Communication and Group Performance: Comparing CMC with FTF Decision-Making Groups in Taiwan

Communication and Group Performance: Comparing CMC with FTF Decision-Making Groups in Taiwan

Shu-Chu Sarrina Li (National Chiao Tung University, Taiwan), Lin-Mei Huang (Shih Hsin University, Taiwan) and Yi-Ching Liu (National Chiao Tung University, Taiwan)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60960-091-4.ch003
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This study applied functional theory and media-capacity theory to compare face-to-face (FTF) groups with computer-mediated communication (CMC) groups in terms of their group communication and group performance. This study used a field experiment that was integrated into two classes of a communication course at a private university in northern Taiwan, in which 21 groups of 4 to 6 members worked on final group projects. The researchers randomly assigned one class, which had 11 groups (60 persons), to perform the task via CMC, and the other class, which had 10 groups (49 persons), to perform the task via FTF communication. The findings of this study in general support the functional theory and the media-capacity theory. However, some findings are not congruent with those of past studies. For example, previous studies have indicated that the function of criteria establishment was a significant predictor of group performance, while this study found this function to have no effect on the group outcomes. Furthermore, past studies found that the function of social talk had a negative effect on group performance, but this study discovered this function to have a positive effect on group outcomes.
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Contemporary organizations rely heavily on groups to perform various tasks because the handling of many tasks is far beyond the capacity of any individual. Consequently, groups have become an essential part of many organizations. Many studies have sought to identify the factors that influence group effectiveness, and a growing body of evidence indicates that the group communications process by which groups arrive at their decisions influences the effectiveness of their performance. The functional theory proposes that a strong link exists between group interactions and their subsequent group decisions; and it identifies several critical task functions to be performed in the group interaction in order for a group to achieve high-quality decision making (Hirokawa & Salazar, 1999; Hirokawa, 1992; Kuhn & Poole, 2000; Tasa & Whyte, 2005).

As the use of synchronous, text-based messaging systems becomes prevalent in society, more and more organizations are conducting their team work via computer-mediated communication. Therefore, scholars are concerned about the effectiveness of CMC groups when compared with that of FTF groups (Adams, Roch & Ayman, 2005; Baltes et al, 2002; Becker-Beck, Wintermantel & Borg, 2005; Flanagin, Park & Seibold, 2004).

A close examination of the existing literature shows that, with the exception of the study by Li (2007), no studies thus far have applied the functional perspective to examine the decision-making differences between CMC groups and FTF groups. Furthermore, after performing a meta-analysis of 27 studies that compared CMC with FTF group decision making, Baltes et al. (2002) suggested that with the functional perspective having become a major paradigm in the group decision-making literature, more studies should be conducted to examine the application of this theory in the Internet environment. This study has adopted the functional perspective to investigate the differences between CMC and FTF groups in terms of their decision-making process and performance.

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