In what way does an individual’s change when s/he is part of a group?

Topics: Stanford prison experiment, Milgram experiment, Sociology Pages: 6 (2834 words) Published: December 16, 2013
In what way does an individual’s change when s/he is part of a group? Humans by nature are social creatures, therefore must have social behaviours, this suggests that individuals instinctively desire to be part of a group (Davis and Witte 1996). This contributed to the large amount of research and interest in the area of group behaviour. However there are difficulties in defining what exactly a group is. Definitions vary because of different ideas of what the purpose and nature of a group may have (Johnson and Johnson 2000). Cartwright and Zander (1968) (cited in Akert et al) define groups as just 2 or more people who interact with one another, and through interaction, influence each other’s behaviour. Whereas Rupert Brown (1988)(cited Smith) suggests that a group is only formed when individuals define themselves as a member and another member is required to acknowledge their existence. These are just a few of the definitions available. Because there are so many definitions, this complicated the study of groups, which results in a wide spread of research from all different perspectives. This essay will explore how behaviour is affected when an individual is part of a group, and discuss possible explanations of any changes in behaviour. It is important to investigate behaviour of groups; however it is essential to have some understanding of the possible explanations of why groups are formed in the first place. Those from a social psychological perspective suggest that we form groups in order to assure self-esteem, have a sense of belonging and reduce fear (Hogg et al 2008) (cited Betts 2011). Whereas Baumeister and Leary 1995 (cited in Pearson) suggested that humans need to become part of a group derives from an evolutionary background. It’s suggested that groups were a key to survival, as, in a groups there would be better bonds that assisted during hunting, growing crops, look after children and finding a mate. All of which ensures a species survival, therefore forming groups is engraved into humans for survival purposes. Though according to the approach and avoidance motivation system, groups are formed in order to facilitate positive outcomes and reduce the occurrence of negative ones. This is the basis of the assumption that there is safety in numbers (Hinsz and Park 2006). Thought humans can survive individually in the present day, groups still form because there is a perceived benefit to being part of a group that compels individuals which band together in order to create a sense of safety and security, as suggested by the theories above. Conformity: In order to integrate with a group, individuals will moderate behaviour so that it mirrors those within a group and fit into the group’s normal behaviour, this is so that an individual will be accepted into the group (Alquist et al 2012). This is known as conformity, which is the yielding to comply due to group pressures and social influence, even when explicate orders are not present (Colman 2006). This is a psychological phenomenon that has been studied extensively due to how common and easily individuals will ignore or supress their own beliefs, traits and opinions in order to be part of a group. A well know study that investigated conformity is Asch’s line study (1956), and is highly recognised in social psychology as a catalyst for the under and investigating into individuals behaviour (and the group as a whole) within a group (Bond and Smith 1996). Asch’s original study was designed to observe the lack of one’s independence when confronted with group pressure. The original results found that 75% of all participants conformed to the group’s answer, which was incorrect, at least once during the experiment. 33% of the participant’s conformed to the incorrect answered for the majority of the trials. Groups were made up of between 7 and 9 confederates, who knew the purpose of the study, and 1 participant. Though Asch’s results were conclusive that individuals...

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