The power dynamics of crisis decision-making teams: A test of the threat-rigidity thesis

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Gang Xue
Cite this article:  Xue, G. (2022). The power dynamics of crisis decision-making teams: A test of the threat-rigidity thesis. Social Behavior and Personality: An international journal, 50(9), e11714.


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According to the threat-rigidity thesis, a crisis leads to a constriction in control of a group, whereby the people with power dominate the decision-making process. I posed two competing hypotheses to extend this theory, one focused on a leader-centralized team power dynamic and the other on an expert-centralized team power dynamic. Crisis decision-making teams were formed, each with three members: a leader, an expert, and a powerless team member. The results from 40 teams (120 individuals) suggest that when the expert in the team was competent, they were more likely to be nominated as the most influential person. However, when the expert was incompetent, the leader was more likely to be nominated as the most influential person. In addition, the groups were likely to come to a correct choice in group discussion regardless of who was the most influential person. These results challenge threat-rigidity theory by suggesting groups can function adaptively in response to crisis situations.

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