CPSC 689/602--Spring 1997
Computer-Supported Cooperative Work


Paper Report

Title: A Typology of Tasks (Excerpt)
Authors: McGrath, J.
Citation: Groups: Interaction and Performance. Prentice Hall, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, 1984, pp. 60-66.
Reprinted in: Baecker, R.M. Readings in Groupware and Computer-Supported Cooperative Work. Morgan Kaufmann Publishers, San Francisco, 1993, pp. 165-168.


This paper describes a conceptual framework for categorizing tasks. It begins with the proposal that groups engage in four general processes: Generate, Choose, Negotiate and Execute. These processes form the Task Circumplex, which contains distinctions and relations between types of tasks. The Task Circumplex is divided into four quadrants, each representing one of the four processes. Each quadrant (or process) is further divided into two subtypes. Each of the eight subtasks are related to its immediate neighbors.

Quadrant I (Generate) is divided into Generating Plans, which are of the problem solving variety, and Generating Ideas, which deal with creative thinking. Quadrant II (Choose) has Intellective tasks and Decision-Making tasks as its subtypes. Intellective tasks refer to solving tasks with a correct answer. Decision-Making tasks refer to dealing with tasks for which the answers are based on cultural norms or consensus.

The two subtasks in Quadrant III (Negotiate) are Cognitive Conflict tasks and Mixed-Motive tasks. The former refers to resolving conflicts of viewpoint where group members not only have different preferences, but different preference structures, meaning that members may interpret information differently or give different weights to different matters. The latter refers to resolving conflicts of interest and involves tasks such as bargaining and reward allocation.

Contests and Performances are the two subtasks in Quadrant IV (Choose). Contest refers to tasks in which the group is in competition with an opponent, while Performance refers to tasks that involve striving to meet standards of excellence.


Report prepared by: Dion Goh            Email: diong@cs.tamu.edu
Discussion date: 1/29/97            Report date: 1/29/97