Does the medium matter? The interaction of task type and technology on group performance and member reactions

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Citation: Susan G Straus, Joseph E McGrath (1994) Does the medium matter? The interaction of task type and technology on group performance and member reactions. The Journal of Applied Psychology (RSS)
Internet Archive Scholar (fulltext): Does the medium matter? The interaction of task type and technology on group performance and member reactions
Tagged: Psychology (RSS) CSCW (RSS), IS (RSS), teams (RSS), social psychology (RSS)

Summary (Abstract)

Straus and McGrath present a applied psychology lab-based experiment on the effect of computer mediated communication on the quality and the quantity of work produced by groups. The paper was designed to test the hypothesis that computer mediated communication poses greater requirements on collaborators to transmit social clues that will foster both group performance and satisfaction. The paper presents a test using 72 3-person groups of undergraduate students working on a series of tasks of different types. The results show that there are few differences in the quality of the work completed by the groups but that the face-to-face groups were able to accomplish a lot more work. Supporting McGrath's work on types of collaborative tasks, the authors show an interaction between type task and media.

The authors offer three hypotheses (all framed in terms of McGrath's (1984) typology of tasks:

  • H1: As the need for coordination increases, there will be greater differences in product quality between computer-mediated and face-to-face groups. Differences will be smallest for idea generation, greater for intellective, and greatest for judgment-based tasks. (Supported)
  • H2: Groups in computer-mediated environments will produce less than face-to-face groups and these differences will be greatest in high-coordination tasks. (Supported)
  • H3a: Group members will have more trouble understanding each other in computer-mediated environments. (Supported)
  • H3b: Face-to-face groups will have higher satisfaction overall and these differences will be higher when more coordination is needed. (Mild support)

The results showed that the groups using the computer were less productive, but were able to do similarly good work.

Theoretical and Practical Relevance

This short article has been cited more than 300 times. Most of this has been in the literature on organizations and teams and some in the literature on IS.