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Science  15 Dec 2006:
Vol. 314, Issue 5806, pp. 1659-1661
DOI: 10.1126/science.314.5806.1659d

An established and unsurprising characteristic of people working within teams is that each individual believes that he or she makes a disproportionately large contribution to the group output, so that the summed estimates are greater than the whole. These self-appraisals can be tempered if individuals are encouraged to regard what other team members do, and this shift in perceptions is thought to be conducive to group harmony and satisfaction.

Caruso et al. have looked more closely at whether structural heterogeneity within teams might influence perceptions and feelings in other-regarding situations. In studies gauging the self-contribution estimates of coauthors of 150 published papers (and their enjoyment of those collaborations) and experimentally manipulating the perceived and objective contributions to group projects, they found that workers who believed that they had done more (and those who actually had done more) were less satisfied, relative to those who had done less, when asked to consider the contributions of their teammates, in part because they became more aware of inequalities when taking a broader perspective. An additional finding is that this deleterious and unintended consequence of encouraging other-regarding behavior was largely mitigated in a competitive setting, where the allocation of rewards acknowledged individual rather than group performance, as exemplified in authorship order. — GJC

J. Pers. Soc. Psychol. 91, 857 (2006).

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