Preventing undesirable effects of mutual trust and the development of skepticism in virtual groups by applying the knowledge and information awareness approach

  • Tanja Engelmann
  • Richard Kolodziej
  • Friedrich W. Hesse


Empirical studies have proven the effectiveness of the knowledge and information awareness approach of Engelmann and colleagues for improving collaboration and collaborative problem-solving performance of spatially distributed group members. This approach informs group members about both their collaborators’ knowledge structures and their collaborators’ information. In the current study, we investigated whether this implicit approach reduces undesirable effects of mutual trust and mutual skepticism. Trust is an important influencing factor with regard to behavior and performance of groups. High mutual trust can have a negative impact on group effectiveness because it reduces mutual control and, as a result, the detection of the others’ mistakes. In an empirical study, 20 triads collaborating with the knowledge and information awareness approach were compared with 20 triads collaborating without this approach. The members of a triad were spatially distributed and participated in a computer-supported collaboration. The results demonstrated that the availability of the knowledge and information awareness approach overrides the negative impact of too much mutual trust and counteracts the development of mutual skepticism. This study contributes to further clarifying the impact of trust on effectiveness and efficiency of virtual groups depending upon different situational contexts.


Computer-supported collaborative problem solving Group awareness Knowledge and information awareness Mutual skepticism Mutual trust 



This research project was supported by the German Research Foundation (DFG), by the European Social Fund, and by the Ministry of Science, Research, and the Arts Baden-Württemberg (Germany).


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Copyright information

© International Society of the Learning Sciences, Inc. and Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Tanja Engelmann
    • 1
  • Richard Kolodziej
    • 1
  • Friedrich W. Hesse
    • 1
  1. 1.Knowledge Media Research CenterTuebingenGermany

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