The purpose of this paper is to extend the current knowledge on psychological contagion and crossover by investigating the crossover of task-specific engagement (a positive, fulfilling state of mind) among group members. The paper also examines whether this crossover process is reinforced by strong group cohesion or by higher a priori levels of task engagement of the most engaged group member.
The authors operationalized crossover as within-group convergence on individual engagement over time. The authors studied this process in 43 newly formed groups performing a dynamic, interactive building task under controlled laboratory conditions, allowing the authors to observe the crossover process from a “zero” point, before any mutual influences had occurred.
Group member engagement scores indeed converged over time, supporting the proposed crossover effect of engagement, especially when the most engaged group member was highly engaged at the beginning of the group task. Unexpectedly, the explanatory role of group cohesion was not convincingly supported; the crossover of engagement was no stronger in groups with high cohesion.
These findings show that task-specific engagement is indeed transferred among group members, particularly when the most engaged group member is highly engaged.
Previous studies on psychological contagion and crossover were mainly focused on dyadic relationships and specific emotions or impaired well-being. The findings add to this literature by addressing the crossover of engagement – a more complex, beneficial psychological state – among group members and provide new input for developing and sustaining engagement in and of groups.
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