skip navigation


Register for Latest Research

Stay Informed
Register with NCJRS to receive NCJRS's biweekly e-newsletter JUSTINFO and additional periodic emails from NCJRS and the NCJRS federal sponsors that highlight the latest research published or sponsored by the Office of Justice Programs.

NCJRS Abstract

The document referenced below is part of the NCJRS Virtual Library collection. To conduct further searches of the collection, visit the Virtual Library. See the Obtain Documents page for direction on how to access resources online, via mail, through interlibrary loans, or in a local library.


NCJ Number: 76904 Add to Shopping cart Find in a Library
Title: Small-group Decision Making and Complex Information Tasks
Author(s): M J Saks
Corporate Author: Federal Judicial Ctr
United States of America
Date Published: 1981
Page Count: 67
Sponsoring Agency: Federal Judicial Ctr
Washington, DC 20002
National Institute of Justice/
Rockville, MD 20849
Sale Source: National Institute of Justice/
NCJRS paper reproduction
Box 6000, Dept F
Rockville, MD 20849
United States of America
Document: PDF
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: The research literature on small-group decisionmaking was reviewed to help determine whether juries can competently decide complex and/or protracted civil cases.
Abstract: This report refines the issue to a comparison among various decisionmaking entities: individuals versus groups, smaller versus larger groups, judges versus juries, and juries as currently constituted and managed versus redesigned juries. The findings show that whether groups perform better than another kind of group, depends upon interactions with other variables, the most important being the nature of the task. For example, tasks that are performed better by groups (as compared to individuals), by larger groups (as compared to smaller groups), and by heterogeneous groups (as compared to homogeneous groups) are those permitting a division of labor, capitalizing on knowledgeable or skilled members (disjunctive tasks) or on the summed contributions of several group members (additive tasks). The legal fact-finding task, especially in complex cases, is performed better by large heterogeneous groups. Furthermore, characteristics associated with superior performance, which might be applied profitably to juries, include increasing individual skill on tasks through training, enhancing the group's composition, and clarifying objectives and procedures. Appropriately composed groups would probably cope better with complex cases than conventional juries or judges. Since no direct tests of the immediate question have been found, lessons have been drawn from stable patterns and theoretical principles found in the literature. Thus, any seriously considered alternatives should be empirically tested. The relevant literature is discussed. Three appendixes -- the literature review, a discussion of the research tradition, and comments on social facilitation -- are included. Footnotes aand graphs are furnished.
Index Term(s): Decisionmaking; Group behavior; Jury decisionmaking; Literature reviews
To cite this abstract, use the following link:

*A link to the full-text document is provided whenever possible. For documents not available online, a link to the publisher's website is provided. Tell us how you use the NCJRS Library and Abstracts Database - send us your feedback.