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Is too much cognitive conflict in strategic decision‐making teams too bad?

Satyanarayana Parayitam (University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, North Dartmouth, Massachusetts, USA)
Robert S. Dooley (Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, Oklahoma, USA)

International Journal of Conflict Management

ISSN: 1044-4068

Article publication date: 4 October 2011




Past research on strategic decision making has emphasized the influence of cognitive conflict and affective conflict on the decision outcomes. Early researchers demonstrated that affective conflict has negative outcomes whereas cognitive conflict has positive outcomes. While the negative outcomes of affective conflict remain non‐controversial, the positive outcomes of cognitive conflict are not always consistent. The research on the outcomes of cognitive conflict is perplexedly mixed. Taking an information processing perspective, the present study aims to examine the relationship between cognitive conflict on decision outcomes, while controlling for affective conflict.


The authors surveyed 109 hospitals in the USA and collected data from top management teams (CEOs and senior executives). After performing confirmatory factor analysis of the measures used, the data were analyzed using hierarchical regression techniques to examine the curvilinear relationships between cognitive conflict among the teams and its influence on decision quality and decision understanding.


Analysis of team data supports the hypotheses that there exists curvilinear (inverted‐U shaped) relationship between cognitive conflict and decision quality, and between cognitive conflict and decision commitment.

Research limitations/implications

Since the data were collected from self‐report measures, limitations of social desirability bias may be inherent.

Practical implications

Evidence for a curvilinear relationship between cognitive conflict and decision outcomes extends to the existing strategic management literature. Further, the findings from this study are particularly useful for practicing managers. This study suggests that CEO and team members need not overemphasize cognitive conflict beyond a limit because it may have deleterious consequences. The findings reveal that a moderate level of cognitive conflict, instead of too much conflict, is always desirable.


Though the sample in the present study focuses only on the healthcare industry, to the extent strategic decision making process is similar in other industries, the findings can be generalizable across other industries.



Parayitam, S. and Dooley, R.S. (2011), "Is too much cognitive conflict in strategic decision‐making teams too bad?", International Journal of Conflict Management, Vol. 22 No. 4, pp. 342-357.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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