College of Science and Health Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award

Winter 3-22-2013

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Alice F. Stuhlmacher, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Suzanne T. Bell, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Yan Li, Ph.D.


The current study was designed to empirically test components of the conflict dynamic within the context of groups or teams. A model was proposed in an attempt to clarify existing construct confusion and misapplication of terminologies throughout the field (e.g., task conflict) as well as to consolidate literatures (e.g., informational diversity, information exchange, task and relationship conflict perceptions, and conflict management) and ultimately clarify several contradictory empirical conclusions regarding the equivocal nature of conflict in relation to team effectiveness outcomes. Information exchange and conflict management processes were proposed to be more directly responsible for the proposed theoretical benefits derived from task conflict than the presence of conflict itself, which may be more accurately described as a byproduct, or emergent state, resulting from these processes. Collectively, the proposed model attends to cognitive inputs, behavioral processes, and perceptual emergent states comprising the conflict dynamic and examined how these relate to group effectiveness, particularly when effectiveness outcomes relate to innovation, creativity, or group decision-making quality.

The sample of the current study was comprised of university undergraduate and graduate student volunteers working in project teams embedded in the design of their courses. Participant data was collected electronically using a 73-item survey with a reward incentive offered. Hypotheses were tested using Pearson product-moment correlations, t-tests, regression analyses, and hierarchical linear modeling. Results suggest that predictors vary in utility based on team effectiveness appraisal source (e.g., relationship conflict predicted only student-provided outcomes whereas informational diversity predicted only instructor-provided outcomes). Also, in general, collaborative conflict management predicted intragroup affective- and cognition-based trust, reduced relationship conflict, and student-provided team effectiveness outcomes. Relationship conflict was positively related to task conflict, with cognition-based trust moderating this association. A focal conclusion of this research is to highlight qualitative and quantitative dissimilarities between task conflict and information exchange; while task conflict was negatively associated with most outcomes, information exchange was generally positively associated. An in depth discussion of these findings and their implications are provided.