In general terms, a group is said to be in a state of cohesion when its members possess bonds linking them to one another and to the group as a whole. Groups that possess strong unifying forces typically stick together over time whereas groups that lack such bonds between members usually disintegrate.
Advantages of cohesive groups
Firstly, members of cohesive groups tend to communicate with one another in a more positive fashion than non cohesive groups. As a result, members of cohesive groups often report higher levels of satisfaction and lower levels of anxiety and tension than members of non cohesive groups.
Secondly, group cohesion has been linked to enhanced group performance in non laboratory based groups. This bi directional relationship is strongest when the members of a group are committed to the group’s tasks.
Limitations of cohesive groups
Membership in a cohesive group can also prove problematic for members. As cohesion increases, the internal dynamics (e.g., emotional and social processes) of the group intensify. As a result, people in cohesive groups are confronted with powerful pressures to conform to the group’s goals, norms, and decisions. In many instances these pressures to conform are so great that members suffer from groupthink. Individuals who refuse to yield to the ways of the majority are typically met with additional negative consequences, including hostility, exclusion, and scape goating.
Furthermore, group cohesion can trigger distress and mal adaptive behavior in members following changes to the structure of the group (e.g., loss of a member).
The five stage model of group development
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