The contingent effects of transactive memory: When is it more beneficial to know what others know?

Yuqing Ren, Kathleen M. Carley, Linda Argote

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

177 Scopus citations


Previous studies have provided evidence of the positive impact of transactive memory (TM) on group performance, such as the efficient storage and recall of knowledge and better product quality. This paper aims to unify the experimental research on TM and to extend it to more dynamic and diverse group settings. In this paper, we develop an empirically grounded computational model - ORGMEM - and apply it to explore the contingent effects of TM on group performance. The comparison between virtual experimental results and relevant laboratory experimental results demonstrates the validity of ORGMEM as a useful tool to study memory-related phenomena. Through a series of virtual experiments, we find that TM decreases group response time by facilitating knowledge retrieval processes and improves decision quality by informing task coordination and evaluation. Our results also suggest that the effects of TM are contingent upon group characteristics, such as group size and environment, as well as the dimension along which group performance is assessed. Overall, TM seems to be more beneficial to small groups using quality as the dependent variable, but more beneficial to large groups, groups in a dynamic task environment, and groups in a volatile knowledge environment using time as the dependent variable.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)671-682
Number of pages12
JournalManagement Science
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2006


  • Computational modeling
  • Contingency theory
  • Group performance
  • Knowledge management
  • Organizational learning
  • Teams
  • Transactive memory


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