PSYC 3480 Lecture Notes - Lecture 6: Team Building, Social Loafing, Group Dynamics
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Unit 6: Group Cohesion
Yarmey, D. (2016). PSYC*3480 Group Cohesion. Guelph, ON: University of Guelph.
Seeking success in team sports depends upon more than individual skills of the members of a
team. This extra critical component is commonly referred to team chemistry and more formally
addressed by sport psychologists as team cohesion. The presence of team cohesion contributes to
athletes making incredible comebacks under extreme pressure, and even beating more talented
teams. In spite of superior individual skills and abilities excellent teams, at least on paper, can
perform below expectations and lose to less talented teams. Because team cohesion can enhance
performance and feelings of satisfaction among members, cohesion is responsible in large part
for team success.
The Nature of Team Cohesion
Carron & Dennis (1998) define cohesiveness as "a dynamic process, which is reflected in the
tendency for a group to stick together and remain united in the pursuit of its instrumental
objectives and/or for the satisfaction of member affective need." This definition stresses the
multidimensional nature of group cohesiveness. Groups never stand still; instead, they are
dynamic in their organization and activity. At times they exhibit harmony and at other times
tension and conflict. Communication among members may be excellent, at other times it may be
nonexistent. Commitment to group goals and purposes also can vary over time. Click to
watch Gerald Pauschmann presentation on some of the strategies useful in building a cohesive
and productive team.
Groups differ on their reasons for togetherness as a function of both task objectives and social
rewards. Members and leaders of groups can both share and differ in their perceptions of goals
and objectives. Group cohesion also has an affective component: social relationships develop and
evolve over time, even in task- oriented groups.
The most frequent and valued method of measuring group cohesion is the Group Environment
Questionnaire because it is based on an accepted definition of cohesion (Carron, 1982), and an
accepted conceptual framework of cohesion (Carron, Widmeyer, & Brawley, 1985). As described
in chapter 9 of the textbook, the conceptual framework of cohesion refers to the four factors of
task and social cohesion in sport groups: (1) individual attractions to the group-task, (2)
individual attractions to the group-social, (3) group-integration-task, and (4) group-integration
social. These four factors work to create an integrated understanding of cohesion.
Correlates of Group Cohesion
The coach contributes to the cohesiveness of the team through task-related and interpersonal
behaviors. He or she sets limits and defines goals and roles for each member through task-related
variables. His or her communication style, use of positive reinforcement and feedback, and
personal concern for the personal, moral, intellectual, social and athletic competency of each
athlete contributes to high levels of team cohesion. A sense of building perceptions of trust,
individual belongingness and closeness are primary responsibilities of team leaders. In this
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video, you will see such a motivating and a team building speech, which Al Pacino gives to his
team in Any Given Sunday before their last game.
Leadership, of course, is never solely a coach- dominated responsibility; player leadership is just
as important to team cohesiveness. Steps can be taken to promote leadership among team- mates.
For example, leadership can be formalized through the use of team committees. Team
committees often are given the responsibility for team discipline and other types of decision-
making. This gives members a sense of team ownership. However, for this to work management
and coaches must support this process otherwise it will be seen as a sham and create a sense of
false democracy. Finally, leadership factors contributing to cohesion involves the compatibility
between coaches and athletes, and between athletes and their teammates. Compatibility involves
perceptions of orientations/motivations toward the task or group's goals; self-perceptions
involving personal rewards and outcomes; and affiliation or harmonious relationships within the
team (Garcia-Calvo, Leo, Gonzalez-ponce, Sanchez-Miguel, Mouratidis, & Ntoumanis, 2014).
Team development goes through behavioral changes over time described in the linear model of
cohesion as: forming, storming, norming, and performing. Please click to watch the Creation of a
Team, which illustrates the stages involved in building a team.
In the first stage of forming, team members are selected and members size up each other in terms
of their strengths and weaknesses. Storming consists of the stresses and strains of practice and
competition, which can produce interpersonal conflict as the players compete for the coaches'
attention, and strive to establish their place in the pecking order of the team. Coaches should not
expect or even demand complete social-team tranquility. Successful teams need to have an
optimal amount of interpersonal tension that flows from the most able to the less able team
members. This type of energy or moderate tension should be tolerated without letting it get out of
hand since it often is a display of public commitment to team goals. In the third stage or norming
phase team members begin to see themselves as an organized unit who have come together to
compete for a common purpose and to further interpersonal bonds. Norms or social expectations
govern the behavior of team members in certain circumstances. The last stage, the performing
stage occurs when team members put their energies and skills together as a cohesive group to
challenge for their team objectives. According to the pendular model of cohesion, teams are in
continuous flow and dynamic change of cohesion and disunity throughout the season.
The more that team members interact with each other the greater the development of a team
concept of "we-ness" and cohesion. Physical proximity (adjoining lockers, residence, training
tables, etc.), for example, forces individuals into interactive situations. Another situational factor
is distinctiveness. The more individuals in the group feel distinctive from other groups the
greater their sense of oneness. This is expressed through team uniforms, special initiation rites
(hopefully excluding hazing), and special privileges. Team size also plays a significant role in the
development of cohesiveness. Moderate size groups (approximately 5 members) show the
greatest cohesiveness while larger and smaller sized groups show the least. An inverse
relationship has been found between team size and team cohesion (Widmeyer, Brawley, &
Carron, 1990). In addition, the larger the group, the greater the possibility for social loafing, that
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is, there is a decrease in effort from individuals because of the greater presence of more
teammates. With large groups individuals are less easily identified and evaluated by others,
which suggests that individual contribution to the groups goals can be more ambiguous. In
contrast, when individual effort is made salient through high personal involvement, task
importance, intergroup competitiveness, and intra-dependency an increase in individual effort
The more similar members of the group are to each other the greater the cohesiveness. Similarity
in this context refers to similarity in attitudes, aspirations, commitments, and ability. The most
important personal factor associated with team task and social cohesiveness is individual
satisfaction. Individuals feel satisfaction as a function of the quality of competition, opportunities
for social interaction with teammates, improvement in skill development, and recognition from
significant others. The greater the personal commitment to the team the greater the sacrifice an
individual is prepared to make. Cohesive teams tend to have a sense of collective efficacy, tend
to work harder toward group goals, tend to have greater stability and adherence, and tend to have
better performance. Please watch the video - Remember the Titans – Inspirational Moments.
According to research conducted with the Group Environment Questionnaire task cohesion is
more important for team success than is social cohesion. Team mates can dislike each other and
still win providing their objectives and goals are similar with a shared level of commitment.
Performance tends to lead to greater team cohesion as opposed to cohesion determining team
performance. However, this is not to suggest that cohesion has no impact upon performance. The
relationship is somewhat circular: successful performance leads to greater satisfaction and
greater cohesion, which in turn has the effect of greater cohesion leading to better performance.
Members of groups/teams have a set of distinctive roles. For example, hockey teams have goal
scorers as well as "enforcers" who are expected to protect their stars and keep the other team
"honest". However, because of the changing nature of the game, NHL teams have less and less
use for "enforcers". Cohesive groups tend to facilitate role clarity and role adoption with an
increased acceptance of shared responsibility. Another feature of groups/teams is the
communication styles that emerge with member interaction. Teams develop their own codes or
short-hand instructions along with nicknames. Over time norms develop which govern the
behavior of team members in certain circumstances. Team stability also is related to team
cohesion. Teams that experience fewer turnovers are more likely to show greater cohesion.
Group Cohesion as a Mediator
Cohesion has been shown to facilitate or mediate the effect of one variable on another variable.
This mechanism has been shown for example in team-building. Athletes are more likely to want
to be part of a team and remain on that team when there is high cohesion Similarly, cohesion
mediates leadership behaviour with those players who intend to return to that team the following
season wanting to do so because of their social relationships with the coach. Please click to view
the Remember the Titans Scene: Leave no Doubt, which illustrates how cohesion motivates
athletes in sports.
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