Emergent Leadership Effect on Diffusion of Responsibility

By: Savina N.
Year: 2023
School: Warner Middle
Grade: 8
Science Teacher: Travis Garwick

Group dynamics play a crucial role in various aspects of life, influencing decision-making, collaboration, and task completion. Understanding how emergent leadership and diffusion of responsibility manifest within different age groups is essential for unraveling the complexities of group interactions, particularly among adolescents.

Our study involved 18 participants from each grade (6th to 10th), grouped randomly into teams of 3, 5, and 10 individuals. The experiment focused on measuring task completion abilities by having participants build a tent within a 30-minute time frame. We tracked instances of emergent leadership, where a participant voluntarily assumed a leadership role, and diffusion of responsibility, where individuals hesitated to take action and waited for others to lead.

To ensure the privacy of participants, any unnecessary identifiers were discarded after the experiment. The potential risks associated with the experiment were limited to minor physical injuries related to the tent-building process, such as the tent collapsing, participants being poked, or tripping hazards.

Our findings revealed interesting trends in emergent leadership and diffusion of responsibility across different grades. Surprisingly, the data suggested that the lower the grade, the more participants were willing to help. Specifically, 6th graders demonstrated less focus on the task at hand, even with fewer participants, while 10th graders exhibited more focus on building and completing the tent.

Our analysis suggests a correlation between age and the likelihood of experiencing diffusion of responsibility. The hypothesis that younger students (6th-8th grade) are more prone to diffusion of responsibility aligns with our observations. We propose that inexperience combined with a younger age may contribute to a reluctance to take on leadership roles in unfamiliar situations.