Groups are a fundamental part of social life. They can be very small - just two people - or very large. They can be highly rewarding to their members and to society as a whole, but there are also significant problems and dangers with them. All this makes them an essential focus for research, exploration and action.
Just how we define 'group' and the characteristics or ideas we use has been a matter of debate for many years. The significance of collectivities like families, friendship circles, and tribes and clans has been long recognized, but it is really only in the last century or so that groups were studied scientifically and theory developed
As interest in group processes and group dynamics developed and accelerated (most particularly since the 1980s) the research base of the area strengthened. Not unexpectedly, the main arenas for the exploration of groups, and for building theory about them, have continued to be sociology and social psychology. As well as trying to make sense of human behaviour – why people join groups and what they get from them (both good and bad) – the study of groups has had a direct impact on practice in a number of areas of life. Perhaps the most obvious is work – and the contexts and practices of teams. But it has also acted as a spur to development in those fields of education, therapy, social care and social action that use groups to foster change.
Hundreds of fish swimming together are called a school. A pack of foraging baboons is a troupe. A half dozen crows on a telephone line is a murder. A gam is a group of whales. But what is a collection of human beings called? A group. ….collections of people may seem unique, but each possesses that one critical element that defines a group: connections linking the individual members…. members are linked together in a web of interpersonal relationships. Thus, a group is defined as two or more individuals who are connected to one another by social... [continues]
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