Social and Personality Psychology

Group Processes Research Lab

Jared Kenworthy, Professor

Dr. Kenworthy’s research interests include intergroup bias, conflict and threat; intergroup contact; consensus estimation and social projection; crossed and multiple categorizations.

Paul Paulus, Professor Emeritus

Dr. Paulus’ fields of Interest include group creativity, group decision making, teamwork, environmental psychology, and organizational behavior.

Although creativity is typically seen as an individual process, much creative activity takes place in groups and teams. The focus of Dr. Paulus and Dr. Kenworthy’s research is to understand the processes involved in group creativity and team innovation. They have discovered many factors that can enhance creativity in groups. However, only a few studies have been able to demonstrate that creative groups can outperform the creative efforts of a similar number of individuals. They are collaborating with scholars at four other universities to develop a comprehensive model of the group creative process and its application to a wide variety of creative activities. This research is supported by several grants from the National Science Foundation and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

Dr. Kenworthy and Dr. Paulus have been particularly interested in group creativity or the ability of groups to generate novel ideas. Much research has focused on the fact that groups often inhibit creativity. They have examined factors that contribute to low creativity in groups and ways to increase group creativity. They developed a model of group creativity that delineates the various social and cognitive factors that influence group creativity. Interestingly, group members do not have a good sense of the effectiveness of groups. Most people have an illusion that their performance in groups is superior to what they could have done on their own, even when the group has performed poorly. Unfortunately, group performance tends to go in the direction of the least productive members. Inducing a sense of competition in the group can counteract this tendency.

Also, during the sharing process, there may be a lot of cognitive interference. Exchanging ideas by means of computers or writing can be useful in overcoming some of these problems. However, deriving cognitive benefits from ideas exchanged in this fashion requires careful attention to the ideas exchanged and some time for processing them. Minor procedural changes that affect these processes can have strong effects on the idea generation performance. A recent emphasis has been on understanding the decision-making processes involved in selecting creative ideas and the potential of using computers to enhance group creativity. Although much of the research has been done on laboratory groups, they are also interested in examining group creativity in educational and organizational settings.