When a majority rule voting procedure is used, members of the voting majority typically perceive the majority rule process as fairer, feel more satisfied with the decision outcome, become more accepting of the decision outcome, and work harder to implement the decision than do members of the minority (e.g., Azzi, 1992; Johnson & Johnson, 1994). These findings have been consistent across studies using different methodologies, including whether (a) majority and minority membership status was known prior to a majority rule decision, (b) voicing one's preferences included the reasons for one's position, and (c) participants were labeled as majority or minority members (Azzi, 1992; Castore & Murnighan, 1978; Miller, Jackson, Mueller, & Schersching, 1987). Consequently, equality of input, both in the opportunity to voice one's views and in the weight assigned to the expression of voice by virtue of a "one person, one vote" procedure, does not appear to be sufficient to compensate minority members for a negative outcome.(1)
Other research has suggested that decision makers who implement a nonrepresentative decision (e.g., one that follows the sentiments of the minority) risk decreasing the perceived fairness of the decision-making process. Miller et al. (1987) reported that majority members who did not receive their preferences were less accepting of a decision than were minority members who did not receive their preferences. Furthermore, when minority members received their preferences, they were less accepting of the decision than were majority members who received their preferences. Majority and minority members all felt the decision process was fairest when the decision maker made a representative decision--that is, one that was consistent with the sentiments of the majority. Stronger negative reactions for majority members receiving an unfavorable outcome and minority members receiving a favorable outcome may have occurred because attempts to solicit their opinions were perceived as disingenuous, causing frustration, and/or because agreed upon procedures should have been used to determine the outcome (e.g., Baldwin, Magjuka, & Loher, 1991; Folger, 1987).
Studies documenting majority/minority differences have concentrated on perceptual reactions (e.g., Miller et al., 1987). However, based on findings in the procedural justice and goal-setting literatures, differences in majority and minority perceptions of fairness may be associated with corresponding differences in performance. When the amount of voice-based participation was varied in non-goal-setting situations, researchers reported that a perception of procedural fairness was an antecedent of task performance (Earley & Lind, 1987, Experiment 1; Hunton & Price, 1997). Similarly, in goal-setting situations, procedures allowing participant voice were associated with higher levels of task commitment and performance (Earley & Kanfer, 1985).
To examine the impact of a majority rule social decision scheme on performance, we trained participants on a payroll data entry task. Following training, participants privately voiced their preferences to a decision maker regarding three attributes of computer software. Participants were aware that the decision maker would use the preferences of the majority to develop software used by all participants during a timed performance trial.
In examining majority/minority performance, the focus was on differences resulting from varying levels of motivation rather than on differences in computer software. However, minority members who do not receive their preferences may be at a performance disadvantage resulting from an incompatibility between their skills and the computer software selected by the majority. As a result, the investigators attempted to minimize potential incompatibility. Pilot testing provided reasonable assurance that any performance differences between majority and minority members would be consistent with lower levels of motivation.(2)
Based on previous findings, more positive perceptions of fairness, higher outcome satisfaction, and higher levels of performance were expected for majority members when a decision maker made a representative decision. The researchers also expected that violation of a majority rule procedure would have a stronger impact on majority than minority members. That is, majority members not receiving any of their preferences were expected to have less positive perceptions and lower levels of performance than minority members not receiving their preferences; minority members receiving all of their preferences were expected to have less positive perceptions and lower levels of performance than majority members receiving all of their preferences.
In examining majority/minority reactions, an intermediate-outcome condition and a control condition were included, neither of which had been included in previous studies (Castore & Murnighan, 1978; Miller et al., 1987). In the intermediate-outcome condition, majority/minority participants received one of their preferences to test whether providing minority members a token outcome would have beneficial effects. The control participants (individual condition) were included to further evaluate the impact of a decision maker who does (or does not) follow the preferences of the majority. The control participants were not involved in a collective decision in which one decision had to be made to represent the interests of all the participants; instead, they were led to believe that the software, subject to computer limitations, could be tailored for each individual.
Participants. Subjects (N = 167) were recruited from sections of an introductory course in behavioral science and management at a large southwestern university. Approximately half the participants were male and employed at least part-time; mean age was 22 years. All subjects received research credit for participation.
Experimental design. A 3 (membership status) x 3 (outcome favorability) fully crossed fixed factorial design was used with 17 to 19 participants in each experimental cell. There were three levels of the membership status factor (majority, minority, or individual). Outcome favorability was manipulated by providing participants with either none, one, or all three of their screen preferences.
Within each experimental session, random assignment was used to determine the number of preferences a participant received (none, one, or all three) and whether participants were of majority or minority status. Participants in the majority/minority conditions and in the individual condition were tested in separate experimental sessions. Experimental sessions, each consisting of 7 to 10 participants, were randomly assigned to conditions.
Overview of procedures. Participants were seated at every other computer in a computer laboratory containing 18 networked personal computers. Each computer was surrounded by a three-sided partition that prevented observation and interaction with other subjects; however, each participant could easily observe the experimenter (decision maker) who was on a raised platform at the front of the room.
At the beginning of the experiment, participants were asked for assistance in designing computer software via the use of two payroll data entry screens. The first screen, used for a 5-min practice exercise, was called the practice screen. The purpose of the practice exercise was to familiarize participants with the task of entering payroll data from time cards and to permit the participants to express their …