A Decisional Conflict Model
In 1977, Irving Janis and Leon Mann proposed a descriptive
model of the decision making process, in which they advanced the idea that the
need to make a decision involves a conflict which engenders a certain degree
of stress, the excess or absence of which is in turn a major determinant of
the subject’s failure to make a good decision, since it is associated with unproductive
information search, assessment and decision making patterns. This stress stems
from two concerns: on the one hand, a worry about the objective personal and
material losses that may result from the chosen alternative; and on the other,
a worry about the subjective losses that may lower self-esteem (Janis and Mann,
1979). It is, in short, a cognitive assessment model very similar in some aspects
to other cognitive models such as those developed by Bandura (1977) or Lazarus
and Folkman (1984). All these models involve a double assessment: (a) assessment
of the demands of a specific environment, and (b) self-assessment of the personal
resources available to respond to these demands. In Janis and Mann’s model,
the most decisive resource affecting a decision making process is the time available.
In this model, the presence or absence of three antecedent
conditions determines which decisional conflict pattern the subject chooses
to follow: (1) awareness of a serious risk if nothing is done, (2) hope of finding
a better alternative and (3) belief that there is enough time to learn about
and assess the situation and choose the best alternative. The five resulting
patterns are: unconflicted adherence, unconflicted change, defensive avoidance,
hypervigilance and vigilance. According to the definition offered by the model,
only the last of these, vigilance, is adaptive, being characterised by the systematic
search for information, careful consideration of all viable alternatives and
the unhurried, non-impulsive making of the final decision.
The model proposed by Janis and Mann (1977) has been widely
acclaimed among researchers working in the field of decision making. Stress
theorists have deemed it an interesting contribution (see Lazarus and Folkman,
1986) and it has inspired research into decision making under threat-engendered
stress (Keinan, 1987) and suggested new frameworks for decision making in complex
situations such as air traffic control (O´Hare, 1992). Equally, some studies
have emphasised the role assigned to stress in this model as a factor which
distorts information and triggers pre-programmed, stereotyped responses, which
do little towards encouraging a constructive method of handling conflicts (Folger,
Poole, and Stutman; 1997). In short, the procedures recommended in Janis and
Mann’s model for making balanced decisions are seen by Weitzman and Weitzman
(2000) as a means of counteracting the egocentric biases which conflicts so
Flinders D.M.Q. (1982)
In order to assess the patterns proposed by the aforementioned
model, in 1982 Leon Mann presented the Flinders Decision Making Questionnaire,
Flinders. D.M.Q. (31 items), consisting of a vigilance scale (6 items),
a hypervigilance scale (5 items) and a defensive avoidance scale (5 items);
as well as another three scales measuring different expressions of defensive
avoidance, namely procastination or postponement (5 items), buck-passing (5
items) and rationalisation (5 items). Psychiatric research has also used the
Flinders scales, linking scores on the hypervigilance and defensive avoidance
scales to the severity of some disturbances (Redford, Mann, and Kalucy, 1986).
Similarly, research has also been carried out into the relationship between
the scores on the procrastination scale and the tendency to ruminate on past
or future states rather than focus on immediate plans of action (Kuhl, 1985).
On a slightly different note, the Flinders D.M.Q. has also been used
as a means of assessing the tendency to use different decision making styles
during the course of academic life (Beswick, Rothblum, and Mann, 1988). In this
sense, modest, albeit significant correlations have been found between vigilance
patterns in first-year university students and the academic performance of the
same students during their second year. A significant correlation has also been
found between scores on the defensive avoidance and hypervigilance scales (the
two typically non-vigilant coping patterns) and poor academic results (Burnett,
Mann, and Beswick, 1989). Furthermore, a modest relationship has been found
between self-esteem as a decision-maker and the patterns assessed by the Flinders
D.M.Q. (Burnett, 1991). Research evidence linking decision making with self-esteem,
although still fairly scarce, nevertheless suggests that a subject’s positive
image of him/herself as a decision-maker is associated with the use of productive
decision making criteria, while a negative self image is linked to the use of
non-productive criteria (Burnett, 1991). Empirical evidence has been found linking
the vigilance pattern with self-satisfaction levels in university students (Fletcher
and Wearing, 1992), and decision patterns have also been studied in connection
with women’s decisions regarding whether or not to undergo cancer screening
tests (White, Wearing and Hill, 1994). In our country, Barbero, et al. (1993)
presented an adaptation of the Flinders D.M.Q. which was administered
to 605 subjects of both sexes aged between 18 and 45.
This adaptation constituted the first Spanish language version
of Mann’s questionnaire. Using exploratory factorial analysis, the researchers
identified five factors in their sample, several of which they organised somewhat
differently from the original patterns defined by Mann in 1982.
Melbourne D. M. Q. (1997)
Using a strategy based on the data obtained, Mann, Burnett,
Radford and Ford (1997) subjected the Flinders D.M.Q. to a number of
structural equation analyses with the aim of reducing the number of items (31)
comprising the instrument. The resulting 22 items became the Melbourne D.M.Q.
The authors tested three basic models: a first, two-factor model, comprising
vigilance as one factor and the remaining coping patterns as the other; a second,
three-factor model, comprising vigilance as the first factor, hypervigilance
as the second factor and the remaining defensive avoidance patterns as the third
factor; and finally, a third model comprising six factors grouped as follows:
vigilance, hypervigilance, buck-passing, defensive avoidance, postponement or
procrastination and rationalisation.
When all three models were compared, the authors found that
the goodness-of-fit indices were higher in model 3, and consequently adopted
this model. A more focused analysis of this third model led them to reduce the
number of factors from six to four. Firstly, they eliminated from the Flinders
questionnaire those items whose squared multiple correlation was significantly
less than 0.25. And secondly, in light of the high correlation between buck-passing
and defensive avoidance, they merged these two factors to create a new factor
called buck-passing. One item from the defensive avoidance scale (item 23) loaded
highly with hypervigilance items (lambda 0.67) and was therefore added to that
scale. Furthermore, item 10 of the defensive avoidance factor was also eliminated,
since it did not belong with the hypervigilance scale loaded with the other
avoidance items. Consequently, the definitive version of the Melbourne D.M.Q.
instrument comprised 22 items divided into four scales. The goodness-of-fit
indices significantly increased the adaptation of this model (Mann et al. 1997).
Self-esteem as a decision-maker
Although the model proposed by Janis and Mann (1977) basically
asserts that information assessment and decision making patterns are in the
repertoire of every decision maker, i.e. that they are individual, rather than
cultural, it also acknowledges that individual tendencies to use some coping
patterns more frequently than others may vary on the basis of cultural influences
(Mann, Radford, Burnett, Ford, Bond, Laung, Nakamura, Vaughan and Yang, 1998).
The authors suggest that subjects’ confidence in their own decision-making ability,
and therefore their self-esteem as decision-makers, also varies from culture
to culture. They predict that in Western, individualist cultures, subjects will
view themselves as more competent decision-makers than in more group-orientated
Asian cultures (Mann et al. 1998). They postulate that Western cultures, in
addition to granting a greater degree of individual freedom as regards decision
making, also attribute a greater degree of responsibility for the resulting
consequences. With the aim of testing both hypotheses: (a) that different decision-coping
patterns are in the repertoire of every decision maker, regardless of their
cultural environment, although the frequency of use may vary from one culture
to another; and (b) that Western societies demand a greater level of decision
self-esteem than Eastern cultures, Mann et al. (1998) carried out a cross-cultural
study involving university students from six different countries: three Western
(Australia, New Zealand and USA) and three Asian (Japan, Taiwan and Hong-Kong).
Findings showed that the mean score for decision self-esteem obtained by Anglo-Saxon
university students, measured in accordance with the dmq-1 scale (8.44
out of a possible 12), was significantly higher than that obtained by Asian
The model proposed by Janis and Mann (1977) is a descriptive
model of the internal conflict involved in the individual decision making process,
and the decision patterns assessed by the Melbourne D.M.Q. correspond
to possible courses of action that a subject may follow in response to this
internal conflict. However, in addition to the internal conflict, subjects are
frequently faced with external conflicts with other subjects. In such cases,
the individual’s freedom to choose is not only conditioned by his or her own
decision making bias, but by the opposition of other people also. The decision
patterns that apply to subjects faced with these external pressures can be understood
in terms of conflict coping styles (Janis and Mann, 1979). We therefore feel
it would be advantageous to correlate the decision patterns outlined by Janis
and Mann’s model with the conflict styles as measured in an instrument widely
used by conflict theorists, in this case, the MODE instrument (Thomas and Kilmann,
The Dual Concern Model
Based on the work carried out by Blake and Mouton (1964), this
«dual concern model» has become an archetype within the field of conflict styles
(Sorenson, Morse and Savage, 1999), inspiring a number of different sub-models
(Hall, 1969; Thomas and Kilmann, 1974; Rahim, 1983; Pruitt, Rubin and Kim, 1994;
Munduate, Luque and Baron, 1997) which, despite incorporating slight modifications,
all agree with Blake and Mouton’s basic argument regarding the relationship
between the subject’s cognitions and the selection of a particular conflict
coping style. In this case, the subject’s cognitions are related to the importance
attached to the interests in conflict in this particular situation, and his/her
relationship with the other people involved (Sorenson, Morse and Savage, 1999;
Pinkley, 1990). In this sense, individuals faced with a situation of conflict
have a double interest: interest in the personal results of the conflict, or
assertiveness; and interest in their relationship with the other people involved,
or co-operation. The model is therefore two-dimensional: assertiveness / cooperation.
This dual concern model has generated a number of different instruments designed
to assess subjects as regards the five conflict styles resulting from the possible
combinations of their scores in both dimensions: assertiveness and co-operation.
The first such instrument, the ‘management grid’ proposed by Blake and Mouton
in 1964, has been followed by a succession of others, the MODE Conflict Instrument
developed by Thomas and Kilmann (1974) and the ROCI-II instrument developed
by Rahim (1983) being the two most used and referenced by current researchers.
Despite slight differences in terminology, all these instruments assess subjects
in accordance with this basic two-dimensional criterion (Van de Vliert and Kabanoff,
1990; Folger, Poole and Stutman, 1997; Munduate, Ganaza, Peiró and Euwema,
1999; Medina, Dorado, Cisneros, Arévalo and Munduate, 2003). The authors
of the MODE instrument themselves, Kilmann and Thomas (1977), acknowledge the
low reliability of their instrument (alpha: 0.60), although other studies such
as that carried out by Nichols (1984) consider it to be somewhat higher (0.68).
Points in its favour include the fact that it is considered to give scores that
are uncontaminated by the bias of social desirability (Womack, 1988). We opted
to use this instrument to assess conflict styles in our second study because
it offers a more general outlook than other more specific instruments such as
the ROCI-II (Rahim, 1983), which focuses on organisational conflicts between
individuals of different statuses. The two studies outlined below, therefore,
were carried out with a threefold objective: to validate a translation of the
Melbourne D.M.Q.; to analyse the similarities and differences between
subjects in our country and those living in Anglo Saxon cultures as regards
the diverse decision patterns and decision self-esteem; and to explore the possible
relationship between decision patterns and conflict styles.
To validate the Melbourne D.M.Q. (Mann et al. 1998)
in our context and corroborate the hypothesis advanced by Mann et al. (1998)
that the diverse decision patterns are valid across cultures.
609 university students ( 105 male, 504 female), aged between
18 and 34, with a mean age of 21 and a standard deviation of 2.9.
Flinders. D.M.Q. (Mann, 1982; 31 items), psychometric
data in Mann et al. (1997) and cross-cultural data in Mann et al. (1998).
Procedure and Data Analysis
All 31 items of the Flinders D.M.Q. were subjected
to a structural equation analysis using the LISREL programme, with the aim of
analyse the three models tested by Mann (Mann et al. 1997). The results are
given in table I (models 4 and 5 in Mann et al. were deemed recurrent and were
therefore not used in our study). We then calculated the mean, standard deviation
and alpha for each of the four patterns in our version of the Melbourne D.M.Q.,
illustrated in table II. Finally, we compared the scores obtained for the different
patterns in our context with those obtained by Mann et al. (1998).
The confirmatory factorial analysis of the 31 items carried
out using the LISREL programme gave the goodness-of-fit indices (GFI), the adjusted
goodness-of-fit indices (AGFI) and the root-mean-square residuals shown in table
I. Subsequently, we subjected the third model to the same modification carried
out by Mann et al. (1997). Similarly to Mann, we found that a reduction in the
number of factors from six to four resulted in good indicators for the hypothesised
patterns (GFI 0.85; AGFI 0.81; RMRS 0.08).
Leon Mann et al. (1998) carried out a cross-cultural study
which compared the mean scores obtained for the four Melbourne D.M.Q.
patterns by a wide-ranging sample of university students from Anglo-Saxon cultures
(USA, New Zealand and Australia), with those obtained by a sample of students
from Eastern cultures (Japan, Taiwan and Chinese Hong-Kong). Having grouped
the three Anglo-Saxon samples into a single sample labelled ‘Western’, and the
three Asian samples into a single sample labelled ‘East Asian’ (in Mann et al.
1998), the scores were compared with those obtained by our ‘Basque Country’
sample in table III. Mann et al. (1998) found similar mean scores for all four
decision patterns assessed by the Melbourne. D.M.Q in both the Anglo-Saxon
sample and the East Asian sample (Japan, Hong-Kong, Taiwan), a finding that
seems to corroborate the hypothesis that decision making resources are individual
rather than cultural. As regards our sample of university students from the
Basque Country, we found that the mean scores for Buck-passing and Procrastination
(4.70 and 3.67) were similar to those obtained by Anglo-Saxon students. Scores
for both the adaptive Vigilance pattern (10.28) and the maladaptive Hypervigilance
pattern (5.08) were, however, somewhat higher.
To compare once again the mean scores obtained by our university
students in the 4 Melbourne patterns with those obtained by the Anglo-Saxon
students studied by Mann et al. (1998), and to incorporate the DMQ-I
scale (Mann 1982, 1998) which measures subjects’ self-confidence as decision
makers. We also aimed to explore the relationship between the conflict styles
proposed by the dual concern model and the decision patterns defined by Janis
and Mann’s model.
160 university students and workers (71 male, 89 female), aged
between 17 and 55, with a mean age of 23.
MODE Conflict Instrument (Thomas and Kilmann, 1974);
Melbourne D.M.Q. (Mann, 1997), DMQ-I decision self-esteem scale
(Mann, 1982), intercultural data in Mann et al. (1998).
Procedure and Data Analysis
Administration of questionnaires and analysis of the correlation
between conflict styles (MODES) and decision patterns (Melbourne). Also, comparison
between the mean scores obtained by our university students for decision patterns
(Melbourne D.M.Q.) and decision self-esteem (DMQ-I) and those
obtained by students from Western and Asian cultures in Mann et al. (1998).
The mean scores obtained by our subjects for the four patterns
specified in the Melbourne D.M.Q. (table IV) were very similar to those
obtained by the Anglo-Saxon students studied by Mann et al. (1998). Scores for
the adaptive vigilance pattern were higher in this study also, although unlike
in the previous study, our scores for the maladaptive hypervigilance pattern
dropped from 5.08 to 4.34, a value practically identical to that obtained by
Anglo-Saxon students (4.30). In our opinion, this difference may be the result
of the greater heterogeneity of this second sample.
The mean score for decision self-esteem obtained by students
in our study (8.48) was practically identical to that obtained by Anglo-Saxon
The two MODE conflict styles that correlated more significantly
with Melbourne decision patterns were Collaboration and Avoidance (table
V). The former, Collaboration (high assertiveness, high co-operation) correlated
negatively with Hypervigilance and Procrastination, both of which show poor
handling of the time available, Hypervigilance resulting in a premature conclusion
to the problem and Procrastination in the indefinite putting off of the decisional
conflict. Collaboration showed also a negative correlation with Buck-passing,
a style which is basically maladaptive. Avoidance, on the other hand, which
is a fairly non-constructive coping style, correlated positively with two maladaptive
patterns defined by the Melbourne instrument as Buck-passing and Procrastination,
both avoiding the decisional conflict. Finally, we explored the role could play
the self-esteem (d.m.q.-I. Mann, 1998) mediating between decision-making patterns
(Melbourne d.m.q.) and conflict styles (MODE).
Correlations between decision-making patterns and conflict
styles with self-esteem as an intermediate variable are showed in table VI.
The T test for correlation differences between two nonindependant samples are
also showed in the same table within a little square.
Generally, relationship values are lower mediating self-esteem
(d.m.q.-I) but the differences are not so important to modifie significances.
Only the relationship between «Compromising» (an intermediate conflict style)
and «Hipervigilance» wins significance (0.172*), while the relationship between
«Acommodating» and «Buckpassing» losses significance mediating self-esteem.
Both the results of the confirmatory analysis obtained during
the first study and the similarity found between the mean scores obtained using
both the translation and the original instrument in both studies, tend to corroborate
the validity of the translation. Given the importance of the model developed
by Irving Janis and Leon Mann (1977) in decision making theorising and research,
the significance of having an instrument such as the Melbourne D.M.Q. available
in our language is self-evident.
As mentioned in the introduction, Eastern cultures tend to
leave less matters up to the individual, with more decisions being made by the
family or other social groups. This may explain Eastern subjects’ greater tendency
to shift responsibility for decision making (the mean score for Buck-passing
was 5.36 in Eastern subjects, as opposed to 4.33 in Western ones; Mann et al.
1998). Similar results were found with regard to Procrastination or Postponement
(Eastern subjects: 4.49; Western subjects: 3.25). The scores for Buck-passing
and Procrastination obtained by our subjects (first study: 4.70 and 3.67; second
study: 4.08 and 3.17) were very similar to those obtained by Western students
in the cross-cultural study carried out by Mann et al. (see tables IV and V).
In the first study (n 609), the mean scores obtained by our subjects for the
maladaptive Hypervigilance pattern were higher than those obtained by Mann’s
Western subjects (5.08 as opposed to 4.30). In the second study (n=160), however,
the mean score for Hypervigilance dropped to 4.34, practically identical to
the result obtained by the Westerners (table V). We believe that this decrease
in hypervigilance may be due to the composition of the sample. The first study
was carried out with 609 university students aged between 18 and 34, whereas
in the second study, which focused on a sample group aged between 17 and 55,
approximately half the subjects were paid professional workers. It may be that
job-related responsibilities are linked to a more reflexive, less hasty and,
in short, less hypervigilant decision making style.
The scores for decision making self-esteem, which were practically
identical for both our subjects (8.48) and Anglo-Saxon subjects (8.44), are
consistent with the equally similar results for decision patterns and, according
to Mann et al. (1998), situate our subjects within the parameters of Western
culture. However, our country differs from Anglo-Saxon ones (USA, Australia
and New Zealand, which constitute the ‘western’ sample in the study carried
out by Mann (1998)) as regards the four cultural dimensions identified by Geert
Hofstede (1999), which are the criteria used by Mann when assigning countries
to cultural groups (1998). Specifically, with the aim of explaining the very
similar scores obtained for decision making self-esteem by both our subjects
(8.48) and Anglo-Saxon subjects (8.44), the most relevant Hofstede cultural
dimension (in accordance with Mann’s association of self-esteem levels with
levels of cultural individualism) would be the individualism index. With 51
points in this dimension, our country is closer to certain eastern cultures,
such as Japan (46), than to, for example, the USA (91) or Australia (90) (Hofstede,
1999). We cannot, therefore, explain the fact that the scores obtained by our
subjects were practically identical to those obtained by Anglo-Saxon university
students exclusively in terms of Hofstede’s ‘individualism-collectivism’ cultural
As regards the relationship between the conflict styles defined
by the MODE instrument (Thomas and Kilmann, 1974) and the decision patterns
outlined in the Melbourne. D.M.Q. (Mann, 1997), the most significant
correlations were found between maladaptive patterns (Hypervigilance, Buck-passing
and Procrastination) and the styles of Collaboration (negative correlation)
and Avoidance (positive correlation). See table VI. Hypervigilance and Procastination
correlated negatively with Collaboration, the theoretically most constructive
coping style that requires both high assertiveness and high empathy levels.
This significant negative correlation between maladaptive patterns and the most
constructive style is indicative of a ‘coherence between models’, since it seems
logical that both factors should move in opposite directions. On the other hand,
the negative correlation between this constructive style – Collaboration – and
the maladaptive Buck-passing pattern shows this model´s coherence. Avoidance,
for its part, correlates positively with two maladaptive patterns: Buckpassing
and Procastination (table VI). This significant positive correlation between
a non -constructive conflict style (Avoidance) and maladaptive decision patterns
appears to be yet another indication of a certain degree of coherence between
the dimensions which underlie both the ‘Dual Concern’ model and Janis and Mann’s
This relationship between conflict styles and decision patterns,
along with the fact that self-esteem is related to the frequency with which
different decision patterns are used (the higher the self-esteem, the less the
tendency towards buck-passing and procrastination, for example), raises certain
questions regarding the possible role of self-esteem as a mediator in this style-pattern
relationship. Table VI shows the r correlations between decision-making patterns
and conflict styles, and in the right-hand columns are showed partial correlations
controlling for the self-esteem variable. It was generally observed that, in
almost all cases, self-esteem has the effect of weakening slightly the corresponding
correlation, although not enough to change its status from significant to insignificant
in the majority of cases. In all cases except that of the Vigilance pattern,
this difference between pattern-style correlations is significant. In other
words, the subject’s level of self-esteem is effectively seen to be mediating
the relationship between conflict styles and decision patterns. What exactly
is the effect of this mediation? Our observations lead us to the conclusion
that self-esteem tends to weaken the pattern-style relationship, or to put it
another way, a subject with high self-esteem would be better able to separate
his/her conflict styles from his/her decision patterns.
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