Thursday, August 28, 2008

When the Crowd Errs

People who are LinkedIn to hundreds of others may not have an advantage in making tough ethical decisions on the job.

In fact, their big networks may make them overconfident they know the answer that will be in line with colleagues' thinking, and could lead to lapses in judgment, researchers say.

The study by Francis Flynn, an associate professor of organizational behavior at Stanford, and Scott Wiltermuth, a doctoral student, was presented at the Academy of Management annual meeting this month.

They asked groups of workers and business students about ethical dilemmas. The researchers sought evidence of "false consensus bias" -- that is, the tendency of people to project their values and behaviors onto others.

As the size of their networks grew, so did the extent at which individuals overestimated how many others would agree with them.

Why? People discuss "safe subjects in the workplace -- sports, kids, current events," the researchers wrote. So "little of the insights that people gain from social ties may apply" to moral dilemmas.

-- Vickie Elmer

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