Using a GDSS to facilitate group consensus: Some intended and unintended consequences

Richard T. Watson, Gerardine DeSanctis, Marshall Scott Poole

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A cumulative body of experimental research Is emerging that examines the ability of computer technology to support the processes and outcomes of small group meetings. For the most part the group decision support system effort has been concerned with demonstrating the usefulness of the technology in planning and decisionmaking situations where the quality of the meeting's outcomes can be objectively assessed. In many decision situations, however, there is no objective measure of decision quality available. Rather, the group must reconcile differences in opinion, personal preference, or judgment and achieve consensus about a particular mode of action. As a contribution to the accumulating research on GDSS, the current study examines the effects of a GDSS in resolving conflicts of personal preference. In a task requiring resolution of competing personal preferences, 82 groups - the largest sample size in the GDSS literature to date - were randomly assigned to one of three experiment conditions: (1) a computer-based support system (GDSS); (2) a manual, paper and pencil, support system; or (3) no support whatsoever. Groups were either of size 3 or 4 persons. Use of the GDSS was expected to facilitate democratic participation in group discussion, move group members toward agreement with one another, and result in a high level of satisfaction with the group decision process. While several of the intended effects of the technology were observed, the groups experienced some unintended consequences as a result of using the GDSS. In general, the GDSS technology appeared to offer some advantage over no support, but little advantage over the pencil and paper method of supporting group discussion.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)463-477
Number of pages15
JournalMIS Quarterly: Management Information Systems
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1988
Externally publishedYes


  • Decision support
  • Group decision support systems
  • Problem solving

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Management Information Systems
  • Information Systems
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Information Systems and Management


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