Introduction to Group Dynamics
What is a group?
What are some common characteristics & descriptors of groups?
Group Dynamics: What assumptions guide researchers in their studies of groups and the
processes within groups?
What fields and what topics are included in the scientific study of group dynamics?
Two or more individuals who are connected to one another by social relationships.
Size: dyads and triads to large collectives (this class, mobs, audiences)
Connected: members are linked, networked
Social, interpersonal connection: not categorical
Billions of groups in the world – most groups tend to be relatively small (ranging from 2 to 7
Our first experiences is a group experience
No two groups are the same – but groups do possess common characteristics
Groups are beneficial, but are also flawed
Not all group experiences are positive
Categories – a collection of people or things that share a common attribute or are related in
Groups can be classified by basic categories or clusters – but can’t be classified by categories
Perceiving groups: people intuitively draw distinctions between groups - intimate groups, task-
focused groups, loose associations, and more general social categories
Aggregate – a collection of individuals who are present in the same time and place but who do
not form a unit Moving from a category/aggregate to a group
Types of Groups
Cooley (1909) drew a distinction between primary and secondary groups
Types of groups:
Planned (concocted and founded)
Emergent (circumstantial and self-organizing)
Cartwright and Zander (1960) were reluctant to classify groups as Cooley did – underestimated
the complexity of groups
Planned Group – a group that is deliberately formed by its members or an external authority.
Emergent Group – a group can result from basically nothing
a group that is created gradually as individuals interact with the same subset of individuals.
Arrow and her colleagues (2000) offer a more fine-grained analysis
planned vs. emergent
Interaction: task and relationship
Interdependence: sequential, reciprocal, mutual
Structure: roles, norms, relations
Goals: generating, choosing, negotiating, executing
Perception of Membership
Characteristics of Groups - Interaction
Groups are systems that create, organize, and sustain interaction among members
What do people do in groups – words, actions, instruction, support, emotions
Task Interaction – actions performed by individuals pertaining to group’s tasks and goals
Relationship Interaction – actions performed by the group relating to emotional and
interpersonal bonds Characteristics of Groups - Interdependence
Experiences (emotions, actions, communication, etc.) are determined by other members of the
group and vice versa
Unilateral – top down approach
Sequential – influence of one member to the next.
Reciprocal – two or more members may influence each other – relationship might be unequal
Multilevel – the outcome of larger groups are influenced by the activities of smaller groups
As groups increase in size and complexity they become more formal in structure
Characteristics of Groups - Structure
Groups’ structure are often organized in predictable patterns
Roles – set of behaviours expected of people who occupy certain positions
Norms – a consensual standard that describes what behaviours should and should not be
performed in a given context
Characteristics of Groups - Goals
Groups often strive towards some common outcome
McGrath’s Circumplex Model of Group Tasks
Group Cohesion: the strength of the bonds linking individuals to the group
Carron, Brawley, and Widmeyer (1998) defined cohesion as “a dynamic process that is
reflected in the tendency of a group to stick t