Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Dr. Wayne Harrison

Second Advisor

Dr. Ray Millimet

Third Advisor

Dr. Bob Mathis

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Roni Reiter-Palmon


Discussion among co-workers is common in organizations after a policy change has been made that results in change for employees. Group polarization theory asserts that group discussion will influence attitudes and perceptions about a policy change by shifting individual reactions in the direction of the average of the group’s prediscussion reactions. After a policy change resulting in negative outcomes, this shift will be in the direction of even more negative reactions. The procedural justice theoretical framework may provide organizational decision makers with an answer to the effects of group discussion after a policy change. The use of social accounts after a policy change decision has been made may lessen the polarization of policy-related and organizational attitudes and perceptions. The current study investigated reducing the polarization of five dependent variables through the use of two different types of social accounts. Specifically, using a 2x2x2 mixed design, the effect of a causal account and an ideological account on the negative polarization of fairness perceptions after the policy change, acceptance of the policy change, commitment to the University, fairness perceptions of the University, and trust of the University was assessed. Thirty-two groups of four undergraduate students each (N = 128) participated in a scenario study. Each participant was given a copy of a policy change involving a new University graduation requirement, and each received either a causal account, ideological account, both accounts, or no account. After reading the policy change and filling out a questionnaire, participants were encouraged to discuss the policy change with other group members for 15 minutes, after which each participant filled out a second questionnaire. A significant main effect of causal account was found for perceptions of fairness of the policy change, acceptance of the policy change, and commitment to the University. This effect supports previous research findings on causal accounts in the procedural justice literature. Contrary to predictions, no main effects of ideological account were found. A main effect of time was found for four of the dependent variables, confirming the group polarization phenomenon. However, this effect was not qualified by the hypothesized interaction between account type and time demonstrating the benefit of using a social account to lessen polarization after a policy change. Methodological concerns regarding the current study and directions for future research are also discussed.


A Thesis Presented to the Department of Psychology and the Faculty of the Graduate College University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree Master of Arts University of Nebraska at Omaha. Copyright 1996, Carol E. McKnight