Chapter 10: Group Dynamics and Intergroup Relations
Group dynamics: the social psychological study of groups and group processes
Group: two or more persons who are interacting with one another and/or influencing one another
Instead of drawing a hard line between “groups” and “nongroups”, it may be sensible to think about
collections of individuals as ranging along a continuum from little or no “group character” to a great deal
of “group character”.
Soc. psychologists have directed most of their attention to groups of two different sizes:
1) Small groups (usually between 3-7 members, though potentially up to 20 members; e.g. family,
friends, co-workers) – this size made it possible for researchers interested in group
productivity/group decision making to create small groups in the lab and examine the processes
underlying performance and judgement
2) Large groups (more than 20 members; e.g. nations, religions, ethnic groups, political parties) –
this size made it possible for researchers interested in intergroup conflict and international
relations to investigate how individuals perceive large collectives
Individual Performance and Behaviour in Group Settings
Social Facilitation: The Effects of an Audience
Social facilitation: the effects of the presence of other people on individual performance, which will
usually be improved performance on simple tasks and impaired performance on complex tasks
Dominant responses: the action that is most likely to occur in a situation or on a task when an individual
When a task is simple or is something that people have done many times, the dominant responses will be
correct ones or well-practiced ones, whereas when a task is complex or novel, the dominant responses are
more likely to be incorrect ones.
Zajonc hypothesized that the presence of other people increases the probability of the dominant responses
on a task.
Research has shown that performance on simple, well-learned tasks typically improves in front of an
audience, whereas performance on complex, novel tasks typically worsens in front of an audience.
Zajonc proposed that the presence of others is physiologically arousing (e.g. causing faster heart rate),
perhaps because the individual is anxious about performing well in front of others. Physiological arousal
restricts individuals‟ range of attention: people can focus only on a few cues in the setting.
Zajonc suggested that when a task is simple, this narrowed focus of attention actually improves
performance because it blocks out distractions, but when a task is complex, the narrowed focus of
attention makes it difficult for the individual to attend to all of the cues necessary for good performance. Social Loafing: Goofing Off When Others Can Do the Work
From one perspective, it seems possible that being part of a group will increase our effort by motivating
us, but from another perspective, it seems possible that we might slack of and let others do the work –
why kill ourselves when no one will be able to identify our contribution anyway?
Social loafing: the reduction of effort that people often exhibit when working in a group where individual
contributions are unidentifiable
In contrast to social facilitation, which is assumed to involve arousal (caused by the presence of others),
social loafing is assumed to involve relaxation or reduced motivation (caused by believing that one‟s
personal contribution is unidentifiable).
The larger the group, the less effort individuals tend to exert on joint tasks.
One factor influencing social loafing is the importance of the group to members. People are less likely to
loaf when the group is important/meaningful to them than when the group is relatively unimportant.
Another factor that influences social loafing is cohesiveness or attractiveness of the group itself – when
the group is composed of friends or people who are attractive for other reasons, an individual‟s
motivation is increased and social loafing declines.
Reduction in effort can be both unconscious and intentional.
Gender and Cultural Differences in Social Loafing
o Men are more likely to engage in it than women – this may be because women are more
group-oriented and more concerned about collective outcomes than are men, who tend to
be more individualistic in their orientation.
o More social loafing might also be expected in individualistic cultures than in
collectivistic cultures – people who have been socialized in a culture that emphasizes
independence and individual achievements may be less concerned about group outcomes
than people who have been socialized in a culture that emphasizes interdependence and
Deindividuation: Immersion in a Group
Deindividuation: a psychological state in which people lose their sense of personal identity and feel
immersed in a group
Numerous studies have shown that when people are deindividuated, they are more likely to engage in
socially undesirable behaviour.
Theorists have proposed different psych. processes through which deindividuation occurs:
1 perspective: it weakens people‟s inhibitions against performing harmful or socially disapproved
Deindividuation is hypothesized to “release” people from their normal ethical constraints. nd
2 perspective: it heightens people‟s responsiveness to external cues, which may be either negative or
3 perspective: it increases people‟s adherence to norms that emerge in a group
E.g. a political protest rally might turn into a riot; this occurs not because people become
“uninhibited” and therefore ignore social norms, but rather because a new norm of
„aggression against authority‟ develops in the group.
The anonymity of computer-mediated communication elicits a sense of immersion into online groups, a
diminishment of personal identity, and a willingness to follow unconventional norms within those virtual
Decision Making in Groups
One of the most important functions fulfilled by groups is decision making. There are three issues related
to group decision making.
Groupthink: Bad Decisions Because of Pressure to Agree
There are many reasons for bad decision. Sometimes, the correct course of action is highly uncertain
and/or all options involve risks. At other times, groups lack the necessary expertise to make informed
judgements. These examples do not represent failures of the group to process information – the decision
was either very difficult (for anyone), or the group lacked relevant knowledge (and had little chance from
the start of making a well-informed choice).
Bad decisions can also be made when the group has all the info it needs to make a good decision; in this
case, the bad decision results from poor group functioning, as when the group engages in biased or faulty
reasoning based on the info available to them.
Groupthink: a way of thinking that can occur in decision-making groups, when pressure to agree leads to
biased appraisal of options and poor decisions.
Fundamental idea: when members of a group are highly motivated to agree with the leader and with one
another, they do not express their reservations openly and do not criticize one another. Because many or
all of the members are engaging in the same self-censorship, everybody believes that everyone else in the
group strongly supports the decision.
Janis hypothesized that groupthink is most likely to occur in certain kinds of groups:
1) Group cohesiveness: the strength of the forces acting on the group members to stay in the group
a. Members of highly cohesive groups do not want to be excluded from the group, which
leads them to conform and to avoid criticizing other members‟ ideas.
2) Directive leader: one who openly expresses his/her own opinions – often before any discussion
has occurred – and controls subsequent conversation in the group
a. Because directive leaders control the group‟s discussion, it can be difficult for members
to raise questions or concerns. 3) High stress: can arise when a group faces external threat or when there is severe time pressure to
make a decision; whatever the cause, it makes members feel even more pressure to follow the
a. Stress intensifies the effects of group cohesiveness and directive leadership on the
tendency for group members to keep their reservations to themselves.
Symptoms of Groupthink
o Eight symptoms of groupthink that cause faulty assumptions, inadequate assessment of
possible options, a willingness to take excessive risks, and poor decisions:
An illusion of invulnerability
Rationalization of warnings
An unquestioned belief in the inherent morality of the group
Stereotyped views of enemy leaders
Pressure on group members who challenge the consensus
Self-censorship of misgivings, questions, and counterarguments
An illusion of unanimity
Emergence of self-appointed mindguards
(Detailed descriptions on pg. 382)
o Three recommendations, which address different elements of groupthink, are particularly
The leader should be nondirective and allow other group members to express
their opinion before stating his/her view.
A norm of openness and truthfulness should be established in the group.
People from outside the group should be included in the decision-making
Empirical Tests of Groupthink Predictions
o Evidence supports the hypothesis that an open leaderships style is likely to produce a
better and more broadly based decision that a directive leadership style.
o More information is considered by a group when there is a norm of critical thinking than
when there is a norm of consensus seeking.
o There are individual differences in how people respond to directive vs. nondirective
leaders – some people actually prefer and respond more positively to directive leaders.
Group Polarization: Moving Toward the Majority View
Group polarization: the tendency for group discussion to strengthen the initial leanings of the members in
Study: Participants who first discussed their impressions of negative traits regarding a group of adolescent
boys with other participants reported stronger stereotypes – higher ratings of selfishness and violence –
than did participants who rated the group without engaging in any discussion.
Thus, group polarization may contribute to intergroup hostility. Causes of Group Polarization
o Two principal explanations have been offered for the phenomenon:
People usually argue in favour of their own view on an issue.
There is social pressure to move in the direction of the preferred view, because
members do not want to appear ill informed or rigid.
Minority Influence: The Power of the Few
Group polarization reflects the impact of the majority on group decisions – the initially preferred position
(the majority position) tend to become more strongly supported after discussion.
The minority view in a group can sometimes be profoundly influential.
Confidence and Persistence
o Minorities can be successful in their influence only if they are firm and resolute in their
o Members of a minority must persist in their position unwaveringly (confidence) and also
remain consistent among themselves.
o Minorities should also try to avoid appearing too rigid, extremist, or impermeable to
information – instead, they must seem reasonable and logical, but also resolute in their
opinion on this issue.
A way to achieve these appearances is by agreeing with the majority on others
issues – this gives members of the minority more credibility.
o People who take unpopular positions in any group usually face conformity and may be
Unique Effects of Minority Influence?
o Exposure to a minority view stimulates divergent thinking – novel, creative thoughts that
consider alternative approaches to a problem.
o Convergent thinking (majorities): standard/typical approaches to a problem
Social Impact Theory
o Asserts that social influence is the result of psychological “forces” acting on an
o Factors assumed to influence the social pressure felt by an individual include the number,
strength, and closeness (immediacy) of sources of influence.
o When many people exert strong pressure in close proximity to the target, successful
social influence is more likely.
o Social impact theorists hypothesize that both majorities and minorities exert their
influence through similar processes.
The leader typically guides the group toward its goal, serves as representative of the group, and tries to
main morale (making him/her the most important individual in a group).
Two fundamental questions have received the most attention from researchers: 1) “Who is selected as the leader of a group?”
2) “Who makes an effective leader?”
The issues of emergence and effectiveness have been examined from three different perspectives on
1) Trait: focus on the characteristics of people who become leaders
2) Situational: focus on external factors that influence the selection and effectiveness of leaders
3) Interactionist: investigate the combined effects of traits and situational factors
Definitions of Leader and Leadership Effectiveness
Defining a Leader
o In some groups, the leader is the person who holds a formal position of authority, perhaps
involving an election.
o If there is no formal leadership position, another way to define a leader is to say that
he/she is the person who is named by most members.
o A third way to define a leader is in terms of his/her impact on the group.
Transformational leaders: individuals who produce fundamental changes in how
members of a group view themselves and the group
Functions Fulfilled by Leaders
o Some theorists have suggested that the various functions fulfilled by leaders fall into two
Task achievement function: aspects of leadership that relate to group productivity
Task leader: an individual who takes charge of issues related to
productivity of a group
Group maintenance function: aspects of leadership that relate to morale in the
Socioemotional leader: an individual who takes charge of issues related
to morale in a group
Defining Leadership Effectiveness
o The wide range of functions potentially fulfilled by leaders complicates any attempt to
define and measure leadership effectiveness.
o There are different ways to define/measure leadership effectiveness:
A common approach has been to define an effective leader as one who group is
A second approach