Various social processes in decision-making groups are considered detrimental to the quality of decisions. It is often assumed that removing the ability for groups to exert strong social influence on its members improves group decisions. Group decision support systems (GDSSs) are increasingly used to remedy the social faults of the decision-making process in groups. In these systems, anonymity is seen as a tool to reduce the impact of the group over its members, and therefore as the key to improved group performance.
Postmes, T. & Lea, M. (2000). Social processes and group decision making: Anonymity in group decision support systems. Ergonomics, 43, 1152-1274. (Special issue on “Contemporary theory and methods in the analysis of team working”).
This meta-analytic review examines the assumption that anonymity in GDSSs is beneficial for group decision-making on a range of performance indicators. In 6 meta-analyses of 12 independent investigations there is no support for this hypothesis. The only reliable effect of anonymity was to lead to more contributions, especially more critical ones.
An alternative model is presented to account for the findings. This model argues that performance in decision-making groups depends on the social context and relevant social norms as well as on system characteristics such as anonymity. It is concluded that the integration of anonymity into phases of group decision support does not guarantee improved performance.