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PSYC 2120 Lecture Notes - Social Loafing, Deindividuation, Group Cohesiveness

Course Code
PSYC 2120
Irwin Silverman

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PSYC 2120 Chapter 8: Group process
What is a group?
- A group consists of two or more people who interact with each other and are interdependent, in
the sense that their needs and goals cause them to influence each other.
- Groups have a number of benefits; in fact, there may be an innate need to belong that drives us to
establish bonds with other people.
- Groups tend to consist of members who are similar to one another, in part because groups have
social norms that people are expected to obey.
- Groups have well defined social roles, shared expectations about how people are supposed to
behave. The roles that people assume in groups, and the expectations that come with those roles,
are powerful determinants of people’s feelings and bahaviours in groups
- Group cohesiveness, qualities of a group that bind members together and promote liking between
members, is another important property of groups that influence the group’s performance
How groups influence the behaviour of individuals
- Simply being in the presence of other people has a number of interesting effects. When people’s
individuals efforts on a task can be evaluated, the mere presence of others leads to social
facilitation: their performance is enhanced on simple tasks but impaired on complex tasks. When
their individual efforts cannot be evaluated, the mere presence on simple tasks leads to social
loafing: performance is impaired on simple tasks but enhanced on complex tasks.
- Finally the mere presence on others can lead to deindividuation, which is the loosing of normal
constraints on behaviour when people are in groups, leading to an increase in impulsive and
deviant acts
Group decisions: Are two (or more) heads better than one?
- One of the major functions of groups is to make decisions. Are groups better or worse than
individuals at making decisions? It turns out that groups make better decisions than individuals if
they are good at pooling ideas and listening to the expert members of the group.
- Often however, process loss occurs, whereby the most expert individual is unable to sway the
rest of the group
- Groups often focus on the information they have in common and fail to share unique information.
This latter problem can be avoided if the group knows that individual members have been
assigned to specific areas of expertise. Many couples know that one member is responsible for
remembering things the other is not responsible for. Consequently, they have an effective
transactive memory, which is the combined memory of two people that is more efficient than
the memory of either individual alone
- Tightly knit, cohesive groups are also prone to groupthink, the phenomenon in which
maintaining group cohesiveness and solidarity is more important than considering the facts in a
realistic manner
- Group polarization indicates that groups are also prone to make more extreme decisions in the
direction toward which its members were initially leaning: these group decisions can be more
risky or more cautious, depending in the group members’ initial inclinations
- Leaders usually play crucial roles in group decisions. There is little support for the great person
theory, which argues that good leadership is purely matter of having the right personality traits.
Leadership effectiveness is a function of both the kind of person a leader is and the nature of the
- Research on Fiedler’s contingency theory of leadership has found that leadership performance
depends on whether a groups has a task oriented leader or a relationship oriented leader and
on whether the work environment is high or low in situational control
- There is a double bind for women leaders: if they conform to societal expectations about how
they ought to behave, namely being warm and communal, they are often perceived as having low
leadership potential. If they succeed in attaining a leadership position and act in ways that leaders
are expected to act, namely in agnatic, forceful ways, they are often perceived negatively for not
acting as a woman should.
Conflict and cooperation
- Often people have incomplete goals which place them in conflict with each other. A particularly
interesting kind of conflict is a social dilemma, in which the most beneficial action for an
individual, if chosen by most people, will have harmful effects on everyone
- A commonly studied social dilemma is the Prisoner’s Dilemma, in which two people must decide
whether to look out for only their own interests or for their partner’s interests as well
- To increase cooperation, the tit for tat strategy is a useful way of dealing with conflict, allowing
one to respond cooperatively or competitively, given the other person’s response. Creating trust is
crucial in solving this kind of conflict
- Hostilities are likely to increase or decrease, including how the use of threats and the inability to
communicate can exchange a conflict
- In negotiation, it is important to look for an integrative solution, whereby each side concedes the
most on issues that are unimportant to it but important to its adversary