Cultural Determinants of Information Processing Shortcuts in Computer Supported Groups: A Review, Research Agenda and Instrument Validation

Cultural Determinants of Information Processing Shortcuts in Computer Supported Groups: A Review, Research Agenda and Instrument Validation

Christopher P. Furner (Department of Management Information Systems, East Carolina University, Greenville, NC, USA)
Copyright: © 2013 |Pages: 16
DOI: 10.4018/jissc.2013070102
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Organizations are constantly engaged in actions. If an organization does not take actions, it cannot remain solvent, and if the organization consistently exercises poor judgment in the actions that it takes, it is destined to fail. Organizations do not have minds, and they do not make decisions, they are institutions that empower individual agents to make decisions on their behalf, and empower other individuals to carry out the actions associated with these decisions. These decision making agents can be individuals or groups. The complex nature of organizational decisions creates information overload for individual agents, causing them to engage in a number of information processing shortcuts, which threaten the quality of their decisions. While groups can overcome some of the problems associated with information overload, they are prone to their own shortcomings related to communication and coordination. Decision Support Systems (DSS) and Group Support Systems (GSS) respectively have been employed in an attempt to overcome some of these shortcuts and shortcomings and studies have had mixed results but generally indicate that these technologies are effective (Chan & Limsuwan, 2012). However information processing researchers have not explored the potential moderators between a) information overload and information processing shortcuts or b) communication and coordination problems and group shortcomings. The study proposed in this paper is a first attempt at those ends: a) first we build hypotheses linking cultural factors to information processing shortcuts, both individual and group; b) then we outline a study to test these relationships; c) finally, we validate an instrument to test these hypotheses.
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Organizations are systems of action, it is through actions that organizations produce, compete and prosper or fail (Grimm & Smith, 1997). Organizations empower actors to make decisions on which actions the organization should pursue. According to some early economics researchers, for any given decision, there is a single optimal solution that a rational actor can arrive at given perfect information (Hogarth & Reder, 1987). Assuming that there is such an optimal action associated with any given decision, the actors’ ability to arrive at the optimal decision may be potentially hindered by a number of information processing shortcomings.

In situations where an individual actor is charged with deciding on the actions that an organization should take, a number of shortcomings are derived from information processing limitations. Organizational decisions typically involve a great deal of data and information to be considered, which often times exceeds the physical limitations of the human mind (Edmounds & Morris, 2000). To cope with this information overload, individuals engage in a number of information processing shortcuts that include selective perception (Walsh, 1988), framing (Tversky & Kahneman, 1981), heuristics and biases (Tversky & Kahneman, 1974) and superstitions (Boynton, 2003). These shortcuts are a threat to rationality, and have the potential to result in suboptimal decision making.

In situations where a group of actors are charged with working together to arrive at a decision, a number of shortcomings related to communication and coordination between members are responsible for irrational behaviors that lead to suboptimal decisions being made. These shortcomings include group think (Jamis, 1972), political behavior (Trist & Bamforth, 1951) and non-participation by some members (Dooley & Fryxell, 1999; Diehl & Stroebe, 1987).

Decision Support Systems (DSS) and Group Support Systems (GSS) have been proposed as partial solutions to the information processing shortcomings of individuals (Sprague, 1980) and as mitigaters of the communication and coordination problems present in group decision making situations. We propose that the effectiveness of these systems (DSS and GSS) is related to the cultural makeup of the actors that are using the systems. Our research questions are as follows: which, if any, national cultural dimensions have the potential to impact information processing by individual decision making actors and individuals in a decision making task group, and what is the mechanism by which culture impacts information processing.

In order to address this question, two experiments are proposed. In the first experiment, individuals are presented with a decision making situation, and their use of information processing shortcuts is monitored. In the second experiment, groups will be presented with a decision making situation, and the group’s frequency of shortcomings experienced are monitored. In both experiments, cultural types serve as dependant variables, moderating the relationships between a) information overload and information processing shortcuts and b) communication/coordination and group shortcomings.

This paper proceeds as follows. First, the literature on individual information processing shortcuts and group level shortcomings is reviewed, each followed by a review of the literature on using DSS and GSS to overcome these shortcomings. The literature review concludes with a focus on the literature associated with cultural dimensions. The next section outlines our research model and hypotheses, linking culture to information processing shortcuts and group shortcomings. A proposed method of inquiry is presented, and a potential instrument is validated. This is followed by potential contributions and limitations of this study. Summarizing remarks conclude the paper.

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