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Decision-Emergence Theory (DET)

Explanation of Theory:

Decision-Emergence Theory is an explanation of the complex communicative process that problem-solving groups go through in reaching consensus about a decision. It consists of three basic concepts that include the act, interact and double-interact. These three concepts will transcend during the four distinct phases of group development.

Theorist: Fisher

Date:  1968

Primary Article:

      Fisher, B.A (1968). Decision emergence: A process model of verbal task behavior for decision-making groups. Unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, University of Minnesota

Individual Interpretations:

Decision Emergence Theory offers that a group will go through a process before making a decision. Members of groups are looking for affirmations from the other group members to tell them what they do and do not like about the proposed decisions. It is not a simple process and that should be understood.

Metatheoretical Assumptions:

Ontological Assumption:
Scientific research suggest that human nature is deterministic. Humans do not have control what they do.

Epistemological Assumption:
Scientific research suggests that there is one truth, or big T truth.

Axiological Assumption:
Research should not be value laden. Research offers objective results.


Explanatory Power - DET offers a clear explanation of what groups will do. DET says that a groups will come together and talk about a problem. They will bounce ideas off of one another to a certain extent (depending on the current phase of group development) and conclude on a decision.

Predictive Power - DET suggests that all groups will use this same method and will go through the same process.

Parsimony - DET is a very simple theory. It says groups will go through a complex method of communication while solving problems.

Falsifiablity - DET can be proved false, but it would be better to outline the exact complex routine that occurs first.

Internal Consistency - DET makes sense in the respect that groups will collaborate when making decisions. It also corralates with research on group development.

Heuristic Provocativeness - DET falls short in this category because no new hypothesis can be advanced. DET suggests that this is what happens.

Organizing Power - Little light in this area to. It could offer a more concrete set of what really happens, as opposed to complex.

Ideas and Implications:

DET is the result of over 40 years of research. It is still developing but is very self-explanatory. Groups will go through many phases and as a part of that the group will come to a consensus on decisions. Groups are becoming more and more prevalent in today's society so it is instrumental that we learn what is going on in groups and what the implications of them are.


When a group gets together to make a decision DET suggests that three things will happen. An act, interact and double interact. Here is an example of those in action.

Act - I like oysters.
Interact - Well, I like oysters too.
Double interact - Good, let's order some oysters for our next group meeting.

Relevant Research:

     Poole, M. S. (1981). Decision development in small groups I: A comparison of two models. Communication Monographs, 48, 1-24.
     Fisher, B. A., Ellis, D. (1990). Small group communication (3rd ed.). Ney York: McGraw-Hill.
     Bales, R. F. (1950). Interaction process analysis: A method for the study of small groups. Cambridge, MA: Addision-Wesley.
     Crowell, L., & Scheidel, T. M. (1961). Categories for analysis of idea development in discussion groups. Journal of Social Psychology, 54, 155-168.
     Fisher, B. A., Hawes, L. C. (1971). An interact system model: Generating a grounded theory of small groups. Quarterly Journal of Speech, 42, 444-453.

Location in Eight (8) Primary Communication Theory Textbooks:

     Anderson, R., & Ross, V. (1998). Questions of communication: A practical introduction to theory (2nd ed.). New York: St. Martin's Press.  N/A

     Cragan, J. F., & Shields, D.C. (1998). Understanding communication theory: The communicative forces for human action. Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon. pp. 224-225.

     Griffin, E. (2000). A first look at communication theory (4th ed.). Boston, MA: McGraw-Hill. N/A

     Griffin, E. (1997). A first look at communication theory (3rd ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill.  N/A

      Infante, D. A., Rancer, A. S., & Womack, D. F. (1997). Building communication theory (3rd ed.). Prospect Heights, IL: Waveland Press. N/A

      Littlejohn, S. W. (1999). Theories of human communication (6th ed). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth. N/A

      West, R., & Turner, L. H. (2000). Introducing communication theory: Analysis and application. Mountain View, CA: Mayfield.  N/A

       Wood, J. T. (1997). Communication theories in action: An introduction. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.  N/A