Professor Murmann's Blog: The Freedom Tower Case: Why is group decision making not better individual decisions

The Freedom Tower Case: Why is group decision making not better individual decisions

Individual human beings have limited skills, knowledge,  and expertise can get carried away by emotions when making decisions. One would think that involving multiple people in a decision could overcome the limitations of individual decision making but social psycholgoists have long known that groups have their own limitations. The New York Times published a pertinent article on how a comittee came up with the redesigned Freedom Tower that architectual critics find dissappointing given the grandeur of the originial proposal.

Here are excerpts from the article At Ground Zero, Vision by Committee.

When making important determinations, small groups in fact often do not take into account the most relevant expertise in the room, researchers have found. In a series of studies, the psychologist Dr. Garold Stasser at Miami University of Ohio has found that most small groups tend to make decisions based on information all members share about a topic, and to overlook important facts that one or several people may know but the others do not…

Particularly when there is a great deal of pressure - as there surely is with the ground zero design - groups act very much like individuals under stress, only more so, psychologists say. They procrastinate, calling for further information. And they become committed to bad decisions, to save face or to protect themselves against criticism…

In a recent simulation, Dr. Beth Dietz-Uhler, a psychologist at Miami University of Ohio, analyzed the behavior of small groups of three or more people acting as city council members, creating a park on land donated by a wealthy resident. As the simulation unfolded, information was provided that showed the land was contaminated, yet the acting council members, especially those who felt strongly bonded to the group, often stuck with their decision to build a park out of loyalty to the team.

Read the full article on the NY Times website.

The Original Design image