To examine the effects of 30 hr of sleep loss and continuous cognitive work on performance in a distributed team decision-making environment.
To date, only a few studies have examined the effect of sleep loss on distributed team performance, and only one other to our knowledge has examined the relationship between sleep loss and social-motivational aspects of teams (Hoeksema-van Orden, Gaillard, & Buunk, 1998).
Sixteen teams participated; each comprised 4 members. Three team members made threat assessments on a military surveillance task and then forwarded their judgments electronically to a team leader, who made a final assessment on behalf of the team.
Sleep loss had an antagonistic effect on team decision-making accuracy and decision time. However, the performance loss associated with fatigue attributable to sleep loss was mediated by being part of a team, as compared with performing the same task individually - that is, we found evidence of a "motivational gain" effect in these sleepy teams. We compare these results with those of Hoeksema-van Orden et al. (1998), who found clear evidence of a "social loafing" effect in sleepy teams.
The divergent results are discussed in the context of the collective effort model (Karau & Williams, 1993) and are attributable in part to a difference between independent and interdependent team tasks.
The issues and findings have implications for a wide range of distributed, collaborative work environments, such as military network-enabled operations.