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Individual and group decision making in Kazakhstan

“Two heads are better than one”, goes one saying. “Two many cooks spoil the broth”, goes another. The truth is somewhere between these aphorisms. In our course work we examined the works of such scientists in the field of individual and group decision making such as a behaviorist Isabel Briggs Myers, Maris Matinsons, Herbert Simon, the author of Predispositioning theory, Aron Katsenelinboigen [3; 456].

As a result we decided to implement these different theories on the example of the Republic of Kazakhstan, its government, society and political structure. We know that government is a form of society organization. Every society in its turn consists of individuals, which are joined into large and small groups. These groups have their leaders. Besides, every state can be lead by the group of people or one person, represented by the kings, queens, presidents, Parliament. It means that individuals or groups of people make decisions. Top political leaders, for instance, determine their political organizations goals, what programs, laws, visions to offer, how best organize the process of economical and social development, or where to locate a political residence. The structure of government depends on the country and the type of the power. Without any hesitation, every state, every nation, all of them make decisions of varying importance day by day. However the process of taking some decisions requires a great responsibility. It’s well-known that the modern world has national or cross-cultural differences, thus the process of making individual and group decisions requires taking into account the needs, preferences, values of different people, the interaction with the environment and the invariant choice it leads to. Kazakhstan is a republic. President is the head of the state, a leader and an individual at the same time. The president of our country Nursultan Nazarbayev can make his own decisions as a leader of the government in the questions of war and piece in the country. As a leader of the country he represents the interests of Kazakhstan among different global political organizations for instance in the UNO, UNESCO, the European Union. However, the president is also the head of the family, the father of his children, and the close man to his friends. According to each of these social or political roles the president makes decisions as an individual or a member of some group. The more obvious of these decisions might include whether to buy some present to children’s birthday, how much effort to put forward once at the negotiations and how to share the responsibilities. In Kazakhstan there is another political institution called Parliament. Parliament is a group of politicians, who discusses the laws and rules, gives advice to the President and can veto the wrong decision of the President. These are only several examples of individual and group decision making. So all individuals in every organization regularly engage in decision making, that is, they make choices from among two or more alternatives. Undoubtedly, many of these choices are almost reflex actions undertaken with little conscious thought. Your relatives or friends ask you to give your voice for certain candidate during the elections and you comply thinking that their opinion is persuasive and right. In such instances, choices are still being made even though they don’t require much thought. But when individuals confront new or important decisions, they can be expected to reason them out thoughtfully. Alternatives will be developed. The positive and negative points will be weighed. The result is that what people do during their life is influenced by their decision processes. Among the main advantages of individual decision making is speed. An individual doesn’t have to arrange a meeting and spend time discussing different variants. Individual decisions also have clear accountability (you know who made the decision and, therefore, who is responsible for the decision’s result). A third strong point of individual decisions is following consistent values (common thoughts and believes). Group decisions can suffer from power struggles in the groups. This effect is best illustrated by decisions of the Parliament of Kazakhstan, senate or mazhylis. The reason is that there a lot of representatives of different political parties, with different level of education, social status and characters.

In the process of group decision making we can determine the following advantages: groups generate more complete information and knowledge (every individual brings his own experience making the decision more efficient); they offer increased diversity of views (more ways can be found); so groups generate higher-quality decisions; finally, groups lead to increased acceptance of a solution (each member of a group supports each other that to reach the best result).

When we speak about individual decision making we should also speak about so called The Six-step Rational Decision-Making Model. We shall examine it on the example of Kazakhstan. Kazakhstan we can examine as an individual represented by the president. The model begins by defining the problem. A problem exists when there is a difference or confrontation between an existing and a desired state of affairs. The world crisis is a real problem for all states. Kazakhstan also faced to difficulties with national budget and unemployment. It sounds not so pleasant but the political leaders of all countries demonstrated poor decision-making skills. They didn’t overlook a problem or incorrectly defined it, because even terrorism placed the second position.

Once a decision maker has defined the problem, he or she needs to identify the decision criteria that will be important in solving the problem. In this step, the decision maker is determining what’s necessary to making the decision. This step brings the decision maker’s interests, values, and personal preferences into the process. Here we can determine what is important for every state in the period of crisis. One state is interested in economical development, another in finding the best ways for solving the problems with unemployment and lack of national money.

The criteria identified are rarely all equal in importance. So the third step requires the decision maker to weight the previously identified criteria in order to give them correct priority in the decision. The fourth step requires the decision maker to generate possible alternatives that could be useful in resolving the problem. Once the alternatives have been generated, the decision maker critically analyzes and evaluates each one. The advantages and disadvantages of each alternative become evident as they are compared to the criteria and weights established in the second and third steps. The final step requires choosing the optimal decision. This is done by evaluating each alternative against the weighed criteria and selecting the alternative with the highest effectiveness.

Some of the decisions can be very difficult to make because it can be connected with two equal choices, like to choose the ecological welfare or material benefits. For instance, in the period of crisis a lot of industrial plants should produce the same quantity even more products however they pollute the environment. People who work for these plants suffer from hard diseases but they need money that to keep their families. If a person doesn’t want or can’t work nobody pay money to him and he can’t let anything he wants (food, clothes, education cost money).

Thus, there is a question do people always make rational decisions? Do they carefully find problems, identify all important criteria, use their creative skills to identify all possible alternatives, and really evaluate every alternative to find the optimal choice? In some situations they do. When people are faced with a simple problem having few alternative courses of action and when they shouldn’t spend a lot of time for searching all the aspects of a problem. However, such situations are very rare. Most decisions in the real world don’t follow the rational model. For instance, people prefer more comfortable solutions. Good politicians usually use this human weakness and during the elections try represent simpler and clearer models of further society development. In such instances we speak about the bounded rationality (limited rationality) or intuition, this definition was offered by Herbert Simon. The elections of the political candidate are a good example. Not so much people make a detailed analysis of the political situations in the country; know the names of the main political parties, even the names and the visions of presented politicians. When we make such choice we usually rely on the opinion of the close people, like friends, colleagues and relatives. Sometimes we evaluate the appearance of a person, the voice, the social status or education. Also if we don’t have the candidate we need, we can choose anyone without paying attention to his personality or professionalism. Another example is if people are forced to make the certain choice. Usually we can meet these situations in the organizations with power cultures. Thus in real life in the process of the individual decision making we may follow the shortest ways. Scientists offer three main shortcuts. They are availability heuristic (the way of evaluating two possible opportunities), representative heuristic (the way of following someone’s example) and escalation of commitment (the way of following the habit). These ways as a rule demonstrate the individual preconditions of human behavior. However we can find some examples on the model of Kazakhstan. For instance, when in society we face to several problems we need to choose the most difficult for the previous solving. This winter there was a lot of snow and in spring some regions suffered from the streams of waters. From the first sight it’s very dangerous but at the same time not less people suffer from the accidents on the roads, earthquakes or mass diseases [2; 213].

Kazakhstan is developing day by day. However, our state is on the way to following the European standards in education, economics, industry and fashion that to become a competitive country. During this process we shouldn’t forget about some differences in social, cultural, economical, political fields according to Maris Martinsons. To become a competitive state doesn’t mean to become the copy, it requires to choose and to develop the useful features, and to create something new and special.

The Soviet Union existed for a long period of time. When there was a necessity to reorganize the society in the period of global changes in the world, for many people it was the most difficult period of time. The Soviet Union was the strongest habit for Soviet people and they wanted to preserve the previous structure of society. It was the shortest and more comfortable way of life for them. After this period of time Kazakhstan became an independent state, however even now many elderly people didn’t get habit of modern society and way of life. Besides, our modern societies some time ago might not understand some actions of the next generation. Thus, we can see that human beings always follow the shortest ways of decision-making.

There is another important question in the field of individual decision-making – decision making styles. Now we shall examine four different individual approaches to making decisions which every politician has to take into account. According to behaviorist Isabel Briggs Myers people differ along two points. The first is their way of thinking. Some people are logical and rational. They process information serially. In contrast some people are intuitive and creative. They perceive things as a whole. The other is a tolerance for ambiguity. Some people have a high need to structure information in ways that minimize ambiguity; others are able to process many thoughts at the same time [5; 123].

Practically all European countries have the directive style of decision-making. Thus, we can see the strict rules in business, education and economical fields. The European political leaders try to be more short and clear during their speeches. The citizens follow the rules and don’t need extra information for implementing these rules.

Representatives of Eastern cultures tend to be more analytical in decision-making. They weigh every word. Every word has several meanings and special context. We suppose the people of Kazakhstan tend to use conceptual and behavioral styles. Our state is multicultural and includes the features of different nations. We have a combination of styles in Kazakhstan. Besides, our state is in the process of development.

Now we shall examine the group decision making on the model of Kazakhstan too. When we speak about group decision making we should take into account the types of groups, their norms, and the level of cohesiveness. For example, the command group can be represented by the president of Kazakhstan and Parliament. The president of Kazakhstan and members of Parliament are joined into the command and Parliament has certain responsibilities before the President. The next type is a task group, for instance represented by some political party which acts for realizing the common goal or task. The example of an interest group is negotiations between different political leaders about the global problems of the world. Friendship groups usually appear in every day life, when a person needs to have a rest or to spend the time with close people.

Every type of groups has its own norms. In political organizations the norms are more strict and certain. The political leaders should wear business suits, know the rules of ethics, and have higher education and good speech. Another norm is connected with social status. Political leaders should have their own families that to show the example of good family management and shouldn’t behave as other people. The norms also depend on cultural differences. Kazakhstan is a very hospitable country and it’s necessary to pay a lot of attention to the guests here. There are some norms which regulate the relations in the group. In the government the punctuality plays a major role, because the decisions of the government are very important. If the government doesn’t make its work in time, the citizens of the country couldn’t get the salary or pension. Elections are another example of the norm. It’s the norm of an established form of communication between the government and society. Without any hesitation we shouldn’t forget about national holidays. We celebrate them on certain dates and don’t work during this period of time. School students also have their vacations in summer, autumn, winter and spring. Besides, every citizen of our country has special personal documents for identifying the personality in different official and nonofficial organizations. Sometimes, we don’t think that when we pay money for bread in the shop it’s also a norm. Many years ago, people paid by the gold, silver or by people. In addition to the official marriage is still popular among young people; however we can meet rarely the religious marriage. Old norms are changing into modern norms after some time.

Except norms group decision making can be defined by its size and cohesiveness, composition and status. The largest groups of our Universe are states. They are also characterized by the highest level of cohesiveness and status. The size of the state depends on the size of its territory. The cohesiveness often depends on the mentality of the people. For instance, Kazakhstan is a multicultural country which includes more than 100 different nationalities, supports different religions, customs and traditions. Besides, the political structure of Kazakhstan represented by the democracy, it means that government listens to the opinion of the people. Kazakhstan has its own status as a republic, as an independent and sovereign state. The symbol of the state cohesiveness is a family, because in its case the needs of the state become the needs of the family. A person, who has a family, is more responsible and more reliable in every day life.

There are two major approaches to group decision making: authoritarian and group approaches. When we speak about the authoritarian decision making we can look at the political system of Kazakhstan. However we don’t have completely authoritarian approach, because there is Parliament, which is a consultative institution in our state.

The group decision making is based on the Vroom-Yetton leadership model. Vroom V.H., and Jago, A.G. in their work “The New Leadership: Managing Participation in Organisations” define three styles of group decision making as “command” style, “consultative” style and “consensus” style. The first style we will research is “command” style, which refers to a situation where the leader behaves as he wants and doesn’t ask the opinion of other members of a group. We can meet this style in the historical examples of some ancient states as Sparta or Rome where the leader of the state had unlimited power. The “consultative” style refers to the situation where the leader tries to follow the needs of the group; however the leader is lead by his interests. Usually we can meet this situation in difficult periods of time. One of the examples is the World War II; Hitler could realize the dreams of the major part of the German people. He showed the attractive vision. The representatives of the highest race had the opportunity to have the best and the happiest life. However, not everybody was agreeing to change the life. The “consensus” style of group decision making refers to a situation where the leader understands the needs of the group and in the process of discussion tries to find the optimal solution. The President of Kazakhstan uses this style of decision making. Besides, the principles of democracy require listening to the opinion of society [4; 67].

Groupthink is a type of thought exhibited by group members who try to minimize conflict and reach consensus without critically testing, analyzing and evaluating ideas. Individual creativity, uniqueness, and independent thinking are lost in the pursuit of group cohesiveness, as are the advantages of reasonable balance in choice and thought that might normally be obtained by making decisions as a group. During groupthink, members of the group avoid promoting viewpoints outside the comfort zone of consensus thinking. A variety of motives for this may exist such as a desire to avoid being seen as foolish, or a desire to avoid embarrassing or angering other members of the group. Groupthink may cause groups to make hasty, irrational decisions, where individual doubts are set aside, for fear of upsetting the group’s balance. The term is frequently used pejoratively, with hindsight.

Groupthink being a coinage and, admittedly, a loaded one a working definition is in order. We are not talking about mere instinctive conformity it is, after all, a perennial failing of mankind. What we are talking about is a rationalized conformity—an open, articulate philosophy which holds that group values are not only expedient but right and good as well. Irving Janis, who did extensive work on the subject, defined it as: a mode of thinking that people engage in when they are deeply involved in a cohesive in-group, when the members' strivings for unanimity override their motivation to realistically appraise alternative courses of action.

Highly cohesive groups are much more likely to engage in groupthink, because their cohesiveness often correlates with unspoken understanding and the ability to work together with minimal explanations (e.g. telegraphic speech). Vandana Shiva refers to a lack of diversity in worldview as a "monoculture of the mind" while James Surowiecki warns against loss of the "cognitive diversity" that comes from having team members whose educational and occupational backgrounds differ. The closer group members are in outlook, the less likely they are to raise questions that might break their cohesion.

Although Janis sees group cohesion as the most important antecedent to groupthink, he states that it will not invariably lead to groupthink: 'It is a necessary condition, but not a sufficient condition' [1; 30].

The effectiveness of decision-making groups can be affected by a variety of factors. Thus, it is not possible to suggest that "group decision making is always better" or "group decision making is always worse" than individual decision-making. For example, due to the increased demographic diversity in the workforce, a considerable amount of research has focused on diversity's effect on the effectiveness of group functioning. In general, this research suggests that demographic diversity can sometimes have positive or negative effects, depending on the specific situation. Demographically diverse group may have to over-come social barriers and difficulties in the early stages of group formation and this may slow down the group. However, some research indicates that diverse groups, if effectively managed, tend to generate a wider variety and higher quality of decision alternatives than demographically homogeneous groups.

Despite the fact that there are many situational factors that affect the functioning of groups, research through the years does offer some general guidance about the relative strengths and weaknesses inherent in group decision making. The following section summarizes the major pros and cons of decision making in groups.

Group decision-making, ideally, takes advantage of the diverse strengths and expertise of its members. By tapping the unique qualities of group members, it is possible that the group can generate a greater number of alternatives that are of higher quality than the individual. If a greater number of higher quality alternatives are generated, then it is likely that the group will eventually reach a superior problem solution than the individual.

Group decision-making may also lead to a greater collective understanding of the eventual course of action chosen, since it is possible that many affected by the decision implementation actually had input into the decision. This may promote a sense of "ownership" of the decision, which is likely to contribute to a greater acceptance of the course of action selected and greater commitment on the part of the affected individuals to make the course of action successful.

There are many potential disadvantages to group decision-making. Groups are generally slower to arrive at decisions than individuals, so sometimes it is difficult to utilize them in situations where decisions must be made very quickly. One of the most often cited problems is groupthink. Irving Janis, in his 1972 book Victims of Groupthink, defined the phenomenon as the "deterioration of mental efficiency, reality testing, and moral judgment resulting from in-group pressure." Groupthink occurs when individuals in a group feel pressure to conform to what seems to be the dominant view in the group. Dissenting views of the majority opinion are suppressed and alternative courses of action are not fully explored.

Research suggests that certain characteristics of groups contribute to groupthink. In the first place, if the group does not have an agreed upon process for developing and evaluating alternatives, it is possible that an incomplete set of alternatives will be considered and that different courses of action will not be fully explored. Many of the formal decision-making processes (e.g., nominal group technique and brain-storming) are designed, in part, to reduce the potential for groupthink by ensuring that group members offer and consider a large number of decision alternatives. Secondly, if a powerful leader dominates the group, other group members may quickly conform to the dominant view. Additionally, if the group is under stress and/ or time pressure, groupthink may occur. Finally, studies suggest that highly cohesive groups are more susceptible to groupthink.

Group polarization is another potential disadvantage of group decision-making. This is the tendency of the group to converge on more extreme solutions to a problem. The "risky shift" phenomenon is an example of polarization; it occurs when the group decision is a riskier one than any of the group members would have made individually. This may result because individuals in a group sometimes do not feel as much responsibility and accountability for the actions of the group as they would if they were making the decision alone.

Decision-making in groups is a fact of organizational life for many individuals. Because so many individuals spend at least some of their work time in decision-making groups, groups are the subjects of hundreds of research studies each year. Despite this, there is still much to learn about the development and functioning of groups. Research is likely to continue to focus on identifying processes that will make group decision-making more efficient and effective. It is also likely to examine how the internal characteristics of groups (demographic and cognitive diversity) and the external contingencies faced by groups affect their functioning.



  1. Blackhart, G.C.,& Kline, J.P. (2005). Individual differences in anterior EEG asymetry between high and low defensive individuals during a rumination/distraction task. Personality and Individual Differences, 39, 427-437.
  2. Charles H. Kepner, Benjamin B. Tregoe (1965). The Rational manager: A Systematic Approach to Problem Solving and Decision –Making. McGraw-Hill, June 1965.
  3. Drake, R.A. (1993). Processing persuasive arguments: 2. Discounting of truth and relevance as a function of agreement and manipulated activation asymmetry. Journal of Research in Personality, 27, 184-196.
  4. Hinsz, V.B., and G.S. Nickell. “Positive Reactions to Working in Groups in a study of Group and Individual Goal DecisionMaking,” Group Dynamics 8 (2004): 253264.
  5. Janis, I. Victims of Groupthink. Houghton Mifflin: Boston, 1972.

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