Bounded awareness

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Information discussed by group has a key influence on any final decision it makes. Information that is only mentally considered by individual members but not mentioned out loud, have little influence on the eventual decision. The awareness of group is bounded by information that becomes part of the discussion.


Groups collectively process more information than any individual member does. There is a great pool of information from different divisions. Sharing unique information is a critical source of group potential — both in absolute sense and in comparison to individual decision making. However, individuals’ tendency to focus more on shared information than on unique unshared information may lead to errors.

Bounded awareness

Groups discuss shared information more than unshared information. Initially, they are pooled together to share information but end up spending time discussing already shared knowledge. Groups face bounded awareness.


Strasser and Titus (1985) conducted an experiment with college students. They asked to choose between three candidates running for student council president. Data for the candidates was created with the intention of making candidate A the preferred choice. Individuals and groups had access to all information about all candidates.

Then individuals were choosing independently, 67% chose candidate A. However, then they combined into groups, the number increased to 83%.

Alternative version of the experiment indented to stimulate the nature of information. Some information was shared by all group members and some was unshared., including some positive information about candidate A. This unshared information was known only to one member of the group. Before interacting in their groups, individuals had little reason to support candidate A (because they were missing most of the positive information).

In the individual condition, 23% chose candidate A. Then individuals were put into groups, only 18% chose candidate A.

Strategies for better decision making

Groups should be encouraged to recognise bounded awareness of unshared information and create structures to overcome these tendencies. Here are some strategies to encourage members share information. Managers could forewarn the group in advance of the unique knowledge of different members. They could identify expertise present in group before dissuasions even begins.

Adapted from

Bazerman, M.H. and Moore, D.A., 1994. Judgment in managerial decision making (p. 226). New York: Wiley.

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