Conflict resolution in group decision making: insights from a simulation study
Refereed Original Article
An individual’s conflict resolution styles can have a large impact on the decision mak-ing process of a group. This impact is affected by a variety of factors, such as thegroup size, the similarity of the group members, and the type of support offered bythe recommender system, if the group is using one. Measuring the effect of thesefactors goes beyond the capability of a live user study. In this article we show thatsimulation-based experiments can be effectively exploited to analyse the effect of thegroup members’ conflict resolution styles and to help researchers to formulate addi-tional research hypotheses, which could be individually tested in ad hoc user studies.We therefore propose a group discussion procedure that simulates users’ actions whiletrying to make a group decision. The simulated users adopt alternative conflict res-olution styles derived from the Thomas–Kilmann Conflict Model. The simulationprocedure is informed by the analysis of real users’ interaction logs with a group dis-cussion support system. Our experiments are conducted on scenarios characterized byfour group factors, namely, conflict resolution style, inner-group similarity, interactionlength and group size. We demonstrate the effect of these factors on the recommenda-tion quality. This is measured by the loss in the utility obtained by an individual whenchoosing the recommended group choice rather than his/her individual best choice.We also measure the difference between the highest and lowest utility that the group members obtain, in order to understand the fairness of the group recommendationidentified by the system. The experimental results show (among other findings) that ifgroup members have similar tastes then groups composed of users with the compet-ing conflict resolution style obtain the largest utility loss, compared to groups whosemembers adopt the cooperative styles (accommodating and collaborating), and yet,whatever their conflict resolution styles, there is no distinct difference in their utilityfor the group choice (they are treated equally). Conversely, when group members havediverse preferences, the average utility loss of competing members is still the largest,but the differences in their utility is the lowest (they all get a similar but lower utility).Some of the findings of our simulation experiments also match observations made inreal group discussions and they pave the way for new user studies aimed at furthersupporting the reported findings.
Digital Object Identifer (DOI):
User Modeling and User-Adapted Interaction
National University of Ireland, Cork (UCC)
Open access repository: