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This study investigated how small group communication influences the development of shared mental models in work groups. Small groups and teams are social structures ubiquitous in work life. The group experience brings together individuals who interact through communication events. Small group communication is the process through which individuals share their cognitive schemas with the other members of the group. Ideas are constructed and reconstructed, and new schemas are shaped, which results in some degree of shared cognition. Recent research shows that groups with similar mental models tend to perform better than groups with less similar mental models. Following a naturalistic research design, this study explored how the content of the messages, the communication roles and norms, the channel, and the function of communication messages influenced the development of shared mental models in a group of public library managers. Two types of data were collected: communication data from group meetings, e-mail messages, and documents produced; and individual perceptions of the task work and team interaction collected through participant interviews at three points in the study. Using microanalysis techniques, the communication data were examined for function of the message, roles and norms, content themes, and channel. The interview data were analyzed for themes relating to task and team interaction and merged to create the groupís shared mental models. This research sheds light on the communication-related antecedents of shared cognition. The findings of the study help to inform our understanding of the impact of small group communication on social cognition and provide strategies for managers and group members to employ to surface individual mental models and converge around group mental models to improve group performance.
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