In this essay we will discuss about the basics of group, conformity and deviance.
1. Essay on Groups:
The basic social environment is the group. Each individual is a member of many groups like the family group, the school group, the -work group, the social club group etc. Within each group the individual assumes a “position” such as the child, the parent, the student, the teacher etc. Each of these positions in the group has an associated set of behaviours, attitudes and beliefs expected of an individual who occupies the position. Such a set of expectations is called a role.
A group is a collection of individuals who are in a cooperative interdependent relationship with one another. The term interdependent not only implies that there is “interaction” between the individuals, but also that the members share some common norms with regard to certain behaviours, attitudes and beliefs and that there must be a system of interlocking “roles” such that each member has certain expectations regarding how others behave towards him and how he ought to behave towards others in the group.
Properties of Group:
Thus an important property of the group is that there is a group structure. The group structure is a differentiation of roles and role relationships within a group. There is a high degree of structure in a group that is highly organised, in which each member’s role and function is specified as in a football team.
Group structure also involves a hierarchy of status and role relationships; further it involves -specific channels of communication and specific persons in the hierarchy who are responsible for decision-making which determine the way in which the activities of the group are to be conducted and the goals to be attained by the group. Thus, a group not only has a structure but it has also a goal, a purpose towards which it is striving.
All these characteristics are to be found not only in the football team but also in the street corner gang. A street corner gang has its leaders and sub-leaders who have high status in the hierarchy. Each member of the sub-group has certain specified channels of communication. Only those in leadership position have the decision making authority.
It is clear that all these characteristics are also to be found, though in a more complicated manner, in the formal groups like the military group or an industrial concern or the government.
Another important property of a group is its cohesiveness. Cohesiveness is the strength of the forces that keep the group together. Cohesiveness literally means sticking together. If a group is highly cohesive it remains in fact even when it is faced by many adverse circumstances. For example, the family will be a well-knit group if the husband and wife-love and respect each other and if there is mutual love between the parents and children.
Even if there is temporary separation, even if there is illness or such other misfortunes, the group will function with great cohesion. On the other hand, if the relationship between the parents is not satisfactory, all the individuals may be nominally living together but there will be continual conflicts and lack of discipline. Nothing gets done at the appropriate time on the appropriate occasion. Hostile sub-groups may be formed within the family.
The father and son may join up against the mother and daughter or the father and daughter may join up against the mother and son. They are unable to undertake any activity as a group. Finally, the group may break up in a divorce court. The husband and wife may have bitter quarrels and seek separation.
Or, worse still, the husband may kill the wife or the wife may poison the husband or the son may kill the father and so on. It is a familiar fact that such cases are tried in the courts and reports are published in the papers. Also the novelists, short story writers and dramatists portray these events in art creations and films are based on stories like these.
Thus, the group may be united and highly cohesive or it may break down and go to pieces, as it were. This is true not only of the family but also of all kinds of groups right up to the level of nations. The events of 1947 broke up India into two nations, India and Pakistan.
The events of 1971 broke up Pakistan into two further nations, namely Pakistan and Bangladesh. In the same way, there have been such disruptions within the country also. For example in 1947, the former state of the Punjab was broken up into two states, West Punjab, becoming a part of Pakistan, and East Punjab, becoming a part of India.
Since then East Punjab has been divided into three other states, namely, the Punjab, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh. Due to various reasons the members of the state felt that they could not live together in one state. They had to divide and get out. This is so in a joint family also. A highly cohesive joint family may divide up into a number of nuclear families depending on the number of sons in the family either as a result of bitter conflicts or as a result of mutual misunderstandings. Thus group cohesiveness may be the strongest link which binds together many sub-groups or it may be so weak that all the sub-groups fall apart.
There are many motives which promote group cohesiveness like the need for affiliation, achieving group goals, and need for power and status. But it must be borne in mind that these very factors may destroy the cohesiveness of the group. The desire of the father in the joint family to have power and status and the way in which he loves the members of the family may promote cohesiveness. But the desire of the sons and daughters-in-law to have power and status may lead to a break-up of the joint family.
Sharing some Common Interest:
When we consider the characteristics of the persons who are members of one group and try to distinguish them from the characteristics of those who are not the members of that group it will be seen that the members of the group share some common interest. The common interest may relate to maintaining a home or getting a job done or worshipping in the same church or pursuing some sport etc. They may also have similar attitudes, hold similar beliefs and behave in similar ways.
Persons with common interests join together to attain the goal or goals common to them. In their interactions they develop the attitudes, beliefs and ways of behaving which are similar to one another. Thus, sharing common attitudes and beliefs presupposes communication; it presupposes that the members of the group express their ideas. Such communications provide support for the attitude that is shared, particularly when they are held by the important persons in the group, who are occupying important positions in it.
Such sharing of common interests and common attitudes and beliefs promote cohesion or group solidarity. When there is cohesion it will be possible for the members to mobilize themselves quickly and effectively for some collective action.
As noted above group cohesiveness promotes greater cooperation among the members, because they have a shared goal or a group goal. When any member of the group attains the goal, the whole group rejoices, as for example, when some member of the school gets recognition by winning the trophy in games or elocution competition or music competition etc., the whole school rejoices.
The basis of attraction to the group may lie in the interaction itself. The members feel rewarded by the interaction with other members. It is possible that the needs of the various members are complementary. So interaction becomes mutually satisfactory. The members may be attracted to the group because each member finds the group activities to be inherently rewarding like, for instance, those who join the group for recreation or for a hobby.
A third source of attraction may be because the membership is a means to achieve some other ends; for example, becoming a member of the local Rotary Club may be a means to enhance one’s status in the society. Or it may be that they join the group to get their own interests advanced like the membership of farmers association or chamber of commerce and industry, trade union, and so on.
Cohesiveness of the Caste Group etc.:
The above discussion of the factors operating to promote group cohesiveness is based on the functioning of voluntary groups which are formed on the basis of individual choice. We must now discuss the factors which promote group cohesiveness in the “non-voluntary” groups, that is, the groups with members born into it as the caste groups, the creedal groups, the linguistic group, the regional groups and so on.
Caste membership is not a matter of choice; similarly belonging to a particular religious or language group is not a matter of choice. It is these groups which operate very significantly in Indian society.
It will be readily seen that caste membership or community membership, particularly in the minority communities, provide a sense of security to the individuals. Further there are very strong attempts made to influence members within the groups.
In fact, in the villages even today there is powerful threat to excommunicate the deviant members. Excommunication in the village makes life impossible since there are very close interrelationships. It is true that these threats do not operate strongly in the urban castes and communities. But there is no doubt that the social influences are strong even in the urban groups.
The important feature is that the members of the caste or community are closely related to one another. Further, these caste and community groups have clearly demonstrated their success in facilitating goal achievement. On the basis of caste or community membership one can easily succeed in bringing immense to help one to achieve success in many areas of life. Generally, if a member of the caste or community group is holding an important position in some governmental or non-governmental organization, it is easy to get jobs in that organization for the members of that caste or community.
It is to eliminate these influences that in the recent decades Public Service Commissions have been set up and they conduct examinations to select candidates in an impersonal manner. But there are always agitations to see that members from the important castes and communities are selected as the members of these commissions.
Another significant recent phenomenon is that caste and community membership helps in one’s success in elections to the legislatures; it also helps in gaining office as a minister. Finally, there is no doubt that the caste and community membership satisfies the needs for interpersonal relationships; they provide the individual with emotional support, approval, prestige, etc.
The members of the particular caste and community get precedence in marriage celebrations, etc. It must also be pointed that in the twentieth century each caste and community has been organizing an association to promote the education of the poorer members of the group. Some associations have also started banks and cooperative societies to give financial help when necessary.
Thus, the various groups like caste and community continue to have a strong hold on the members inspite of the fact that the Indian society has adopted secular, democratic institutions. They continue to have a strong hold because they are highly cohesive groups which fulfill the affiliative needs as well as other needs of the members.
Results of Experimental Studies:
Among the techniques used experimentally in order to vary the attractiveness of the group are:
(a) Prestige of the group,
(b) Attractiveness of the group activities, and
(c) Attractiveness of the members of the group.
Back (1951) showed that in the more cohesive groups there were stronger attempts at influencing one another than in the less cohesive groups. It was also found that the deviant members of the highly cohesive groups changed their opinions more frequently in order to conform to the group than the deviant members of the low cohesive groups. Another result found was that highly cohesive groups rejected deviant members significantly more than did the less cohesive groups.
All these findings have been replicated by a variety of studies. So it looks as if cohesiveness is a major determinant of the expression and acceptance of influence. It was also found that the members of a highly cohesive group feel more secure and more at ease in group activities than are members of the less cohesive groups. The members who are highly attracted to the group are more likely to take on responsibilities, to participate in the meetings and to persist in working toward the different group goals.
Many studies have been made to determine why some groups are more highly attractive and others are relatively less attractive to their members; in other words, attempts have been made to study the conditions which affect the cohesion of groups.
Cartwright and Zanders (1968) have shown that a number of studies have demonstrated that the attractiveness of a group will vary with its promised or proven success in facilitating goal achievement. The studies have shown that highly cohesive groups satisfy the needs for interpersonal relations like approval, support, prestige etc.
3. The Group Norms:
The group norms give some regularity to the social events and the- social interactions. They may be formally legalized or may be quite informal. They may be very general or highly specific. The norms describe a situation or set of circumstances in which the regularity applies; they include specifications as to what people think, feel or do in that situation.
The Nature of Group Norms:
A group norm exists when the members- of the group share favourable attitudes toward such a regularity they agree that the regularity should be regarded as a “rule” that applies to specified persons in the specified situations. A group norm may be looked upon as shared acceptance of a rule.
As a result there will be an expectation with some degree of certainty that the given person will perceive, think, feel or act in that particular manner in that situation. For example, it can be expected with certainty that a vegetarian will not eat meat, fish etc.
It can be generally expected that an Indian young man or young woman will not think of marriage unit the parents make the necessary arrangements to choose a spouse, fix the date and time and take steps to celebrate the event after inviting all the relatives and friends. Similarly one can expect the bus, train or plane to depart at the time specified in the time table; so one will make all efforts to reach the bus stand or railway station or airport well in time to catch the transport.
The child enrolled in the school will be anxious to reach the school by the time the first bell rings; he will feel restless and may even become hostile to the parents if satisfactory arrangements are not made for him to leave the house in order to enable him to reach the school in time. Similarly there are rules regarding the use of words and formulation of the sentence according to the rules of grammar. Thus, the social norms influence our attitudes, speech, actions etc.
The very existence of a formulated rule suggests that the occurrence of the prescribed behaviour depends on the application of ‘sanctions’; the sanction may be positive in the sense of a reward when the behaviour occurs or negative, punishment when the behaviour fails to occur. The very fact of acceptance of the rule also implies the acceptance of the “legitimacy” or the “propriety” of the sanctions.
If such acceptance of the rule and the legitimacy of the sanctions are not there, then, it is obvious that the group norm cannot function. On the other hand, when the acceptance of the group norms is there, it may be expected to be self-enforcing; there will not be any necessity for the sanctions to be applied by any outside agency; they will be applied by the person himself; he will feel glad if his behaviour is in conformity and he will feel bad if it is not in conformity with the social norm.
Sherif (1935) demonstrated experimentally how the perceptual norms can operate. He made use of the fact that a stationary pin-point of light appears to be moving, if observed under laboratory conditions; in a dark room the position of a small light is highly ambiguous.
In the first part of the experiment the subject was made to report the extent of the apparent movement of the light after some trials he well settle down to some uniform perception of, say, between two to three inches or six to eight inches and so on. Next, two or three persons were made to observe the spot of light in a group situation. Each subject announced his own judgment regarding the extent of the movement of the light.
It was found that whether the subjects had previously had an occasion to develop their own norms or not, they tended to gradually develop a “group norm.” In other words, though as single individuals each person had his own individual norm, when they were put in a group they tended to give up the individual norms and agree on a group norm; this was not based on any discussion.
It was purely perceptual. In the group situation all the individuals gradually came to agree on the extent of the movement of the spot of light. Thus, through sharing experiences a norm can develop; the judgments of each member of the group influences the other members of the group so that the group norm emerged.
Cognitive norms refer to beliefs about objects, issues, etc. The traffic rules, the rules of group games, etc., illustrate the operation of cognitive norms. They refer, not to physical reality like the perceptual norms, but to social reality. Here sharing of experiences is very important.
There is another set of norms which may be called the evaluative norms; that, is about the goodness or desirability of objects etc.
Finally, there are, what may be termed, behavioural norms. Asch (1951) brought together several groups of college students and asked each group to match the length of a given line with one of three clearly unequal lines. Each person spoke out his judgment aloud. All the members of the group except one person had received previous instruction to give a wrong judgment.
One individual thus found himself in a situation where all the others contradicted his perceptual judgment. Among fifty such “critical” subjects there was a marked shift towards the majority responses. But control subjects did not show any such change.
However, even among the critical subjects only one third of them changed to fall in line with the majority but the remaining two-thirds stuck to their perception. Another interesting result was that while some of the subjects remained independent of the majority opinion, some were almost always influenced to conform to the majority against their own perception.
The Functions of Group Norms:
A group norm can endure only if it is advantageous to the group as a whole and to a considerable number of members.
As noted above, one of the chief functions of the group norm is to provide stability and orderliness to the group. It is obvious that if there is no group norm the members will behave each in his own way and the group life will become chaotic and unpredictable. There cannot be any cooperative ventures.
Another function of the group norm is to facilitate interaction between the members. Interaction can occur if there is some sharing of experiences; this presupposes the existence of some perceptual and cognitive norms—some mutually recognized ways of looking at the world around and some beliefs regarding the phenomena in the world around.
Unless there are shared norms about symbols and their referents there cannot be any successful communication. Learning to speak, read and write and the use of speech in communicating information, thought, etc., between two or more persons is possible only when the rules concerning symbols, grammar and syntax are already existing before they take a meal. Many items of food are common throughout India. All of them drink their coffee or tea with milk and sugar.
In other countries people do not invariably use milk and sugar. No Indian can ever eat his rice or chapati without a curry or pickle. Indian curries and Indian pickles are famous dishes in the world. Several sweet preparations are common throughout the country. No Indian feast is complete without ‘pan’.
There are also striking similarities in institutions. For example, the norm with respect to marriage throughout the country, among all the caste, creed and language groups is “arranged marriage;” the young men and women, however highly educated and modernized they may be, wait for the parents to arrange the marriage.
They fully participate in the traditional mode of marriage. Another typical thing is the eager participation in marriage festivities. All the relatives and friends, in fact the whole population of the village, will participate with great zest.
It is a well-known fact that many thousands of families are ruined every year by the debts they incur to celebrate marriages. Even when there is acute food scarcity there will be grand feasts. These commonalities prevail in the midst of many diversities in the sub-cultures which constitute Indian Society.
2. Essay on Conformity:
Social conformity facilitates social interactions. Members of the society are able to assume that others will behave in certain ways; this makes life much simpler. Conformity allows society to operate smoothly; people can interpret correctly what others are doing and can communicate easily. Thus, behaving in the same way as those around us do is highly adaptive.
Similarity among the members of a culture is due to similar backgrounds, experience and learning. All children learn to do the same things in the same or similar ways. When they grow up, as adults they behave in similar ways, because that is the way they learned to behave.
Allan (1965) has defined conformity operationally as “a change in the behaviour of a person due to group influence resulting in the increased congruence between the individual and the group.” Krech et al (1962) assert that the essence of conformity is the yielding to group, pressures. They also proceed to assert that conformity implies a conflict there is conflict between the forces in the individual which tend to lead him to value, believe and act in one way, while the pressures emanating from the society or group tend to lead him to believe and act in another way.
When an individual has to express his opinion regarding some issue, when his conviction is at variance with the expressed judgment of the other members of the group, he is placed in a conflict situation. He may express his own deviant judgment and remain independent of the group consensus or he may conform by announcing his agreement with the group judgment.
Thus, conformity arises in response to group pressure. The response may be merely verbal or it may take the form of overt action as when some students on strike pelt stones at the policemen or at the bus, the others also join them in pelting stones.
The conformity may be true conformity when the individual agrees with the group both inwardly and outwardly, that is, when conviction and action agree; or it may be an expedient conformity where the individual may agree outwardly but remains in disagreement inwardly.
Kelman (1958) called such expedient conformity as compliance. Thus conformity as well as compliance indicates that the individual has yielded to group pressure; in conformity there is agreement with the group, both inwardly and outwardly, in conviction as well as in action; in compliance there is only agreement in action or expression but not in conviction.
Krech et al (1962) also make a distinction between two kinds of resistance to group pressure. In independence of judgment or action, the individual merely expresses his opinion which is at variance with the group pressure and leaves it at that.
But in counterformity he actively opposes the group; he is negativistic and hostile; thus he widens the gap between himself and the group; he repudiates the group judgment and action. It may be said that Lohia, the socialist leader, was a counterformist in politics and Naiker, the DMK leader, was a counterformist in religion.
The Motivational and Emotional Processes Involved in Conformity:
What are the cognitive, motivational and emotional processes involved in conformity? In the group pressure situation the individual experiences cognitive dissonance. There is a discrepancy between his own private judgment and that of the group. He may resolve this dissonance by conforming or by being independent.
When he “blames” himself for the discrepancy he may resolve the conflict by conforming. If he blames the group he may resolve the conflict by independence. Experimental studies have shown that there is a third way; the individual may neither blame himself nor the group but recognize that the different judgments may be equally correct; this will lead ultimately to conformity by the recognition that there are many sides to a problem.
With respect to motivation, an individual may conform, remain independent, or counter form depending upon what satisfies his urgent wants. The wants served by conformity are the wants for acceptance and prestige or for avoidance of rejection by the group. Sometimes conformity may serve as a means to some ulterior end.
The organizational “yes man” conforms in order to gain some advantage. On the other hand, an individual may choose to be independent because that gives greater satisfaction to him as an autonomous, self- reliant person. It may also be for some ulterior end; a politician may believe that he may gain the votes of the electorate by taking an unpopular stand.
The counterformist may gratify his aggressive wants by his behaviour; or it may be because he is in conformity with another group; for example, the adolescent may reject his family’s opinion because he wants to conform to his peer group. Finally, as regards the emotional aspect, group pressure tends to arouse in an individual either fear or aggressiveness.
He may feel that resisting group pressure may lead to punishment or some deprivation; he is likely to develop anxiety. Under such circumstances conformity may be an easy way out of the situation. On the other hand, the heightened emotion may lead to resistance to the pressure and make him independent or counterformist.
It is obvious that in collective behaviour the pressures for conformity are very high. This is why in a riotous mob as well as in a panic mob there is a great deal of conformity. All the persons in the group become aggressive and pelt stones at the policemen or the buses; or all of them may rush to get out of a cinema building on fire.
Consequences of Conflict in Groups:
There may arise conflict within the group or between groups. Such conflicts may be destructive and dysfunctional. But conflicts could also be productive and serve a useful function.
When social conflicts result in violence, it is necessary to reduce the conflict. When differences of opinion arise the members of the group may resort to violence in order to resolve the conflict. But each society has its own norms to prevent violent modes of resolving conflicts. When such attempts fails legal procedures may be resorted to resolve the conflicts.
A group or society can exist only if people control their aggressive feelings. No group can survive if the members start hitting other people, breaking windows etc., whenever they feel like it. This is why every society places strong restraints on such expressions. Dollard et al (1939) asserted that aggressive behaviour always presupposes the existence of frustration.
In general, it may be said that frustration, annoyance and attack will tend to make people feel aggressive. This feeling of aggressiveness leads to aggressive behaviour. When circumstances make it impossible to behave aggressively towards a person or a group which is powerful or is of high status, etc., there may be “displacement of aggression,” when the aggression is expressed against a substitute.
For example, the frustrated and aggressive majority, instead of attacking the government may start attacking a minority group. The farmers with their grievances may attack the Harijans within their reach. Once violent aggression starts it tends to perpetuate itself.
The group of students on strike may become so violent that they may burn the classroom and destroy the library or the laboratory. There will be occasion to deal with this problem in detail when we are considering the problems of prejudice and collective behaviour.
When there is an intergroup conflict there is a tendency to distort and to exaggerate the characteristics of the other group. Groups will be perceived as good-bad. One’s own group is good and the other group is bad. As a result motives will be attributed to the other group.
A benevolent act may not necessarily be perceived with trust and a conciliatory act may be viewed with suspicion; it will be assumed that there must be some ulterior motive behind the benevolent or conciliatory act. Another consequence of conflict is the restriction of communication; groups between which there is less and less communication tend to become more and more distant from each other.
This leads to an increase in the divergence of the respective group norms, which in its turn further intensifies the hostilities. If one goes through the newspaper reports of labour-management conflict or student-university conflict or communal conflict one can see these principles being illustrated clearly.
Village factions form an illustration of group conflict which hinder common action by the village people to improve the conditions of life in the village. Factions are hostile and aggressive groups which are constantly quarrelling with each other. The factors which bind the members of a faction and enable it to function as a cohesive unit are the intense kinship ties and the economic, social and ceremonial relationships between the faction members.
These factors not only make the faction operate as a cohesive unit, they also offer a considerable degree of social, economic and physical security to the members. Sometimes the factions operate not only in one village but across a group of villages. Lewis and Dhillon (1954) in their study of village leaders in the Delhi area found that there were no village-wide leaders but only leaders of small groups known as dhars.
It was found that these factions are generally known by the names of their leaders and that some of them have long history. Generally the factions are organized along caste lines. The Jat factions were by far the most powerful and dominated the political life of the village. The faction is primarily a kinship unit and the membership is not on individual basis but on family basis.
All factions operate as cohesive units on ceremonial occasions as well as with respect to litigations and elections. Members of hostile factions will not attend each other’s ceremonial celebrations. In panchayat meetings the representatives of factions will take hostile positions.
However, direct attacks in public are rare; nor do the members cease talking to one another. Generally the neutral groups have friendly relations with the hostile factions and have the greatest influence in the village. The hostile factions, however, unite for some common action such as building of village wells, repair of canals etc.; they also try to present an appearance of unity to the outside people.
According to the investigators, one of the fundamental causes of faction is the insecurity of village life with its scarcity of land and limited resources. New factions generally arise as a result of quarrels over inheritance of lands, over house sites, irrigation rights; they also arise out of quarrels regarding sexual offences and murders. The main feature is that caste and kinship form the core of village social organization.
Similar forces were found to operate in a South Indian village also in a study by Dhillon (1955), though the caste factor was absent and the mutual hostility between the groups was not great. However, kinship is the primary determinant; families having a common great- grand-father are almost always in the same faction.
Another determinant is the past history of interpersonal and intergroup relationships, culminating in major disputes taken to the panchayat or the courts. Though the majority of the people belong to the Vokkaliga caste, the village is divided into two hostile groups. Within a faction, families in the higher socio-economic groups are the most influential and furnish most of the leaders.
Resolution of Conflicts:
Economic factors are quite powerful in giving rise to group conflicts. The individuals who are frustrated by a sense of deprivation are likely to choose the groups which are looked upon as inferior or bad as the targets on whom they can displace their aggressiveness.
Intergroup conflicts increase when the prices are rising and when there is an increase in unemployment. Thus, all the programmes aimed at the reduction of general level of deprivation within a society would be helpful to reduce group tensions.
Another way to reduce group conflict is to develop programmes which change group norms through joint participation. There is a conflict when there are two sets of group norms. The programme must take into account these two sets. The norms of each group include ways of perceiving, feeling, thinking and acting in relation to the other group.
This implies that attempts should be made to change the norms of each group toward the other group. Sherif et al (1961) set up a summer camp with two groups of boys each of which not only developed its own norms but also hostility toward the other group.
In the first six days each group, made up of boys of eleven years of age, who were all strangers to one another, were made to live in their own camp without any contact with the other camp. Within those six days each group developed its own structure so that each member had a recognized status.
In the next six days the two groups were brought into contact with each other through competitive activities. Also situations were devised so that each group not only felt frustrated but looked upon the other group as causing the trouble. Each group looked upon the other as bad and unfair.
In the next six days the experimenters tried to integrate the two groups through setting up super-ordinate goals so that both the groups had to cooperate to reach the new goal. For example, the common water supply was blocked by placing two large boulders and the experimenters blamed a third group for this.
A plan was announced to repair the damage by hard work of both the groups together. Sociogram tests were given at the end of stage two as well as stage three. It was found that the joint participation programme led each group to modify its norms regarding the other.
While 63 per cent of the ratings of the other group were unfavourable at the end of the second stage, 78 per cent of the ratings were favourable at the end of the third stage. Thus, joint participation to achieve superordinate goals was found to be experimentally effective in reducing intergroup conflict.
Though Indian history is replete with illustrations in which war was adopted as the means of settling disputes, there has also been a traditional acceptance of conciliation as a means of resolving conflicts. One aspect of the traditional Indian outlook is to look upon all views as being partial and to find out the area in which there are no great disagreements.
The village “panchayat” tried to settle disputes by ascertaining the views of the disputants and then giving an award that was respected by the citizens of the whole village. Because of the pressure of all the members of the village, and because of the trust in the impartiality of the members of the panchayat, the disputants accepted the award and settled the dispute and lived in harmony.
Yet another traditional method is dharna in which the man with grievance fasted at the door of the person who was responsible for the injury. This would inevitably attract the attention of all the villagers and the panchayat would intercede to settle the dispute.
According to Bose (1962) Gandhiji developed his technique of satyagraha by a restatement of these traditional methods. A satyagrahi is one who tries to vindicate his view of truth by self-suffering instead of by inflicting suffering upon others. Such self-suffering, it was believed by Gandhiji, would chasten him and help him to recognize the truth in the opponent’s view.
His belief was that the adoption of satyagraha never led to the defeat of one view by the other, or by the imposition of one view over the other but to the recognition of a common view to which both the contending parties could truthfully subscribe.
Group dynamics is a field of inquiry with the aim of advancing knowledge about the nature of groups, the laws of their development and their interrelations with individuals, and other groups. It is based on empirical research. Human beings whether at home, in the school, at work, or at play, function in small groups of five, ten, fifteen or twenty members.
The aim of group dynamics is to study the psychological and social forces associated with groups. The term gained considerable popularity since World War II. It was during the thirties that empirical studies started regarding group life. Earlier the discussions regarding the way groups are formed and how they function were based on speculation and on insight.
The student of group dynamics is not satisfied with mere description of the properties of groups or the events associated with groups. He is interested in finding out the general principles of group life and group activities. Some of the problems studied refer to the changes in the group when there is a change in individual members.
For example, what are the changes in the home life when one parent dies? What are the changes in the office or factory when a new manager takes charge? What are the changes in the government when a new party comes into power? What are the changes in a group which will affect its productivity? If the cohesiveness of the group is raised or lowered what are the effects on the other features of the group functioning? In the earlier sections we have referred to some of these problems.
The basic problems studied in group dynamics are the change, resistance to change, social pressure etc. They refer to the psychological and social forces which operate on the group. Considerable interest has been taken in these studies since they have very important practical utility.
Everyone tries to improve the functioning of the groups and to provide satisfaction to the members of the group. As a result many professional persons receive special training and become specialists in labour-management relations, public health education, marriage counseling, social group work etc.
The origination of group dynamics as a distinct specialty is associated with Kurt Lewin (1890-1947). He popularized the term, and made significant contribution to both research and theory in group dynamics. Reference may be made to some significant studies started by Lewin and his associates.
Lewin et al (1947) conducted a series of studies to find out the influence of group decision on attitude change. During World War II there was meat shortage in USA. A change in food habits was necessary. The women had an aversion to use some meats like heart, kidney etc. Six groups of women varying in size from 13 to 17 were taken up for study.
In three of the groups the lecture approach was used to persuade them to change over to the less familiar meats. The lecture emphasized the vitamin and mineral value of the meats; recipes were also distributed. The other three groups were made to discuss the problem. The women discussed the obstacles they would be likely to encounter in making the change. The same recipes were presented after the discussion.
At the end of the meeting the members were asked to indicate by a show of hands those who were willing to try one of the meats within the next week. Follow-up study showed that while only three per cent of the women who heard the lecture used these meats in the following week, as high as 32 per cent of those who had participated in group discussion and group decision had used them.
A crucial factor in such studies is the recognition by the participants that other people who participated in the discussion were like themselves and found the new information persuasive. This recognition that others have decided to change made them agree to accept the change. It also reinforced the acceptance. Thus group pressures help in attitude change and support it.
Lippit and White (1943) tried to create and describe the “social atmosphere” in children’s clubs and to record the effects of varied social atmosphere on group life and individual behaviour. They created three kinds of social atmosphere: democratic, authoritarian and laissez- faire.
In the authoritarian group all determination of policy was by the leader; the steps were dictated by the leader by stages so that the future steps were largely uncertain to the group; the leader determined the task and the companions; the leader tended to be “personal” in his praise and criticism of the work of each member; he remained aloof from active group participation.
The democratic leader left all policies to group discussion and group decision; the group itself sketched the stages of work and the members were free to work with whomever they chose; the leader was “objective” in his praise and criticism and tried to be a regular member of the group in spirit without doing too much of work.
In the laissez-faire group there was complete freedom for the group and the individuals with minimum leader participation; he merely supplied the materials and offered to supply information when necessary; there was no attempt by him to appraise or regulate the course of events.
The leaders were shifted from group to group every six weeks and each leader changed his style of leadership to suit the atmosphere of the group. All the groups met in the same place and did the same activities with similar materials. The results showed that the laissez-faire group was less organized, less efficient and definitely less satisfied than the democratic group.
On the other hand, the democratic group was more efficient than authoritarian group. The democratic group achieved both the social goals and work goals, while the authoritarian group achieved only the work goal and the laissez- faire group achieved (if anything) only the social goals.
Another finding was that autocracy can create much hostility and aggression, it also created much discontent; there was greater dependence and less individuality. On the other hand, there were more “group-mindedness” and more friendliness in the democratic atmosphere.
In the classic discussions of social and political philosophy there are two opposite views of the relation of man to society. According to one view man is imperfect and social organization is required to make him work and to make him control his aggressive, selfish and exploitative tendencies.
According to the other view man is intrinsically good and it is the state, the organization or the group which inhibits and corrupts the individual; demanding blind conformity they encourage mediocrity and generate regressive dependency.
According to Cartwright and Zander (1968) the basic assumptions held by most group dynamists are:
(1) Groups are inevitable; even the most extreme individualists like the Beatniks form into groups with their own norms;
(2) Groups mobilize powerful forces that produce effects of utmost importance to individuals; a person’s sense of identity is shaped by the group to which he belongs closely and it is the group which determines the level of his aspiration and self-esteem;
(3) Groups can produce both good and bad consequences; they are both constructive and destructive of the groups as well as the individual members; and
(4) It is by the correct understanding of group dynamics, based on empirical studies, that it is possible to deliberately enhance the constructive aspects of group life.
3. Essay on Deviancy:
It was shown that some persons do not conform to the group norms. An attempt will now be made to discuss the problems connected with deviancy and to indicate the characteristics of some deviant groups in Indian society.
Freedman and Doob (1968) define a deviant as a person who is different from the rest of the members of the group to which he belongs. Deviancy consists in behaving in a way different from the norms of the group. The members of the group feel that he is different from them and the deviant himself feels that he is different from the other members of the group. It is this feeling of being a deviant which influences his behaviour.
By their experimental studies Freedman and Doob have shown that the deviants try to avoid mistreatment by others and also that they try to minimize their feelings of deviancy by associating with other deviants, who are like themselves rather than like the non-deviants.
They explain this behaviour of the deviant on the basis of the theory of “social comparison” of Festinger (1954). According to the theory of social comparison individuals have a need to compare themselves with others and they do so with people who are similar 72 Elements of Social Psychology to themselves.
The reason for this preference is that comparing oneself with someone who is quite different does not provide the information sought; the person wants to evaluate his abilities, values, emotions, achievements, etc., so that he gains self-confidence.
Therefore the theory of social comparison predicts that people tend to affiliate themselves with others who are similar to them. A number of studies have supported this prediction. It also holds good for the deviants.
Thus, it looks as if two motives lead the deviants to seek the company of other deviants- (a) the fear of rejection by the non-deviants and (b) the need for social comparison and affiliation. Juvenile delinquents associate themselves not only with other delinquents but also with the youth who smoke, drink alcohol, visit prostitutes etc.
A group rarely chooses someone who holds deviant views as leader. Schachter (1951) set up groups to discuss a variety of problems; he included confederates in each group. One of the confederates was asked to take a deviant position; another was asked to take a deviant position but change eventually to the group position; the third confederate was asked to agree throughout.
After discussion, it was found that the confederate who agreed throughout was liked the most and was elected to a committee; next in order of preference was the deviate- agreer but the deviant confederate was liked the least and was rejected by a majority: this prevents him from even being a member of the committee.
Generally, an individual faced with a group that disagrees with him is reluctant to be a deviant. He wants the group to like him, to treat him well and to accept him. He tends to conform in order to avoid being rejected by the group and being treated as an outcast. In all groups there are strong pressures toward conformity; various efforts are made to get the deviant to conform.
If an individual maintains the deviant position in spite of the group pressures, the group may eventually stop communication with him. Later it may even harm him.
However, it must be realized that no society ever succeeds in getting all its people to behave as expected. The term social deviation indicates failure to conform to the customary norms of the society. Some persons fail to behave in the usual ways though they are capable of learning conventional behaviour; for example, the juvenile delinquents, the sex deviants, the alcoholics, the drug addicts etc. What causes such deviation?
According to psychoanalysis deviant behaviour is attributed to conflicts between the id and the ego or between the id and the super-ego. Crime, for example, takes place when the super-ego, the civilized self- control of the individual, is unable to restrain the destructive impulses of the id within him.
Another view is that deviant behaviour arises as a result of failure in socialization It is asserted that the socialization process has failed in some way to integrate the cultural norms into the individual’s personality; deviant behaviour arises as a result of failure to internalize the norms of the culture. Yet. another view is that deviant behaviour arises, when in a heterogeneous, changing society, there is no single set of norms, when many sets of norms and values compete with one another.
Many parents find that their efforts to train their children are undermined by other groups and influences. For example, the conservative and the not-so-radical mothers often complain that some magazines publish advertisements which make their daughters seek outlandish styles of clothes and hairdo. Durkheim (1897) asserted that conflicting norms give rise to anomie, a condition of “normlessness” in an individual or in a group; the individual has no firm sense of belonging to anything dependable and stabilizing.
It is true that deviant behaviour is a threat to social stability. A group can function efficiently only if there is order and predictability in social life. Deviant behaviour threatens them. If too many people fail to behave as expected, the group becomes disorganized and social order collapses.
On the other hand, deviant behaviour may be one way of adapting the group norms to changed conditions so that the group may survive under changing conditions. But it must be realized that such deviant behaviour is constructive.