Abstract: Individuals have been shown to adaptively select decision strategies depending on the environment structure. Two experiments extended this research to the group level. Subjects (N = 240) worked either individually or in two-person groups, or dyads, on a multi-attribute paired-comparison task. They were randomly assigned to two different environments that favored one of two prototypical decision strategies—weighted additive or take-the-best (between-subjects design in Experiment 1 and within-subject design in Experiment 2). Performance measures revealed that both individuals and dyads learned to adapt over time. A higher starting and overall performance rate in the environment in which weighted additive performed best led to the conclusion that weighted additive served as a default strategy. When this default strategy had to be replaced, because the environment structure favored take-the-best, the superior adaptive capacity of dyads became observable in the form of a steeper learning rate. Analyses of nominal dyads indicate that real dyads performed at the level of the best individuals. Fine-grained analyses of information-search data are presented. Results thus point to the strong moderating role of the environment structure when comparing individual with group performance and are discussed within the framework of adaptive strategy selection.
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