The following points highlight the five main characteristics of group psychology. The characteristics are: 1. Mimesis 2. Difference from Individual Behaviour 3. Individual Behaviour is Curbed 4. Group Dynamism 5. Group Norm.
Characteristic # 1. Mimesis:
The fundamental condition of group behaviour is that the members of the group act, feel and think together, in a way which is different from the normal acting, feeling and thinking of individuals who compose it. Sir T. Percy Nunn has used the word Mimesis for the collective behaviour which includes all forms of imitation of feeling, thought, and of action. Suggestion, sympathy and imitation are three important manifestations of the gregarious instinct in thought (for suggestion), feeling (for sympathy) and action (for imitation).
A person may unwillingly accept the ideas of others (i.e., of the group), so he is moved by suggestion. He may share some feeling with others in a group, so he experiences sympathy. He may do the same thing as others do, so he imitates. The term mimesis includes all the three modes of behaviour, viz., collective thinking (suggestion), collective feeling (sympathy and collective action (imitation). Mimesis plays a great role in the life of people much so in children.
Characteristic # 2. Difference from Individual Behaviour:
The thinking, feeling and acting of the group are different from normal behaviour of the individuals who compose it. Group behaviour is something more than the sum of behaviours of individuals. Since the individuals who compose the group do differ in their intellectual capacity, emotional characteristics, attitude, interests, skills and personality traits, the collective behaviour of all these must work at the level of lowest common denominator, which will naturally be the lower level of the individual behaviour. It is therefore not surprising to find people of diverse bent of mind, when talking together, descending to a very low level of discussion.
Characteristic # 3. Individual Behaviour is Curbed:
The individual behaviour comes under the sway of mob mentality. Even if a student feels that he should not cry in an undisciplined manner, he cannot resist when the whole student body shouts slogans. He joins the mob, and becomes one with it. Individually, he may not have dared, but collectively, he has to obey the dictates of the group.
Mob-behaviour can easily be a lower moral level. That is how strikes, looting and rioting mob-massacres and all sorts of crimes (which an individual would not do) take place. The communal frenzy at the time of partition of the country is an illustrious example of mob-mentality.
Characteristic # 4. Group Dynamism:
In a group individual members act and react with each other, and new forces set at work, welding the individuals into a new organism. Certain circumstances are caused which change the functioning of all the members. There forms a dynamic relationship between the members.
The gregarious instinct holds the floor, and the instincts of self-assertion and self-abasement assume the roles of the leader and the led. The leaders are active, and the led are passive. Under the direction of the leaders, the group as a whole works with a new spirit and force. The collective force is something more than the sum total of the individual forces. This type of dynamic behaviour is scarcely possible in individuals.
Characteristic # 5. Group Norm:
A group sets its own norm. It forms its own attitudes, beliefs and prejudices. The individual, as long as he belongs to the group, shares those attitudes and beliefs. He adheres to the group norms of behaviour. Every Hindu accepts, as a matter of belief, the idea of caste differences, the touchability and untouchability, the idol worship, the worship of mother-cow, the respect for mother Ganges, the theory of Karma, the transmigration of soul, and a number of beliefs which he has imbibed from the Hindu community.
Sometimes strong prejudices and social perceptions are accepted. An American inherits from his social group the prejudices against the black Negroes. The adolescent may hold negative attitudes towards the adults, simply because of the influence of the adolescent group.