Team size, dispersion, and social loafing in technology-supported teams: A perspective on the theory of moral disengagement

Omar A. Alnuaimi, Lionel P. Robert, Likoebe M. Maruping

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    178 Citations (Scopus)

    Abstract

    Social loafing is the tendency of individuals to withhold contributions to a task in a team setting. Team size and dispersion are two primary drivers of social loafing in technology-supported team settings. However, the mechanisms through which these drivers affect social loafing are not well understood. Consequently, the objective of this study is to identify the cognitive mechanisms that mediate the effect of team size and dispersion on social loafing in technology-supported teams. Drawing on the theory of moral disengagement, we posit that three primary cognitive mechanisms-diffusion of responsibility, attribution of blame, and dehumanization-will mediate the effect of team size and dispersion on social loafing. We conducted a laboratory study involving 140 students randomly assigned to 32 teams performing a brainstorming task using group systems software. The results show that diffusion of responsibility, attribution of blame, and dehumanization all mediate (partially) the effects of team size on social loafing. Meanwhile, only dehumanization mediates (fully) the effect of dispersion on social loafing.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)203-230
    Number of pages28
    JournalJournal of Management Information Systems
    Volume27
    Issue number1
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - Jul 1 2010

    Keywords

    • computer-mediated communication
    • creativity
    • electronic brainstorming
    • idea generation
    • individuals in teams
    • social loafing
    • team performance
    • team productivity
    • technology-mediated collaborative environments
    • technologysupported team efficacy
    • theory of moral disengagement
    • virtual collaboration
    • virtual teams

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Management Information Systems
    • Computer Science Applications
    • Management Science and Operations Research
    • Information Systems and Management

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