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Use of social knowledge in tacit coordination: Social focal points


  • Abele, Susanne
  • Stasser, Garold
  • Chartier, Christopher


Social focal point theory predicts that, in matching, people search for a shared characteristic that makes one decision option salient whereas, in mismatching, they search for complementary characteristics that make different options salient for each of the coordinating parties. In two studies, participants learned about a partner’s activity preferences and then tried to either match or mismatch choices on a series of pictures that were remotely associated with one of these preferences. Being the same on a relevant preference facilitated matching whereas being different facilitated mismatching. In the second study, participants also used overall perceived similarity to supplement specific trait information. Coordination performance also affected interpersonal impressions: successful matching increased interpersonal attraction whereas successful mismatching did not. These downstream effects were obtained even when participants had considerable prior social information about their partners. Tacit coordination is compared with mimicry and synchrony, and the implications for coordinated team performance are discussed.

Suggested Citation

  • Abele, Susanne & Stasser, Garold & Chartier, Christopher, 2014. "Use of social knowledge in tacit coordination: Social focal points," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 123(1), pages 23-33.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:jobhdp:v:123:y:2014:i:1:p:23-33
    DOI: 10.1016/j.obhdp.2013.10.005

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Roberto Weber & Colin Camerer & Marc Knez, 2004. "Timing and Virtual Observability in Ultimatum Bargaining and “Weak Link” Coordination Games," Experimental Economics, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 7(1), pages 25-48, February.
    2. Abele, Susanne & Bless, Herbert & Ehrhart, Karl-Martin, 2004. "Social information processing in strategic decision-making: Why timing matters," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 93(1), pages 28-46, January.
    3. Mehta, Judith & Starmer, Chris & Sugden, Robert, 1994. "The Nature of Salience: An Experimental Investigation of Pure Coordination Games," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 84(3), pages 658-673, June.
    4. Cooper, Russell & Douglas V. DeJong & Robert Forsythe & Thomas W. Ross, 1993. "Forward Induction in the Battle-of-the-Sexes Games," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 83(5), pages 1303-1316, December.
    5. Bramoulle, Yann, 2007. "Anti-coordination and social interactions," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 58(1), pages 30-49, January.
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