Value asymmetry and small groups: An investigation of administrative decision-making

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Public Administration


Stuart I. Bretschneider


Value asymmetry, Small groups, Administrative, Decision-making

Subject Categories

Psychology | Public Administration | Public Affairs, Public Policy and Public Administration | Social and Behavioral Sciences | Social Psychology


Public management researchers often argue that there are significant differences between the internal processes of public and private organizations in the United States. Researchers often assert that since U.S. public organizations work within a democratic system, they must be responsive to a more diverse set of values than their private sector counterparts. This study proposes that public organizations often internalize more diverse sets of values than do private sector organizations, and that this increased value diversity influences the processes of internal decision-making groups. Specifically, this study investigates how the structural arrangement of values influences the decision-making process of small administrative groups.

The study first conceptualizes the value structures of small groups as symmetric or asymmetric in nature. Group value asymmetry is characterized as the amount of variation across the value systems of individual group members. The concept of value asymmetry is then integrated into a broader model of small group decision-making. It is hypothesized that increased levels of value asymmetry will lead to increased difficulties with certain aspects of the group decision process.

A laboratory simulation is employed to empirically test the hypotheses. Seventy-eight graduates completed a Rokeach Value Survey (RVS) and are then sorted into 26 three-person groups. The groups range from symmetric to asymmetric in regards to their overall members' individual value orientations. All groups then participate in a personnel-hiring exercise, during which they are asked to discuss and rank order their preferences regarding job candidates. Finally, subject responses to a posttest questionnaire are analyzed using regression analysis.

Statistical analysis indicates that groups with higher levels of value asymmetry had increased difficulty processing information relevant to the hiring decisions. Similarly, higher levels of group value asymmetry were associated with members possessing more negative perceptions of their group interaction. Future research should seek to further examine how group value asymmetry interacts with other variables, such as group size, and within different decision contexts.


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