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Silence is Golden: Â Communication Costs and Team Problem Solving

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  • Charness, Gary
  • Cooper, David
  • Grossman, Zachary

Abstract

Numerous studies have compared the performance of individuals and teams at solving intellective problems. The ubiquitous finding in the economics literature is that teams out-perform individuals. This result is intuitively appealing, as teams can benefit from sharing insights. We analyze experiments comparing the performance of teams and individuals at solving a series of challenging logic puzzles. Contrary to the existing literature, individuals meet or exceed the performance of teams on all measures. If we impose a small cost of communication on teams, the performance of teams improves to closely resemble the performance of individuals. Underlying these results is a definite negative relationship between frequency of communication and team performance. We also document a strong gender effect. Teams with more women perform considerably better even though men slightly outperform women when solving the puzzles individually.

Suggested Citation

  • Charness, Gary & Cooper, David & Grossman, Zachary, 2015. "Silence is Golden: Â Communication Costs and Team Problem Solving," University of California at Santa Barbara, Economics Working Paper Series qt3n25b620, Department of Economics, UC Santa Barbara.
  • Handle: RePEc:cdl:ucsbec:qt3n25b620
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Blume, Andreas & Ortmann, Andreas, 2007. "The effects of costless pre-play communication: Experimental evidence from games with Pareto-ranked equilibria," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 132(1), pages 274-290, January.
    2. Jordi Brandts & David J. Cooper, 2007. "It's What You Say, Not What You Pay: An Experimental Study of Manager–Employee Relationships in Overcoming Coordination Failure," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 5(6), pages 1223-1268, December.
    3. Alessia Isopi & Daniele Nosenzo & Chris Starmer, 2014. "Does consultation improve decision-making?," Theory and Decision, Springer, vol. 77(3), pages 377-388, October.
    4. Charness, Gary & Dufwenberg, Martin, 2003. "Promises & Partnership," Research Papers in Economics 2003:3, Stockholm University, Department of Economics.
    5. Gary Charness & Martin Dufwenberg, 2006. "Promises and Partnership," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 74(6), pages 1579-1601, November.
    6. Oprea, Ryan & Charness, Gary & Friedman, Daniel, 2014. "Continuous time and communication in a public-goods experiment," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 108(C), pages 212-223.
    7. Cooper, David J. & Kagel, John H., 2009. "Equilibrium selection in signaling games with teams: Forward induction or faster adaptive learning?," Research in Economics, Elsevier, vol. 63(4), pages 216-224, December.
    8. Gary Charness & Edi Karni & Dan Levin, 2007. "Individual and group decision making under risk: An experimental study of Bayesian updating and violations of first-order stochastic dominance," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 35(2), pages 129-148, October.
    9. Irving Lorge & Herbert Solomon, 1955. "Two models of group behavior in the solution of eureka-type problems," Psychometrika, Springer;The Psychometric Society, vol. 20(2), pages 139-148, June.
    10. Charness, Gary & Karni, Edi & Levin, Dan, 2010. "On the conjunction fallacy in probability judgment: New experimental evidence regarding Linda," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 68(2), pages 551-556, March.
    11. Ben Greiner, 2004. "The Online Recruitment System ORSEE - A Guide for the Organization of Experiments in Economics," Papers on Strategic Interaction 2003-10, Max Planck Institute of Economics, Strategic Interaction Group.
    12. Laughlin, Patrick R. & Bonner, Bryan L. & Miner, Andrew G., 2002. "Groups perform better than the best individuals on Letters-to-Numbers problems," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 88(2), pages 605-620, July.
    13. Russell Cooper & Douglas V. DeJong & Robert Forsythe & Thomas W. Ross, 1992. "Communication in Coordination Games," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 107(2), pages 739-771.
    14. M. Casari & J. Zhang & C. Jackson, 2011. "When Do Groups Perform Better than Individuals? A Company Takeover Experiment," Working Papers wp763, Dipartimento Scienze Economiche, Universita' di Bologna.
    15. repec:pit:wpaper:499 is not listed on IDEAS
    16. Charness, Gary & Rustichini, Aldo, 2011. "Gender differences in cooperation with group membership," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 72(1), pages 77-85, May.
    17. Urs Fischbacher, 2007. "z-Tree: Zurich toolbox for ready-made economic experiments," Experimental Economics, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 10(2), pages 171-178, June.
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    Cited by:

    1. Erik O. Kimbrough & Andrew D. McGee & Hitoshi Shigeoka, 2017. "How Do Peers Impact Learning? An Experimental Investigation of Peer-to-Peer Teaching and Ability Tracking," NBER Working Papers 23439, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Marco Casari & Jingjing Zhang & Christine Jackson, 2016. "Same process, different outcomes: group performance in an acquiring a company experiment," Experimental Economics, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 19(4), pages 764-791, December.
    3. Casari, Marco & Zhang, Jingjing & Jackson, Christine, 2015. "Same Process, Different Outcomes: Group Performance in an Acquiring a Company Experiment," IZA Discussion Papers 9614, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).

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    Keywords

    Social and Behavioral Sciences; teams; communication; experimental economics;

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