Reaction Paper: “Group Remembering”

 
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Reaction Paper: “Group Remembering

The article “Group remembering: Does social loafing underlie collaborative inhibition?” by Mary Susan Weldon, Cassidy Blair, and Penny Dearmin Huebsch is a 2000 publication in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory and Cognition, volume 26 number 6 from page 1568 to 1577. In this article, Weldon, Blair and Huebsch (2000) sought to gain deeper understanding on the effect of collaboration in group recall on retrieval compared to individual recall. The authors of this study sought to identify the cause of collaborative inhibition in recall by studying the contribution of motivational factors/incentives. The researchers challenge an existing theory that collaboration improves recall since one person’s recall material aids the other individual in recalling, otherwise known as cross-cuing. Weldon, Blair and Huebsch (2000) therefore pose a question on whether retrieval interference leads to collaborative inhibition thus jeopardizing group recall.

To conduct this study, the authors formulated two hypotheses. Weldon, Blair and Huebsch (2000) hypothesized that collaboration leads to retrieval interference which is a common phenomenon where impaired retrieval due to retrieval interference is experienced in part-set cuing. The secondly, the authors hypothesized that collaboration inhibition may also be as a result of motivational factors whose effect is to influence group behavior as is the case with social loafing. To test the two hypotheses, the researchers conducted an experimental study with five experiments. The dependent variables in this study were recall level in collaborative and nominal state and these were affected by varying the independent variables (motivational factors). The motivational factors were classified into five groups/experimental settings. These include Experiment 1 with monetary incentive, Experiment 2 with forced recall, Experiment 3 with individual recall, Experiment 4 with group recall and Experiment 5 involving women only. The tests were conducted in groups of three, with subjects being the University of California, Santa Cruz undergraduates who were in for a credit course. There five types of groups and two experimental outcome conditions (nominal and collaborative conditions).

The researchers had a list containing 56 items which formed the test. Fifty of the words in the list were unrelated with the rest six being buffer words (three words prior to the test and the rest at the end of the test). The buffer words did not count in the count test score. In conducting the experiments, Weldon, Blair and Huebsch (2000) did a random assignment of the groups in either the collaborative or nominal recall condition. Despite the groups being aware of an upcoming recall test, now information was given on how the tests would be like. No participant was allowed to write down the items. Slide presentation was then conducted in a dimly lit room and then individuals worked separately for 5 minutes. Individuals were then given time for a free-recall test. During a 10 minutes recall test, participants in the nominal condition had to remember the items present on an individual basis whereas the collaborative condition groups had all the group members recalling and recording the items by one member. The items had to be recalled just as they appeared in slides grammatically save for allowance for plurals. The nominal results were polled from each person and redundant items were considered as one. Items recalled from the collaborative group were simply counted. The data was then presented in form of proportions at significance level of p < .05.

To analyze the results of this study, the researchers performed a 2 by 2 between-subjects analysis of variance (ANOVA). This analytical test helped in determining the effect size of each independent variable on the dependent variables. In experiment 1, the nominal score was higher than collaborative score with or without an incentive. An incentive led to higher scores in each condition but nominal condition scored higher. In experiment 2, where there was forced recall, the proportion of nominal condition score was higher than that of collaborative condition. In experiment 3, where individuals were supposed to bear personal responsibility in recalling, the nominal score was also slightly higher than the collaborative score. For experiment 4 which involved group cohesion, low cohesion nominal condition as well as high cohesion were higher than in collaborative condition. While the score for collaborative condition remained the same for both low and high cohesion, high cohesion in nominal condition resulted into a higher score than low cohesion in the same condition. In experiment 5, where all groups were women only, the nominal condition registered a higher score than the collaborative condition. Overall, nominal condition had a higher recall score than the collaborative condition regardless of group conditions/characteristics.
From this study, Weldon, Blair and Huebsch (2000) came to a conclusion that collaboration does not improve recall and that collaborative inhibition is not determined by increased motivation. In all the motivational conditions experimented in this study, group recall was lower than nominal recall. The authors also conclude that retrieval interference is the most likely reason behind collaborative inhibition as opposed to the common argument that social loafing in as well as evaluation apprehension leads to collaborative inhibition. The conclusions of this study have been supported by past research that has shown collaborative recall to be impaired by social factors with paucity of literature on the effect of cognitive factors on collaborative recall. This study is however questionable since it does not take into consideration of other forms of interference other than retrieval interference as well as encoding which would cause collaborative inhibition. Due to such an inadequacy, it is worth conducting more research on collaborative recall by asking: what are the effects of cognitive ability on collaborative recall and what is the role of other forms of interference in recall?

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