Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Lisa L. Scherer

Second Advisor

Roni Reiter-Palmon

Third Advisor

James M. Thomas


This study investigated the effect of accountability, responsibility, and identifiability on the quality of solutions generated to an ill-defined problem. Accountable participants provided written justification for their output, either the solution generation process (process accountability) or the solution generation outcome (outcome accountability). Participants perceived themselves as either sharing responsibility for solution generation with others (shared responsibility) or solely responsible for solution generation (sole responsibility). Lastly, participants were either identifiable, such that their responses could be traced to them personally, or anonymous. Solution quality was measured by resolving power, or the degree to which a solution resolves conflicting aspects of the problem. All participants were asked to read an ill-defined problem, generate as many / solutions as possible to the problem, and choose the solution they felt was best. No predictions were supported and a number of unexpected findings occurred. Unaccountable and outcome accountability participants each generated higher quality best solutions than participants in the process accountability conditions. Participants who shared responsibility generated a higher number of resolving alternatives and a greater proportion of resolving alternatives than participants who were solely responsible for solution generation. Lastly, an interaction between identifiability and accountability was discovered for the proportion of resolving alternatives. Post-hoc comparisons revealed that highly identifiable but unaccountable participants generated a higher proportion of resolving solutions than highly identifiable participants in either outcome or process accountability conditions. Implications for individual and group problem solving and suggestions for future research are discussed.


A Thesis Presented to the Department o f Psychology and the Faculty of the Graduate College University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree Master of Arts, Psychology.

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Psychology Commons