Can Voicing Dissent Lead to Ostracism from a Group?

[We’re pleased to welcome Johny T. Garner of Texas Christian University. Dr. Garner and Debra L. Iba, also of Texas Christian University, recently collaborated on the article “Changes in Eye Contact and Attraction Scores Relative to Ostracism and Dissent” from Small Group Research.]

Playing the devil’s advocate may be a sound approach for group and team SGR_72ppiRGB_powerpointmembers to take when they problem-solve. But, do dissenters pay a price? Our article, “Changes in Eye Contact and Attraction Scores Relative to Ostracism and Dissent,” was motivated by this possible conundrum. Research studies show that group members favor cooperative behaviors and that dissent offers members the chance to strengthen their decision-making process. If dissent during group problem-solving can potentially improve decision-making, then do team members respond favorably to someone who plays the devil’s advocate? Or do dissenters actually risk being viewed and treated differently, particularly when they express certain types of dissenting opinions?

We were a little surprised by these results. Based on anecdotal observations, we expected that all dissent, regardless of how it was expressed, might result in ostracism. Our findings, that dissenting with the majority’s ideas stimulated ostracism but that disagreeing with the group’s decision-making process may put the dissenter in more of a leadership position, reveal the importance of how members disagree.

You can read “Changes in Eye Contact and Attraction Scores Relative to Ostracism and Dissent” from Small Group Research for free by clicking here. Want to know about all the latest news and research from Small Group Research? Click here to sign up for e-alerts!

Garner_2012-100x130Johny T. Garner (PhD, Texas A&M University) is an associate professor in the Department of Communication Studies at Texas Christian University, USA. His research focuses on organizational and group dissent and has appeared in Management Communication Quarterly, Journal of Applied Communication Research, and the Journal of Business Communication.

0900-Debi-Iba-819x1024-100x130Debra L. Iba (PhD, University of North Texas) is an instructor in the Department of Communication Studies at Texas Christian University, USA. Her research interests include group behavior, social influence, and nonverbal communication.

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