Social Psychology Group Processes

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According to Cartwright & Zander (1968), a group may be defined as a “collection of individuals who have relations to one another that make them interdependent to some significant degree”. Other definitions state that a group is “two or more persons who are interacting with one another in such a manner that each person influences and is influenced by each other person (Shaw, 1981). Turner (1987) goes further to say that “a psychological group is one that is psychologically significant for the members, to which they relate themselves subjectively for social comparison and the acquisitions of norms and values…that they privately accept membership in and which influence their attitudes and behaviour”. Clark & Pataki reserve the term “group” for aggregates containing three or more members because dyads (aggregate of 2 persons) differ from larger aggregates in a number of ways. For example, unlike aggregates of three or more people, dyads are destroyed, no longer termed a group, by the loss of one member. Also, certain processes that are common in larger aggregates, such as, mediation of conflicts, coalition formation, majority and minority influence, cannot occur in dyads. From the book “Introduction to Social Psychology” by Graham Vaughan & Michael Hogg (2002) a group is defined as two or more people who share a common definition and evaluation of themselves and behave in accordance with such a definition. Group structure is a pattern of relationships among members that hold the group together and help it achieve assigned goals. Structure can be defined in a variety of ways. These include group size, group roles, group norms, group cohesiveness and status systems. Group size can vary from two people to a very large number of people. Small groups of two to ten are thought to be more effective because each member has ample opportunity to participate and become actively involved in the group. Large groups may waste time by deciding on processes and trying to decide who should participate next. Group size will affect not only participation but satisfaction as well. It is increasingly difficult for members of large groups to identify with one another and experience cohesion. Roles are positions in a group that are associated with certain expected behaviours. In formal groups, roles are usually predetermined and assigned to members. Each role will have specific responsibilities and duties. Group roles can be classified into work roles, maintenance roles, and blocking roles. Work roles are task-oriented activities that involve accomplishing the group's goals. Maintenance roles are social-emotional activities that help members maintain their involvement in the group and raise their personal commitment to the group. Blocking roles are activities that disrupt the group. They make take the form of dominating discussions, verbally attacking other group members, and distracting the group with trivial information or unnecessary humor. Norms are acceptable standards of behavior within a group that are shared by the members of the group. Norms define the boundaries of acceptable and unacceptable behavior. Each group will establish its own set of norms that might determine anything from the appropriate dress to how many comments to make in a meeting. Groups exert pressure on members to force them to conform to the group's standards. The norms often reflect the level of commitment, motivation, and performance of the group. Cohesiveness refers to the bonding of group members and their desire to remain part of the group. Generally speaking, the more difficult it is to obtain group membership the more cohesive the group. Groups also tend to become cohesive when they are in intense competition with other groups or face a serious external threat to survival. Smaller groups and those who spend considerable time together also tend to be more cohesive. The status system of a group reflects the distribution of power and...
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