individualistic ideology. Therefore, when investigating social phenomena, the social psychologist rarely looks past the individual(s) involoved to social processes. As a result, actual social processes have seldom been studied. For example, in the classic studies performed by Sherif (1935) and Asch (1958) social influence was investigated exclusively through the behavioural products of the individual. In this thesis social influence was studied as an intrinsic social process. Twenty-two dyads completed a stimulus task wherein they made a joint decision about 12 simple stimuli. In order to have empirical access to the social processes involved, the participants were allowed to talk freely with each other. As a result, the discourse that was generated provided the data for the investigation. In other words, the interactions were the objects of investigation. Examination of the dialogues in terms of the function of the talk revealed a process that resembled scientific fact construction (Latour & Woolgar, 1979; Latour, 1987). That is, the discourse moved through a continuum of "facticity" identifiable by the following functions: Statements of Hypothesis (wherein the interlocutors tentatively introduced a stimulus to be discussed), Statements of Individual Fact (where the participants offered their own assessments), and Statements of Social Fact (in which the participants agreed or disagreed about their individual assessments). Quantitative analyses of the dialogues showed that certain patterns emerged with respect to these functions. There were differences in how the talk progressed when participants agreed with each other and when they disagreed. These differences provided a basis of comparison for subsequent analyses. For example, the frequency and order of the three functions differed for agreements and disagreements. There was also a combination of certain utterances that functioned as grounding or summarizing places for the participants during the task. These differed in structure from both agreements and disagreements, and tended to occur later in the dialogues.

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Keywords

Social psychology, Decision making

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