Team adaptation, shared mental models, information sharing


Organizations across work domains that utilize teams to achieve organizational outcomes experience change. Resources change. Project deadlines change. Personnel change. Within the scientific community, research has recently surged on the topic of team adaptation to address the issue of change specifically within teams. There have generally been two lines of research regarding team adaptation (task and membership). This effort is focused on membership. Teams are not static— members come and go. The membership adaptation literature has traditionally focused on the performance effects of newcomers to teams. Yet in practice, more and more teams today experience membership loss without replacement. Military units are stretched to capacity. Economic conditions have forced organizations to do more with less. When members leave, they are rarely, if ever, replaced. The very nature of some organizations lends itself to fluid team memberships. Consider an emergency room where a team of nurses and doctors work on Patient A. When a more critical Patient B arrives that requires the expertise of one of those team members, that doctor will leave the Patient A to tend to the Patient B. This practice is common in such work environments. Yet despite the prevalence of this practice, the scientific community knows very little about the impact of losing members on team performance. The current study examines the impact of membership fluidity on team performance. The purpose of this study was twofold. First, there was the need to address an empirical gap in the adaptation literature by focusing on membership changes (loss and loss with replacement) in non-creative tasks. Second was the consideration of the processes underlying adaptation—namely learning, operationalized as the development of effective shared mental models (SMMs). Thus, a primary goal was to determine the magnitude of team performance decrements associated with such changes within a decision-making task as well as the associated changes in team process. Results suggest that three-person intact teams demonstrated greater adaptive performance iv than membership loss with replacement teams. Furthermore, two-person intact teams developed more similar task and team interaction SMMs than membership loss teams when SMMs were indexed as a Euclidean distance score. There were no differences in the level of sharedness regarding task, team interaction or teammate SMMs for three-person intact teams as compared to membership loss with replacement teams. However, when teammate SMMs were operationalized as the personality facets (i.e., the Big 5) in exploratory analyses, three-person intact teams did develop more similar SMMs regarding the agreeableness facet than membership loss with replacement teams. Additionally, when operationalized as Euclidean distance, the agreeableness facet significantly predicted adaptive team performance—specifically, the smaller the distance (i.e., more similar the MMs), the greater the adaptive performance in teams. When operationalized as the similarity index, the neuroticism facet significantly predicted adaptive team performance such that the more similar the SMMs, the greater the adaptive performance in teams. Results suggest that membership fluidity does negatively influence the development of shared mental models among teammates. Furthermore, this study provides additional evidence that teammate and team interaction mental models, which are typically not examined together in team studies, are differentially influenced by membership fluidity and differentially predict outcomes like adaptive team performance. This suggests researchers should include both of these cognitive components of team performance to fully understand the nature of these constructs.


If this is your thesis or dissertation, and want to learn how to access it or for more information about readership statistics, contact us at

Graduation Date





Salas, Eduardo


Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


College of Sciences



Degree Program

Psychology; Industrial and Organizational








Release Date

August 2012

Length of Campus-only Access


Access Status

Doctoral Dissertation (Open Access)


Dissertations, Academic -- Sciences, Sciences -- Dissertations, Academic