ISSN 0439-755X
CN 11-1911/B

›› 2011, Vol. 43 ›› Issue (05): 561-572.

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Shared Mental Models and Team Performance: A Contingent Model

BAI Xin-Wen;LIU Wu;LIN Lin   

  1. (1 Institute of Psychology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100101, China)
    (2 Faculty of Business, Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hong Kong, China)
    (3 School of Business, Central University of Finance and Economics, Beijing 100081, China)
  • Received:2010-07-12 Revised:1900-01-01 Published:2011-05-30 Online:2011-05-30
  • Contact: BAI Xin-Wen

Abstract: Extant literature has demonstrated that shared mental models (SMMs), defined as the structured understanding or mental representation of team tasks and interaction shared by team members, generally contribute to team effectiveness. Although suggested by some scholars, the conditions under which SMMs are more likely to benefit team performance have rarely been studied. The current study aims to fill up such a research gap. We propose that team interdependence will attenuate the effect of SMMs on team performance so that this relationship will be stronger when team interdependence is low rather than high.
Totally 712 participants representing 106 teams (average team size is 8.02, SD = 4.44) from a large telecommunication corporation in China gave valid responses to the survey questionnaire. These teams were responsible to operate, monitor, and maintain the core telecommunication network facilities in the company. Individual mental models (MMs) were elicited by asking participants to rate the priority of 13 potential strategies when the team encountered each of two critical incidents that resulted in malfunction of telecommunication network facilities. Two types of SMMs indices, namely consistency index and agreement index, were obtained to assess the sharedness among team members’ MMs. Consistency was indexed by calculating the alpha coefficient among all members’ responses to the 13 strategies within each team, and agreement was indexed using the average Euclidean distance between each member’ responses. Team performance was rated by team manager.
Results of series of hierarchical regression analyses indicated that: a) the effect of SMMs (consistency index) on team performance was significant (β = 0.24, p < 0.05); b) the interaction between SMMs (consistency index) and team interdependence was significant (β = -0.29, p < 0.01), suggesting that the effect of SMMs on team performance was negatively moderated by team interdependence. Further analysis showed that when team interdependence was low, SMMs were significantly related to team performance (simple slope = 1.46, p < 0.01). While when team interdependence was high, the effect of SMMs on team performance was not significant (simple slope = 0.09, ns); and c) neither the main effect of SMMs (agreement index) (β = 0.003, ns) nor its interaction with team interdependence (β = -0.05, ns) on team performance was significant.
Consistent with prior research, our findings suggested that SMMs were in general positively related to team performance. Furthermore, we also found that the effect was contingent on team interdependence such that SMMs contributed to team functioning only when team interdependence was low. Results were discussed in terms of the importance of the contingent perspective in investigating the SMMs-team performance relationship, and the importance of indexing methods of SMMs.

Key words: teams, team cognition, shared mental models (SMMs), contingent model, team interdependence