It is obvious that in a group situation individual behaviour undergoes different types of changes. Processes such as conformity and compromise, which necessarily involve changes in individual behaviour. A large amount of research has been specifically devoted to the study of this aspect.
It has been shown that judgements, attitudes, perceptions, etc. can be changed to a great extent by group situations. The classical experiments in this area were those of Asch who showed that even the estimation of the length of a line can be altered under pressure from a group. Sheriff’s experiments showed that an individual may be made to perceive a stationary object as a moving object under group influence.
Crutchfield has demonstrated a similar phenomenon with reference to opinions and attitudes. His experiments proved that under a group situation psychological pressure operates on the individual to move his perceptions, opinions and judgements in the direction of the group consensus.
Similarly, factors such as the prestige of the group, credibility of the leader, etc. also contribute to group pressure. But how lasting this change is, is still an issue to be settled. It has further been shown that there are individual differences in the susceptibility to group pressure.
Individuals with certain personality characteristics such as a strong affiliated need, dependency and other similar characteristics are likely to be more susceptible. The group’s ability to modify behaviour has had considerable scope for application. Even in the clinical field this forms the psychological basis for group therapies, behaviour modification techniques, etc.
Small group research has, therefore, emerged as a very active and useful field of study with great potential for the future. The credit for inspiring research in group dynamics or small group research goes to Kurt Lewin. His students Lippit and White have also done experiments in this area.
The most outstanding experiment dealt with a comparison of groups under autocratic, democratic and laissez-faire leadership. Emerging out of their experiments is the concept of organisational climate. The term refers to the overall experience of a person of the various psychological influences generated in an organisation.
If an individual perceives the organisation as being good, healthy and conducive, the climate is supposed to be supportive, and otherwise as non-supportive. A very major effort of psychologists is in the direction of identifying characteristics, which would improve organisational climates which, in mm, will improve performance and the satisfaction of employees.
Very often it has been found that organisations perform at a very low level of efficiency in spite of having competent workers, sound technology and all the other material resources. The obvious inadequacy lies in the organisational climate. The reader can now very well appreciate the practical significance and importance of understanding group behaviour.