PYB202 Lecture Three Notes
People In Groups and Group Decision-making
1. What is a Group?
A group can be defined as two or more people who share a common definition and evaluation of themselves and
behave in accordance with such definition. In this sense, we have in-group and out-group members – those who
are in-group are those who share these definitions, evaluations and behaviours.
2. What is Entitativity?
Entativity is thought to be the key aspect in group ‘togetherness’ by a large school of thought within social
psychology. It is that which separates a group from simply a collection of individuals who have been put together.
Essentially, it refers to the unity and cohesiveness of a group – the idea of the group as a single ‘entity’.
There can generally be considered to be four main types of groups, all of which differ in level of entitativity:
1. Intimacy Groups – this typically includes friends and family. Intimacy groups have the highest level of
entitativity and it is usually very clear who is and is not a part of this group.
2. Task Groups – these kinds of groups typically include workgroups or groups formed for the purpose of
achieving a task. Task Groups typically are still fairly high in entitativity, though not as much as Intimacy.
3. Social Categories – groups which exist due to categorisation, for example a group of students or a group of
pregnant women. The in-group or out-group boundaries still exist (i.e. either a student or not), however there
is considerably less homogeneity than previous groups.
4. Loose Associates – those who are loosely related to each other but in such a way that group ‘togetherness’ is
virtually non-existent and there are far more blurred boundaries.
3. Individualist vs. Collectivist Approach to Group Processes
The individualist approach to group processes argues that group processes are the result of smaller interpersonal
processes between the individuals within a group setting and that despite being in a group setting, each member
remains autonomous. The collectivist approach, in contrast, views the group as superseding the individuals within
it, and maintains that we behave and think differently – often in accordance with stereotypical group roles – when
we are in a group as opposed to when we are not operating in a group setting.
4. Group Processes
The individual within a group
Factors which influence initial transition into group membership can include:
o Lack of Choice/Predetermined – for example, ethnic groups or gender. You do however have a choice in how
much you necessarily identify with that group.
o Proximity – the ‘closeness’ of people can influence the formation of groups – for example, neighbourhoods
often develop a sense of community.
o Shared Interest – people form groups often based on mutual interests – for example, the internet has played
an enormous role in recent years in bringing together people with common interests who otherwise would not
o Purpose of Achieving Goals – the shared purpose of desire to achieve a particular goal can bring people
together to form a group – for example, students working together to complete an assignment.
o Social or Psychological Support – many people group together for social support – for example, combating
loneliness after a breakup, and for psychological support – for example, an alcoholics meeting.
o Self-Protection – we may group together for the mutual protection of all members – for example,
o Enhancement of Own Identity – we may choose to join groups which we perceive as having some kind of
socially high status or which may impact positively on our own sense of social identity – for example, joining
the ‘cool group’ at school may reflect upon our own sense of self.
Individual Group Function – Roles
Individual function within a group – one of the key areas of research here are the ‘roles’ which we tend to adopt when
functioning within a group. These roles serve to collectively help the group function well and achieve its goals.
In most groups, different members will serve different roles. These roles can be formal (for example in a workgroup
you may have a chairperson or treasurer) and informal (for example in friendship groups you may have the joker or the
organiser). Research has shown that when we are assigned our individual group roles, these roles can sometimes change the way
we actually behave and our attitudes within a group. A key example of this is Zimbardo’s famous 1971 Stanford
Prisoner Experiment in which he sought to examine whether assigned group roles actually change our behaviour.
Zimbardo conducted his experiment by simulating a prison environment in a basement beneath the university and
randomly assigning psychologically stable and otherwise ‘normal’ male students to the roles of either guard or prisoner.
The study was scheduled to last two weeks in duration but instead was called off after only six days after serious
negative effects were noted in the form of behaviour. Those allocated to the guard role began to display
aggressiveness, oppression, and dominance over those who were prisoners. Similarly, the prisoner students developed
anxiety, feelings of worthlessness and inferiority. One student actually experienced a panic attack.
Whilst these effects were not found to be long term and disappeared not long after the experiment was called off, each
student reported that they did in fact feel a change in their behaviour as a result of the roles assigned to them. Males
who were previously nice guys admitted that they were surprised by their change in behaviour to reflect the guard role.
From this experiment, Zimbardo concluded that group roles can have a substantial effect on the individual’s
behaviour and that is it the role and not the person who is responsible for this change in behaviour.
Individual Group Function – Status
Status can be defined as the ‘consensual evaluation of the prestige of a role or role occupant in a group’.
Status goes hand-in-hand with roles within the group, as certain roles typically have a level of status attached to them.
Leadership roles, for example, are considered higher in status than maintenance roles such as keeping the group happy
Festinger (1954) claims that we individuals often compare ourselves with other members of the group, we compete
with each other for attractive roles and when we are unsuccessful in achieving the desired role, we actually perceive
the successful applicant as being superior to us and we therefore hold the role in higher status or regard.
He also argues that in terms of the status of roles, some roles can be applied to us based on specific attributes that
individual’s possess. Therefore, the attributes of a specific group member may enable them to perform their role
successfully. For example, when electing the high status role of captain of a team, the role may be awarded to the most
capable individual who displays leadership qualities.
However, Festinger maintains that status roles can also be based on diffuse attributes rather than specific ones. This
means that these attributes may not necessarily be related directly to the role in question but are nevertheless valued
traits. For example, when electing a captain for a sports team the most obvious choice may be the strongest or fastest,
however diffuse attributes such as humbleness or patience may in fact be the basis for selection.
How groups themselves actually function
Joining and Leaving Groups
Based loosely on the ‘norming, forming etc.’ model, Moreland and Levine (1982) developed a model of group
socialisation. This model focuses on how groups and their members change to assimilate new members into the group.
According to Moreland and Levine, there are three basic processes which underlie the socialisation process:
o Evaluation – this is the first process in which the group evaluates the new member and the new member in
turn evaluates the group.
o Commitment – in this stage, there is a commitment from the individual towards to group. There is also
pressure to find the equilibrium in which the member of the group wants to be there and vice versa from the
group. If this equilibrium is out of balance, then the socialisation process does not occur smoothly.
o Role Transition – this stage marks the individual’s transition from being a non-member to a fully fledged
member of the group. Here, the group and individual must accommodate each other and the role of the new
member is negotiated.
Often in the transition from non-member to member of a group, we see initiation rites being utilised. These can range
from mild (for example welcome drinks or a party) to severe (for example daring a prospective new member to do
something dangerous). The purpose of these rites is essentially to symbolise the transition of the member and also is a
chance for the potential member to prove a commitment to belonging to the group.
Research has found that those who are subjected to more difficult or unpleasant initiation rites exhibit a stronger
commitment to the group. Cognitive dissonance has been cited as a possible explanation for this.
Norms are another important part in group functioning. They greatly influence both group behaviour and particularly
Norms can be defined as the ‘attitudinal and behavioural uniformities that define group membership and differentiate
between different groups. Norms could also be called customs, rules or values for the same purpose.
Norms can be explicit or implicit. Explicit norms refer to those outlined in, for example, legislation or formal rules.
Implicit norms are those which are not specifically outlined or written down formally, but are very much normalities or
rules within the group anyway.
While norms often take some time to be esta