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Chapter 1

PSYC 3430 Chapter Notes - Chapter 1: Kurt Lewin, Essentialism, Mark Granovetter


Department
Psychology
Course Code
PSYC 3430
Professor
Peter K Papadogiannis
Chapter
1

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Behaviour in Groups Introduction to Group Dynamics: Chapter One
1
Members of the species Homo sapiens are capable of surviving along, but few choose to, for virtually all human
activities working, learning, worshiping, relaxing, playing, and even sleeping occur in groups
Group dynamics are the actions, processes, and changes that occur within groups and between groups
THE NATURE OF GROUPS
Defining Groups
People who study groups are not conformists
Some of the definitions of the word group stress the importance of communication or mutual dependence
Most would agree that groups come into existence when people become linked together by some type of
relationship
o Three persons working on math problems in separate rooms can hardly be considered a group; they are
not connected to each other in any way
o If we create relationships linking them then these three individuals can be considered a rudimentary
group
A group is two or more individuals who are connected by and within social relationships
Two or More Individuals
A group can range in size from two members to many thousands
Very small collectives, such as dyads (two members) and triads (three members) are groups, but so are large
mobs, crowds, and congregations
Most groups tend to be small, including two to seven members
Sociologists John James did a study on the variation in the size of groups
o He defined a group to be two or more people in “face-to-face interaction as evidenced by the criteria of
gesticulation, laughter, smiles, talk, play or work”
o Most of the groups walking in the streets, shopping, and children playing in the playground were usually
small with only two or three members, but groups that had been deliberately created for some specific
purpose, such as leadership team of a company, tended to be larger
o His findings include that groups tend to “gravitate to the smallest size, two”
A group’s size influences its nature in many ways, for a group with only two or three members possesses many
unique characteristics simply because it includes so few members
The dyad is so small that it ceases to exist when one member leaves, and it can never be broken down into
subgroups
o The members of dyads are also sometimes linked by a unique and powerful type of relationship love
that makes their dynamics so intense that they belong in a category all their own
Larger groups can also have unique qualities, for the members are rarely connected directly to all other
members, subgroups are very likely to form, and one or more leaders may be needed to organize and guide the
group
Who Are Connected
These connections, or social ties, are not of one type
o In families, for example, the relationships are based on kinship, but in the workplace the relationships
are based on task-related interdependencies
The larger group, the more ties are needed to join members to each other and to the group
o The maximum number of ties within a group in which everyone is linked to everyone else is given by
the equation n(n 1)/2, where n is the number of people in the group
Only one relationship is needed to create a dyad
The number of ties needed to connect all members grows exponentially as the group gets larger: 10 ties would
be needed to join each member of a 5-person group to every other member, etc.
o Even more ties are needed if the ties between members are directed rather than reciprocal ones
o If knowing A is linked to B does not tell us that B is also linked to A, then twice as many ties are needed
to completely link every member to every other member with directed ties
In larger groups, many group members link to other members only indirectly
o Person A might talk directly to B, but B may talk only to C so that A is linked to C only through B
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Behaviour in Groups Introduction to Group Dynamics: Chapter One
2
When the ties linking members are strong, the group is more enduring and its influence on members is more
extensive
Weak ties are also essential to the long-term functioning of groups
o Individuals who are on the job market, for example, often learn of new openings from acquaintances
rather than close friends, because whatever their close friends know, they probably know as well. Weak
ties, in contrast, allow the group members to gain access to information that is common knowledge
outside of their tight-knit social circles
o Sociologist Mark S. Granovetter called this tendency the “strength of weak ties”
By and Within Social Relationships
When people are linked by a relationship they become interdependent, for they can influence one another’s
thoughts, actions, emotions, and outcomes
A social relationship suggests that this interdependence is not caused by some impersonal factor, such as
proximity or common origin, but by the “actual, imagined, or implied presence of other human beings”
o This type of relationship is called: membership
These social relationships link members to one another but they also enclose members within the group
A group is boundaried, in a psychological sense, with those who are included in the group recognition as
members and those who are not part of the group excluded as non-members
o These boundaries, even if unstable and highly permeable, distinguish groups from another
psychologically significant aggregate: the social network
o To become part of a social network, an individual need only establish a relationship of some sort with a
person who is already part of the network
A group exists when members form a relationship with the group as a whole and when it is the group that
sustains, at least in part, the relationships among each of the individual members
Describing Groups
All groups, despite their distinctive characteristics, possess common properties and dynamics
Five characteristics of groups: interaction, goals, interdependence, structure, and cohesion
Interaction
Groups are the setting for an infinite variety of interpersonal actions
Sociologist Robert Freed Bales, intrigued by the question “What do people do when they are in groups?” spent
years watching and recording people in relatively small, face-to-face groups
o The countless actions he had observed tend to be of two types: those that focused on the task the group
was dealing with and those that sustained, strengthened, or weakened interpersonal relationships within
the group
Task interaction includes all group behaviour that is focused principally on the group’s work, projects, plans,
and goals
o In most groups, members must coordinate their various skills, resources, and motivations so that the
group can make a decision, generate a product, or achieve a victory
Groups are not simply performance engines, for much of what happens in a group is relationship interaction
(or socioemotional interaction): The conjointly adjusted actions of group members that relate to or influence the
nature and strength of the emotional and interpersonal bonds within the group, including both sustaining and
undermining actions
o If group members falter and need support, others will buy them up with kind words, suggestions, and
other forms of help
o When group members disagree with the others, they are often roundly criticized and made to feel foolish
Goals
What natural selection has built into us is the capacity to strive, the capacity to seek, the capacity to set up
short-term goals in the service of longer-term goals and that tendency is only amplified in groups
A team strives to take first place
Members of the groups are united by their common goals
The goals groups pursue are many and varied
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Behaviour in Groups Introduction to Group Dynamics: Chapter One
3
o One approach to their classification suggests that a broad distinction can be made between intellectual
and judgemental tasks
o Another emphasizes three different categories: production, discussion, and problem-solving goals
o A third model, proposed by social psychologist Joseph E. McGrath distinguishes among four basic
group goals: generating ideas, plans, or novel solutions, choosing between options, negotiating solutions
to a conflict, and executing (performing) performance tasks
The most effective groups are the ones that are most conscientious when examining their purposes and
procedures
Interdependence
Members are obligated or responsible for other group members, for they provide each other with support and
assistance
This interdependence means that members depend on one another; their outcomes, actions, thoughts, feelings,
and experiences are partially determined by others in the group
Even these interdependencies in these tightly meshed groups are rarely invariant or undifferentiated
o In symmetric, “flat” groups, the influence among members is equal and reciprocated
o But more typically interdependencies are asymmetric, unequal, and hierarchal
For example, employees may be able to influence their boss, but the boss influences them to a
much greater extent
Interdependency can also be ordered sequentially, as when C’s outcomes are determined by B’s actions, but B’s
actions are determined by A
Structure
Group members are not connected to one another at random, but in organized and predictable patterns
In all but the most ephemeral groups, patterns and regularities emerge that determine the kinds of actions that
are permitted or condemned: who talks to whom, who likes whom and who dislikes whom, who can be counted
on to perform particular tasks, and whom others look to for guidance and help
o These regularities combine to generate group structure: The persistent and interrelated features of a
group, such as roles and norms, that influence the functioning of the group as a whole and create
regularities in the interactions of its members
Roles, for example, specify the general behaviours expected of people who occupy different positions within
the group
o The roles of leader and follower are fundamental ones in many groups, but other roles information
seeker, information giver, and compromiser may emerge in any group
Group members’ actions and interactions are also shaped by their group’s norms consensual standards that
describe what behaviours should and should not be performed in a given context
If a person cannot meet the role’s demand, they might not remain a member for long
Norms within a group are defined and renegotiated over time, and conflicts often emerge as members violate
norms
When several members form a subgroup within the larger group, they exert more influence on the rest of the
group than they would individually
If you had to choose only one aspect of a group to study, you would probably learn the most by studying its
structure
Cohesiveness
In physics, the molecular integrity of matter is known as cohesiveness. When matter is cohesive, the particles
that constitute it bond together so tightly that they resist any competing attractions
o When matter is not cohesive, it tends to disintegrate over time as the particles drift away or adhere to
some other nearby object
Group cohesion is the integrity, solidarity, social integration, unity, and groupiness of a group
o All groups require a modicum of cohesiveness or else the group would disintegrate and cease to exist as
a group
Focus 1.1 E-Groups: The Reality of Online Groups
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