Chapter 14: Groups
What Groups are and Do
A group is a collection of people, usually people who are doing or being something together. Some
groups seem more like groups than others do. Diverse groups might find it hard to come together
and act like a group, in comparison to groups that start off being similar. Human groups are not just
social but also cultural, and culture greatly increases what groups can do.
1. Which of the following is probably not a group?
a. Three children playing hide-and-go-seek
b. Three neighbours having a BBQ
c. Three strangers quietly waiting for a bus
d. Three students working together on a class project
2. In one high school class, the teacher allows students to select their own groups to work on
an important class project. As expected, similar students group themselves together. In
another class, the teacher randomly divides students into groups, so dissimilar students are
often grouped together. Which is likely to be the main advantage of the dissimilar groups
over the homogeneous (similar) ones?
a. The dissimilar groups will be more cooperative
b. The dissimilar groups will be more efficient
c. The dissimilar groups will generate a greater variety of information
d. The dissimilar groups will have higher morale
3. Which of the following greatly increased the production of automobiles in Henry Fords
a. The added health benefits workers received
b. The assembly line
c. The higher pay workers received
d. The longer work week
4. Which of the following is an advantage of a group?
a. Groups can provide safety in numbers
b. Groups can help each other find food
c. Groups can make difficult tasks easier to perform
d. All of the above
Groups, Roles and Selves
Many groups are made up of distinct, well-defined roles. Complementary roles provide better
results than having everyone chip in and do the same thing. Groups perform better when people are
individually identified and perform their unique roles. But when people are more anonymous,
results are poorer and sometimes very bad (eg: Nazi Germany).
Deindividuation: loss of self-awareness and of individual accountability in a group. Important points about role differentiation:
In a culture, the roles are defined by the system; they exist independently of the individual.
o This means that people must have selves that are flexible enough to adopt and
occasionally drop roles.
Belonging to a human cultural group thus involves two separate demands.
o Find common values and other sources of similarity that can cement ones
allegiance to the group
o Find some special or even unique role within the group
Optimal distinctiveness theory: the tension between trying to be similar to everyone in the group
and trying to be different than others in a group. Whatever you feel, you seek to feel the opposite
1. When Devan is at a hockey game, he often gets swept away in the excitement. He is no
longer self-conscious and, as a result, often does and says things that he later regrets.
Hockey games seem to create in Devan a state of ____.
c. Excitation transfer
d. Pluralistic ignorance
2. Circumstances that increase ___ will decrease ____.
a. Anonymity, empathy
b. Anonymity, diffusion of responsibility
c. Self-awareness, deindividuation
d. Self-awareness, empathy
3. What type of movement suggests that self-interest should be subordinated to the best
interests of the group?
4. When people feel very similar to others, they try to be _____; when people feel very different
from others, they try to be ______.
a. Different, different
b. Different, similar
c. Similar, different
d. Similar, similar
Group Action Social Facilitation
Tripletts bicycle experiment: the presence of others stimulated a competitive instinct,
causing people to work harder. Later this explanation went out of fashion, and new theories
o Evaluating apprehension: concern about how others are evaluating you. This
could drive an increase in effort.
o The presence of others also does not always lead to a better performance; think oral
Theory proposed by Robert Zajonc (1965): rooted in observations of animal learning, he
proposed that being in the presence of other people is arousing (increased breathing, heart
rate, etc). One known effect of this is to increase the dominant response (the most
common response in that situation). This is the social facilitation theory. This theory was
affirmed by many experiments.
o This occurs in offices, so if the task is easy and well-known, an open concept for
desks is good. But if the task is difficult, new or creative, then the open concept will
lead to poorer performance.
o This theory was found to depend on three processes:
Bodily arousal confers more energy and increases the dominant response
Evaluation apprehension makes people strive to make a good impression
(but also creates worries)