What is a group? A group is a collection of two or more people who interact with
each other and are interdependent, in the sense that their needs and goals cause
them to rely on each other. They are people who have assembled together for a
common purpose. (Example: family, classroom, church, sports teams, etc.) Groups
have become part of our identity helping define who we are.
What is a social group? Most social groups range in size from two to six members. If
a group is larger than this, you cannot interact with all of the members. (Example:
University you attend is not a social group since you are unlikely to meet and
interact with every student there). Another important feature of social groups is
that the members tend to be alike in age, sex, beliefs, and opinions. This similarity is
found across all members since:
Many groups attract people who are already similar before they join
Groups operate in ways that encourage similarity in the members
1. Social norms
What are social norms? Social norms are a powerful determinant of our behavior.
They are the explicit and implicit rules defining what is acceptable behavior. Most
times when a member of a social norm violates their belief they are shunned by
other group members and, in extreme cases, pressured to leave the group.
2. Social roles
What are social roles? Social roles are shared expectations by group members about
how particular people in the group are supposed to behave. (Example: A boss and
an employee in a business occupy different roes and are expected to differ in the
way they act their responsibilities). Like social norms, social roles helps people
know what to expect from each other.
What are potential costs to social roles? One cost is that people can get so into a role
that their personal identity and personality are lost. This meaning we become the
role we were playing temporarily.
An experiment called The Stanford Prison Experiment was conducted to test this
hypothesis. Thus Zimbardo and colleagues converted rooms in the basement of the
psychology department at Stanford University into a mock prison and paid student
to play the role of either guard or prisoner. The role each student played determined
by the flip of a coin. The guards were outfitted with a uniform of khaki shirts and
pants, a whistle, a police nightstick, and reflecting sunglasses; the prisoners were outfitted with loose-fitting smock with an identification number stamped on it,
rubber sandals, a cap made from nylon stocking, and a locked chain attached to one
ankle. The researchers planned to observe the students for two weeks and observe
whether the students actually started playing their roles. As it turned out, the
students quickly assumed these roles- so much so that the researchers had to end
the experiment after only six days. Many of the guards became quite abusive,
thinking of creative ways to verbally harass and humiliate the prisoners. The
prisoners became passive, helpless, and withdrawn. People got into their roles so
much that their personal identities and sense of decency somehow were lost.
Another drawback of social roles is that there is a cost to acting inconsistently with
the expectations associated with those roles. This can humiliate or embarrass the
person acting inconsistently. Can cause discomfort as well.
What are gender roles? Gender roles are societal expectations based of a persons
gender. All societies have expectations about how people who occupy the roles of
women and men should behave. Role expectations have been uniform for some
time, but has changed over time. Women are usually linked with being a wife and
mother. Becoming secretaries or house wives. Men and women roles have changed
drastically more over time, women now go to work, and a lot of men report doing
house hold duties.
What is group cohesiveness? Group cohesiveness is another important aspect of
group composition and explains how tightly knit a group is. It is defined as qualities
of a group that bind members together and promote liking among them. (Example:
A group formed primarily for social reasons, such as a group of friends who like to
go to the movies together on weekends, then the more cohesive the group is, the
better). The more cohesive a group is, the more its members are likely to stay in the
group, take part in group activities, and try to recruit like-minded members.
What is a drawback of group cohesiveness? One drawback of group cohesiveness is
that the group members concern with maintaining good relations can get in the way
of finding good solutions to problems.
Destructive groups (Cults)
What is a destructive cult? A cult is a form of a destructive group. It is defined as a
social group centered around devotion to a person/idea/thing that employs
unethical techniques of manipulation or control. You can have a nondestructive cult
as well but social psychologist dont really focus on it. Order of the Solar Temple is a
prime example of a Canadian cult. It was a very big cult that gained a lot of followers,
they were made up of high status members of society. Their beliefs of mixture of
Christianity and new age ideas. Made 93 million dollars from this cult. Catalyst
started when a few members of the thlt started to leave. Emmanuel and his parents
was murdered on September 30 1994 and was done because he was found to be the anti Christ. Everyone had to make the death voyage now. If they didnt they
would be murders.
What are defining characteristics of a destructive cults?
1. Charismatic leader(s)
2. Leaders are self-appointed
3. The leader is the focus of veneration
4. Group culture tends towards totalitarianism
5. Group usually has 2 or more sets of ethics
6. Group presents itself as innovative and exclusive
7. Main goals: recruiting and fundraising
What is deindividuation? Deindividuation is the loosening of normal constraints on
behavior when people are in a group, leading to an increase in impulsive and
deviant acts. Basically hiding behind a group will lead to deviant and impulsive acts.
(Example: My Lai massacre during the Vietnam War). The more people present in a
mob the more there were greater in savagery and viciousness with which they killed
their victims. When in masks or gear that covers the face, more terrible acts of
violence occur more that would normally occur. The state in which a person loses
the sense of him or herself as an individual, an example would be the KKK. Occurs
during crowds, physically anonymous, and group chanting and stomping.
Brandon Vedas was a 21-year-old man in a chat room, who took a fatal overdose of
pills while others egged him on.
Why does deindivuation lead to impulsive acts? There are three factors that lead to
1. The presence of others, or the wearing of uniforms and disguises, makes
people feel less accountable for their actions because it reduces the
likelihood that any individual will be singled out and blamed
2. The presence of others lowers self-awareness, thereby shifting peoples
attention away from their moral standards. We tend to forget our moral
standards in this situation.
3. Increases the extent to which people obey the groups norms
What is social facilitation? Social facilitation is the tendency for people to do better
on simple tasks, but worse on complex tasks, when they are in the presence of
others and their individual performance can be evaluated. (Example: Zajoncs
cockroach experiment - cockroach trying to escape the light with or without the
maze in presence of other cockroach). Social loafing
What is social loafing? Social loafing is the tendency for people to do worse on
simple tasks, but better on complex tasks, when they are in the presence of others
and their individual performance cannot be evaluated. Basically this occurs when
you merge into a group. (Example: pulling the rope, when with other you exert less
force than when you do it by yourself).
Evaluation, Arousal, and Task Complexity
The presence of others can lead to social facilitation or social loafing. The important
variables that distinguish the two are evaluation, arousal, and the complexity of the
Why does the presence of others cause arousal? The presence of others does indeed
cause physiological arousal one because it increases arousal, second because with
such arousal we will preform easier tasks faster and harder tasks slower.
Researchers have developed three theories to explain the role of arousal in
1. Other people cause us to become particularly alert and vigilant
2. They make us apprehensive about how were being evaluated
3. And they distract us from the task at hand
Evaluation apprehension: is the concern that people have of being judged, this can
cause mild arousal.
Extreme evaluation apprehension: is the intense concern that people have of being
judged and their body responds with the stress hormone cortisol, which constricts
the blood vessels in the hippocampus which will in turn inhibit memory and you
will perform not to the fullest. We just dont like to be evaluated.
In social facilitation: presence of others individual efforts can be evaluated
alertness evaluation apprehension, distraction-conflict arousal = (1) enhanced
performance of simple/practiced tasks (2) impaired performance of complex task
In social loafing: presence of other individual efforts cannot be evaluated no
evaluation apprehension relaxation = (1) impaired performance of simple tasks
(2) enhanced performance on complex tasks
What is group decision-making? Group decision-making is one of the major
functions of a group. A lone subject may be subject to all sorts of whims and bia