Constructive Controversy: The Value of Intellectual Conflict

35 Pages Posted: 13 Dec 2008

See all articles by David W. Johnson

David W. Johnson

University of Minnesota - Twin Cities

Date Written: November 9, 2008


Conflict is inherent in decision making and learning situations. It is a procedure for ensuring that effective decision in which all alternatives are given serious consideration and critically analyzed before deciding on which alternative to implement. It is also a procedure for maximizing learning in training and learning situations. In well structured controversies, participants make an initial judgment, present their conclusions to other group members, are challenged with opposing views, become uncertain about the correctness of their views, actively search for new information and understanding, incorporate others' perspectives and reasoning into their thinking, and reach a new set of conclusions. This process results in significant increases in the quality of decision making and problem solving (including higher-levels of cognitive and moral reasoning, perspective taking, creativity, and attitude change about the issue), motivation to learn more about the issue, positive attitudes toward the controversy and decision making processes, the quality of relationships, and self-esteem. A recent meta-analysis summarizes these results. Practical procedures for decision making and learning groups exist based on a foundation of theory and research.

Suggested Citation

Johnson, David W., Constructive Controversy: The Value of Intellectual Conflict (November 9, 2008). IACM 21st Annual Conference Paper. Available at SSRN: or

David W. Johnson

University of Minnesota - Twin Cities ( email )

420 Delaware St. SE
Minneapolis, MN 55455
United States

Here is the Coronavirus
related research on SSRN

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics