The Psychological definition of a group is broken down into 7 categories: Interaction a group is a collection of individuals who are interacting with one another. Perception of belonging a group consists of 2 or more persons who perceive themselves to belong to a group. Interdependence group members are interdependent. Common goals a group is a collection of individuals who join together to achieve a goal. Needs satisfaction individuals who belong to a group are trying to satisfy some need through group membership.
Roles and norms members of a group structure their interactions by means of roles and norms. Roles consist of sets of obligations and expectations. Norms imply established ways of behaving that is, uniformity among people in the ways they behave. Influence a group is a collection of individuals who influence each other. The study of individuals in groups and group behaviour has been a core of social psychology since its inception in the early 1900s. One of the first “experiments” in social psychology was by Triplett in 1898, considering the effects of the presence of others on performance.
The authors examine this phenomenon as well as group communication, task performance in groups such as problem-solving and decision-making, and leadership characteristics and styles. The definition of group that is used in most research is “people who are interdependent and have potential for mutual interaction, influencing one another in some way”. Groups are defined by four specific dimensions: size, goals, duration and scope of activities performed.
While groups can be a function of a wide range of these factors, experimental groups that are analysed in laboratory settings are usually small, short-lived and narrow in focus, limiting the generalizability of such findings. Groups in real-world settings must be analysed as well, in order to obtain a complete picture of the functioning of groups. A number of factors defining a group’s structure have also been identified. One important aspect of groups is the social norms that emerge. These are the rules and expectations for behaviour that identifies what is acceptable behaviour and attitudes and what is not.
Social roles also emerge within a given group. These define the division of labor within a group. A status hierarchy can also emerge, differentiating positions within a group. Expectation state theory (Berger & colleagues, 1986), addresses the issue of status and what factors influence an individual’s status within a group. A group having certain goals will confer status on members who can help the group succeed, considering both task-relevant characteristics (ex: ability, knowledge) and task-irrelevant characteristics (ex: age, gender, ethnicity) of each individual.
Both factors will affect the status given each member of the group. As anonymity increases, a person may loose their sense of personal identity and begin to identify with the group, taking on its goals and participating in its actions. This is known as deindividuation. LeBon studied this phenomenon in 1896, specifically identifying mob behaviour. LeBon noticed that the emotions of one individual can spread through a crowd, at times evoking individuals to engage in behaviour that they would not normally engage in. This he referred to as social contagion. A key factor in mob behaviour again is believed to be anonymity.
If an individual is less likely to feel accountable or responsible for their actions, the more likely they are to engage in “mob” behaviour. How effective a leader is will depend upon their ability to change from task-oriented leadership to relationship-oriented leadership. Different situations will call emphasis on either getting the work done or improving and nurturing group relations. As mentioned before, both types of leadership are important, depending upon the situation The study of Behaviour in groups, is an area in which a lot of experiments have been preformed.
One of the most famous is Asch (1951) about the tendency of people to agree with others when unanimously gave the wrong answer to a problem that had an obvious right answer. This experiment was when subjects were placed with a group of confederates who gave different measurements of a line than what was really true. Asch measured whether the subject would modify their interpretation based on the majority opinion. The test objective was to study the social and personal conditions that induce individuals to resit or to yield to group pressures when the latter are perceived to be contrary to fact.
A group of eight individuals (one subject and seven confederates) sat in a room and verbally stated which of three unequal lines matched a given line. The subject was seated so that he made his verbal judgement last. In most cases the confederates and subject agreed, but in certain cases the confederates all agreed on a wrong answer. The “majority effect” was measured as the % of responses that erroneously conformed to the majority. They also tried to judge whether the subject was aware of the majority effect on him and why they acceded to group opinion.
They also watched the reaction of the subject when the experiment was revealed. All subjects and confederates were male college students. Initial Results About one third of the responses conformed to the erroneous majority (compared to almost no errors in the control group). Some subjects always defied the group, some always went along with them. 25% were completely independent, 33% were more than half with the erroneous majority. Some were completely confident throughout, some were disoriented and confused.