Predicting strength of consensus in small groups

TR Number



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title


Virginia Tech


This study was conducted to determine if the strength of consensus in small groups could be predicted from group members' perceptions of information usefulness and shared understanding. Eight groups of five and two groups of four subjects participated in a group consensus exercise designed to allow mathematical measurement of the consensus achieved. The subjects also completed questionnaires designed to measure their perceptions of information usefulness, shared understanding, and strength of consensus.

The findings of this study suggest that shared understanding is a strong predictor of the strength of consensus while information usefulness is only slightly predictive. This study is the first step toward development of management tools to measure consensus in small groups when no mathematical algorithm is possible. The goal of this and further research is to provide managers with a way to know how strongly workers support actions they have agreed· to take in order to make participatory management more effective. Tools such as these can also be used in the public policy arena. When groups of concerned citizens are brought together, these toolS can be used to see if the consensus achieved is really representative of everyone's views.