Cognitive Load and the Equality Heuristic: A Two-Stage Model of Resource Overconsumption in Small Groups. Academic Article uri icon


  • Two studies were conducted to test a two-stage model of the psychological mechanisms underlying the overconsumption of scarce resources in small groups. The model proposes that members of groups sharing resources first anchor their consumption choices on an "equal-division" heuristic and then, given sufficient cognitive capacity, adjust their choices in a self-serving direction. The results from both studies support the model. The first study found that when faced with a common resource pool almost all group members expressed thoughts regarding equality; however, individuals with sufficient cognitive capacity requested more from the pool and expressed more task-relevant thoughts than individuals lacking the necessary cognitive resources. The second study provided additional support for the two-stage model by demonstrating that group members' cognitions occur in the order predicted by the model and by demonstrating that an individual difference, social value orientation, affects thought processes only when individuals are not experiencing high cognitive loads. Implications are discussed. Copyright 2000 Academic Press.

published proceedings

  • Organ Behav Hum Decis Process

author list (cited authors)

  • Roch, S. G., Lane, J. A., Samuelson, C. D., Allison, S. T., & Dent, J. L

citation count

  • 158

complete list of authors

  • Roch, SG||Lane, JA||Samuelson, CD||Allison, ST||Dent, JL

publication date

  • November 2000