After reading this article you will learn about: 1. Definition and Nature of Group 2. Meaning of the term “Group” 3. Characteristics 4. Criteria 5. Kinds 6. Properties and Formation 7. Functions 8. Flexibility and Stability.
- Definition and Nature of Group
- Meaning of the term “Group”
- Characteristics of Group
- Criteria of Group
- Kinds of Groups
- Properties and Formation of Group
- Functions of Group
- Flexibility and Stability of Group
1. Definition and Nature of Group:
From the moment of birth a human being lives in the family which can be called a group, a unit of social organisation. It is in this group, the child learns group norms, social values and “dos and don’ts” of the society through interaction.
No individual has any existence apart from his group. From birth till death he is a member of some group or other and his behaviour is constantly influenced by the group to which he belongs at that time. Family as a primary group exerts vast influence on the process of socialization and growth and modification of personality.
Subsequently, secondary groups like neighbourhood, school, playground, peers, playmates and various clubs and organisations influence the growth of the individual and determine his behaviour, action and performance as a whole in the society. Thus the topic of group has a place in the heart of social psychology.
Groups are formed informally or formally for fulfilment of power, prestige, recognition, satisfaction of social needs like friendship, approval, affiliation, security etc. Groups also help in the development of special gifted abilities like art, music, painting, dramatics etc.
A sense of support and belongingness is received when one becomes a member of a group. Hence groups also fulfil many of our individual and personal needs. The sense of cooperation, competition, sacrifice, give and take etc. are developed in a group situation.
2. Meaning of the term “Group”:
According to Sherif and Sherif (1964) groups are constituted to provide individuals with mutual support and to give them a personal worth. Sherif and Sherif opine that the formation of a human group requires individuals who are sufficiently socialized for self regulation of behaviour. Individuals whose behaviour is regulated only by direct social pressure from authority or force are unlikely to form a group.
To Kupuswamy, aggregation or congregation of human beings is referred to as a group such as a number of individuals moving on road, sitting in the bus or train or aeroplane, viewing a magic show etc.
The term group is used in different sense at different situations.
But in general, the term is used for three kinds of contexts:
(1) Where a number of persons are sitting, talking or walking together it may be called a group. Here physical nearness or proximity with or without any common motivation is emphasized like persons travelling in the bus, train or aeroplane.
(2) Individuals may be classified to a particular group when they may not have any relationship with each other, but they have a common characteristics like tax evaders or black marketers, social workers, politicians, academicians etc.
(3) Members of a particular organisation are said to belong to a group when the group has a definite Structure and members have loyalty and a sense of belongingness to the said group.
(4) Persons may be classified into a group when they gather together to fulfil a common purpose, common goal or common motive. Such a group disintegrates after the common motive is fulfilled, like when people form a puja committee to observe Ganesh Puja or Saraswati Puja or Laxmi Puja.
According to Newcomb, a group consists of two or more persons who share norms about certain things with one another and whose social roles are clearly interlocking. Thus a group must interact with each other to share certain common values and thirdly these persons must have a common social purpose or role to function and to bind each other.
Thus sitting together in a cinema hall or in bus does not mean a group unless the persons have a common motive to achieve through this group.
Sherif and Sherif (1969) define a group as follows “A group is a social unit which consists of a number of individuals who stand in role and status relationship to one another stabilized in some degree at the time and who possess a set of value or norms of their own regulating their behaviour atleast in matter of consequence to the group.”
The terms like social unit, role, status relationship, values, or norms used in the above definition need explanation.
Social unit means a kind of bounded system of interaction delineated from others i.e., an in group feeling or a feeling of oneness.
Role and Status Relationship:
Every individual member of the group has a status and some role to play in the functions of the group, to achieve the group goal. The status of the individual member of the group determines his role and functions in the group.
The terms role and status relation and norms refer to particular forms of interaction. According to Stogdill (1959) the first step in understanding the nature of a group is preliminary grasp of what is meant by interaction.
Values and Norms:
Norms and values refer to a set of standards which regulate important behaviour and functions of group members. However, members of a group may not be able to develop norms for every small or big problem which they encounter during their tenure in the group. Hence, norms must be established to regulate important activities frequently engaged in and to maintain the group as a unit.
The above definition includes the essential properties of groups. Sherif and Sherif are of opinion that this definition has much in common with the definitions of sociologists like Bales (1950), Blau and Scott (1962), Har (1962) and Social Psychologists like Bonner (1959), Cartwright and Zander (1960).
Group is defined by Baron and Byrne (1988) as follows:
“Groups consist of two or more persons engaged in social interaction who have some stable structure relationship with one another, are interdependent, share common goals and perceive that they are infact part of a group.” Thus when two or more individuals gather together to serve a common purpose or common motive it is called a group.
3. Characteristics of Group:
All these above definitions have emphasized some common characteristics on which a psychological or functional group stands:
(1) A group consists of more than one person.
(2) They meet together to satisfy some common motive or common purpose say to collect money for flood affected persons, or national defence fund. The common motive may be biogenic or sociogenic.
(3) The group may disintegrate when the common motive is satisfied. This refers to a temporary group like a party or groups formed to collect money for relief fund or to celebrate Ganesh Puja.
But a group can also have permanent motive or purpose like family, religious groups and clubs which are formed to fulfil some permanent purposes. These are stable groups and continue for a long period. Usually sociogenic needs have got an upper hand in group situation.
4. Criteria for Making a Group:
In order to be considered as a member of a group the persons involved must meet certain criteria:
(1) Just being in the same place at the same time is not enough. They must be involved in some sort of social interaction with one another or atleast possess the potential for such interaction.
(2) The members must be interdependent in some manner. What happens to one must also happen to others in some way or other.
(3) The relationship between the members must be more or less stable. For instance, by making a brief conversation between two passengers travelling in a plane or train does not make them really a group. Thus only collection of individuals without a common purpose does not make a social group. The crux of a group is common purpose.
A team going outside the country to play football for India is said to be a group as it has a common purpose i.e., to play the match and win. The fact remains that members of a group are in dynamic relationship with one another. The behaviour and activity of each one affects all the others. Thus, not only one member is influenced by the other members, he also in his own way influences other members of the group.
The behaviour of a group depends upon the individually lawful behaviours of the constituent members, but the group behaviour need not be stated in individual terms say Kretch and Crutch Field.
Fieldman (1983) questions “how a group influences the individual and what is the relationship between a group and an individual?” According to him “in a number of ways individual relationship to the group will affect the degree to which the group can produce conformity, the more attractive the group and its members, the more people confirm to it.”
Fieldman further states that group participation represents an important aspect of most people’s lives. Moreover group membership has an important influence on everyday behaviour, thinking and emotional responses.
According to him four criteria made a group:
(i) Interaction among Group Members:
At the foundation and basic level groups must allow some forms of interaction among their members. It need not be physical face to face interaction, however verbal or written interaction may suffice.
(ii) Perception of Group Membership:
Individuals must consider themselves as members of a group. For instance, an aggregate or assemblage of people in the airport waiting to board a plane would generally not be considered as a group, because the individuals waiting would probably not perceive themselves as being associated with one another.
Group members can initially imposed upon individuals who, may not at the outset, think themselves as members of the group like the ethnic, racial and religious groups to which a person belongs but does not initially think himself as a member of such a group.
Field-man holds that although individuals may believe that they are not affected by being members of a racial minority, other people may perceive them and hence treat them in a way that make membership in a group a very real fact of life.
People become a member to a group to achieve some goals such as to avoid loneliness, to promote freedom of speech or to promote a particular cause. The existence of shared norms is a very important characteristic of a formal group.
Norms refer to rules of behaviour that are held by group members regarding what is and is not appropriate behaviour. Hargreaves (1963) showed that school achievement was actually determined in part by what students perceived as normatively appropriate.
(iv) Fate Interdependence:
Events that affect one group member affects other group members and can affect the ability of the group to meet the goals for which it may have been formed. If a football team is successful, all members share in the glory. But when the team looses, it is a loss for the whole group.
Thus the fate of one member of the group is linked with others and it is affected by the group outcomes as a whole and the behaviour of the individuals within the group affects the success of the group itself.
Indicating the outstanding characteristic of highly stable and enduring groups like the ‘Church’ or the ‘Army’ McDougall emphasized the continuity of the group, the self-consciousness of the group with respect to its nature, composition, functions etc., interaction of the group with the different ideas, purposes and traditions and the organisations within the group involving differentiation and specialisation of functions.
In sum, a psychological group is a collection of two or more persons who are interdependent in their relations with each other or interaction with each other. The members of such a group share some common values, and norms an ideology or set of beliefs which regulate their behaviour and activities in the group. The ideology usually develops when they work together with a common purpose or common motive.
Informal group accidentally formed in an airport, railway station, during a magic show or a movie may survive for a few minutes and they are most transitory. Groups which have acquired a specific and definite structure, which are highly complex and stable may continue for generations together and survive for centuries in the form of various social organizations, societies and nations.
5. Kinds of Groups:
Following are different kinds of groups:
(i) Primary and Secondary Groups.
(ii) Formal and Informal Groups.
(iii) Ingroups and Outgroups.
(iv) Autocratic and Democratic Groups.
(v) Face to face and Co-acting Groups.
(vi) Membership and Reference Groups.
The type or kind a group is determined by its structure:
(i) Primary and Secondary Groups:
Family is a primary group. Immediately after birth the baby comes in contact with the members of the family which is a unit of a group organisation. The baby’s first social life starts in the family itself and because of mutual interaction and direct contact with family members he is socialized by them and made typical member of a group. Upto the age of 5 by and large, the child grows in this primary group.
His home can be called his internal environment and also a face to face group besides being a primary group. When the child enters the school, he comes in contact with the teachers, class mates, playmates and neighbours of the external environment and interacts with them. In the process of interaction the various psychological processes of his personality grow and transform.
Family as a primary group fulfils the primary needs of a child like food, sleep, personal care and love. During the school hours and during play hours these secondary groups influence and shape the characteristics of his personality and socialization. The remaining period of the day is spent in the family.
Unless there is balance in the attitudes, values, aims and motives of the primary and the secondary groups conflict affects the child’s mind and personality. The process of socialization also suffers. The primary and secondary groups have no doubt their own norms, but these norms should not contradict each other at any cost and at any stage.
(ii) Formal and Informal Groups:
The citizens of a country are deemed to be the members of a formal group as we have our own constitution, rules and regulations, laws and guidelines which direct and regulate the behaviour of individual members in a particular direction. A State, college organisations, social service organisation, cultural organisations, athletic associations, music associations etc. are called formal organisations.
A group having its own rules, regulations, preordained norms and guidelines is called a formal group. These guidelines and norms determine and control the functions and activities of its group members in a rather rigid and scrupulous manner. In a formal group one has to accept the beliefs, attitudes and values of the group and grow attitudes and values in consonance with the other members of the group.
In the formal group the role status of every member is defined like the role of the President, Prime Minister, Chief Minister, Governor of a State, Secretary and President of an organisation, function of the members of the executive committees and the formal groups are more or less permanent.
Each and every person in the formal group has to function as per his position and norm and as per the guideline determined for him. Each individual member has a particular status and role relationship with which he interacts with others.
A person who is a member of a formal group can also be member of one or more informal groups. An informal group does not have a definite norm, rules and regulations, there is more freedom in the informal group than its counterpart and one can develop his own role congenial to himself.
While a seminar may be formal organization, A picnic party, or a tea party is an informal organization. Small friendship groups, play groups, gangs and cliques are informal groups. When some people develop friendship and the friends as a group meet in a club or village panchayat room or in a members’ house and chat, gossip, and play for some time, it is called an informal groups. It is relatively transitory.
A group formed to collect pickles from nearby house, collect money for relief purpose etc. are made by informal group. A formal group has a number of informal groups within it. Every informal group is linked with some formal groups. A meeting is arranged to welcome the newly appointed principal of a college. This is a formal meeting as it has an agenda by which the meeting has to proceed.
But arrangement of tea party is an informal matter. Here all are members of the college which is a formal organization but during tea party the group becomes informal as the members sit for tea in groups and chat in an informal manner. Thus there is a close relationship between formal and informal groups. Similarly every informal group is linked with some formal groups.
(iii) Ingroups and Outgroups:
Once a group has been structured and formed with definite norms and goals a sense of belongingness and we feelings, the formation of in-groups and outgroups is visualized.
Anybody who goes against the group norms, values and standards of the group, groups goals and stands against fulfilment of common motivation is seen as an “outgroup”. On the other hand members of the group who voluntarily go by the group norm and function for the cohesiveness and unity of the group, who like their group and have love, respect for it are said to be the members of the “ingroup”.
In a particular group if there is fractionalism there may be one ingroup and one outgroup. Those who support the group goal and group norm form the “ingroup” and those who oppose the ‘in group’ arc said “outgroup”.
Further when two different groups are competing with each other for the solution of some common problems and fulfilment of some common goal, one becomes the outgroup to the other. The example of two competing cricket teams, football teams, cinema producers, yatra parties who are rivals and compete with each other develop ingroup and outgroup feeling.
Though the ingroup and outgroup feeling between two separate but rival groups is desirable to a certain extent, only for the purpose of competition (as competition raises performance), unhealthy rivalry and jealousy is not desirable and conducive. By avoiding unhealthy competition, jealousy and tension between two different groups, the ingroup and outgroup feelings can be avoided to a great extent.
But when one group is divided into two sub groups, i.e. one outgroup and one ingroup due to jealousy, rivalry, love for power, prestige and selfish interest, the team spirit deteriorates and the group function is affected. No wonder, the group may finally disintegrate.
It is therefore advised that the leader of the group and other members should take immediate action to maintain the loyalty, morale and team spirit of the group. Problems should be solved at the initial stage before they grow too difficult. Intra group conflict and tension among the members should be resolved through direct communication. Gap in communication and misunderstanding is one of the major reasons for development of outgroup feeling within a group.
(iv) Autocratic and Democratic Group:
A group coming under the star pattern is said to be a dictator or authoritarian group. The existence of the group depends upon ‘B’ who is the leader of the group. If ‘B’ disappears the whole group would disappear or disintegrate.
A dictatorial group is characterized by the autocratic style of functioning of the leader. Thus in dictatorial group each member knows the other indirectly only through the leader. Members have no direct connection with each other but only through the leader.
The role of the individual is minimum as the leader is the fountain head of all responsibilities.
An autocratic leader can be of two types:
(1) Hard boiled autocrat and
(2) Benevolent autocrat.
1. Hard boiled autocrat:
The hard boiled autocrat is very rigid and believes that praise will improve the members efficiency and loyalty in group. He is very much status conscious and does not usually trust the initiative of employees. Because of such behaviour the group members feel tensed, insecured, aggressive and egocentric. According to Kakar (1971) the autocratic leader is an ideal image of the Indian employees.
2. Benevolent autocrat:
He dominates all members of the group. Here the members depend upon the leader for all decisions and demonstrate a slow regression to more submission, dependency and inability to take responsibility.
In democratic group the individual member has more responsibility and more scope for active participation in the functions of the group. In such a group every member is allotted some responsibility, some power, for which he feels great and involved. Different members know each other directly as the group members have link with each other.
Thus the group coming under the net pattern is said to be a democratic group. Unlike the autocratic group here all people do not select one but many. Morale is high in democratic group as there is internal cohesion between the different members. Net pattern is said to be the most complex structure of a group.
Thus a dictatorial or democratic structure group centres around the functions of a leader and the style of functions or behaviour of the leader determines the ‘type’ of the group whether it is autocratic or democratic.
The classic experiment conducted by Lewin, Lippitt and White (1939, 1952) indicates that the manner of supervision or leadership significantly affected the behaviour of members, despite individual and personality differences within the various groups.
Lewin, Lippit and White (1939. 1952) conducted number of experimental studies to throw light on the various aspects of leadership behaviour. The subjects of his study were divided in to four groups of 10-1 1 years old members of a children’s club.
These children were subjected alternatively to the democratic, autocratic and laissez faire leadership. The leaders playing authoritarian role were trained to give orders and avoid explanation. The orders were given to the children to obey them outright. Nobody was allowed to ask any question or get any explanation what so ever.
The leaders with democratic style of functioning were trained to discuss problems with the children and obtain their decision for action. The various problems of the club were being discussed among the group members and they were also consulted in various decision making process.
Finally, the leader with Laissez faire role was quite passive and had no influence on the child in any manner. He was completely ineffective.
Each of the four groups was exposed to each of the three kinds of leadership. The results of this study were very complex and complicated in nature. Results showed that in a democratic atmosphere ego involvement was more. This was evident from the use of words like we, us, our by the children of a particular group more often than by the group subjected to authoritarian leadership.
On the other hand the children controlled by the Laissez faire leadership spent a lot of time in playing and coordinated action by the children was an absolute impossibility.
Children under the autocratic leadership showed mostly two kinds of actions:
(a) either the children were forced to show apathy and indifference
(b) or they responded to different stimuli and situations with aggressiveness.
Interestingly it was also found that the apathetic group showed significant aggressiveness when the atmosphere of the group was changed from autocratic to democratic or to the laissez faire leadership.
These findings clearly proved that the conduct of the members of a group is a function of the structure and leadership qualities. As expected, it was observed that aggressiveness among the group members was extremely low rather insignificant under the democratic leadership. Surprisingly it was found that some children preferred the autocratic to the democratic order.
Further Peak (1945) from a study of Nazi membership, has conducted “persons reared in the authoritative family which is common in Germany, typically find the greatest security and satisfaction where they are dominated by superior authority on the one hand and where they can on the other ‘lord it over’ someone else of lower status”.
Some notable studies have been conducted in India on the image of the group members about their leaders Kakar (1971) conducted a study on “Authority in Social Relations in India” and observed that the image of the leader or immediate supervisor in all cases was that of an autocrat. Interestingly, there was not a single case in his study in which a supervisor had been described to be permissive and relatively equal.
The Indian socio cultural condition at that period and child rearing practices of Indian families perhaps represent this attitude of workers towards their boss. Ganguly’s study (1964) in a similar area revealed that the prevailing pattern ranged midway between the bureaucratic and the autocratic leader.
Nagandhi and Prasad (1971) in a very useful investigation found that leadership styles influence the work and attitude of group members.
They conducted studies in 17 Indian owned companies and found that only three perceived their leader as democratic, nine as authoritarian and five as bureaucratic. They also observed that ordinarily, the superiors hold the subordinates in low esteem and low trust.
Kumar and Singh (1976) on the basis of the results of another study have noted. The preponderance of the authoritarian style is supported further by the existence of many layers of hierarchy in the Indian organisations as compared to US subordinates in India.
This difference in the organisational structure affects the authority’s need for delegation of powers to their subordinates. The investigators are of view that the Indian bureaucratic organisations because of emphasis on objectivity, impersonality and heirarchical authority suit the Indian leaders and managers as they embody standards which they would like to apply to others.
Various other Indian studies do reveal dominance, casualness, sensitivity, realism, adaptability, practicality, confidence, conservation as characteristics of Indian leaders and managers.
Further follow up studies in this line showed that a more permissive, friendly and helpful style produced more effective group and high group performance.
After reviewing these research data, Anderson (1963) was of the following view:
“The evidence available fails to demonstrate that either authoritarian or democratic leadership is consistently associated with higher productivity. In most situations, however, democratic leadership is associated with higher morale. But even this conclusion must be regarded cautiously because the authoritarian leader has been unreasonably harsh and austere in a number of investigations reporting superior morale in democratic groups. The authoritarian democratic construct provides an inadequate conceptualization of leadership behaviour.”
However, various factors determine the function of group along with the role of a leader. The style of functioning of a leader, the way a leader deals with others i.e., whether he is autocratic or democratic, directive or permissive, indicates only one aspect of his role relations.
Fielder (1968) has concluded from his extensive research that leadership is a function of leader- follower relations, the relative power of the leader to enforce sanctions and the structure of the task as well as the leader’s style and technical proficiency. His study further shows that when the leaders are more considerate and worker oriented higher group performance is observed.
Maier’s study also indicates that when a trained democratic leader tried to involve everybody in group activity giving them scope for personal contribution to group goal, performance improved.
(v) Face to Face and Co-Acting Groups:
Allport gave some experimental evidence on the increase in activity of an individual when he sees other individuals doing the same or similar activities. The sights and sounds from the activities of others stimulate the individual to do more work. This is the effect of a co-acting group on other members.
Women knit faster when in a group than when alone because of a sense of competition. Research findings show that competition increases the level of activity much more than the mere co- acting group itself. Social facilitation also influences the confidence of the individual.
According to Allport (1924) a co-acting group is that which is engaged in the same activity of another group and the presence of others doing the same thing would enhance the quality and vigour of each individual’s work.
The presence of others seems to have an energizing effect on the individual causing him to work with greater interest and higher motivation. He gets facilitation from his coworkers. But he also found that the intellectual or implicit responses of thought are hampered rather than facilitated in a co-acting group.
Zajone (1966) after a lot of investigation found that presence of others either in a setting in which they act together or infront of an audience impairs the learning of new responses, but facilitates the performance of those previously learnt. Experimental findings indicate that there is increase of performance in the coacting group but also a decrease in efficiency and quality of work.
It is therefore concluded that the passive silent presence of an audience in a coacting group can markedly facilitate performance but impair learning.
(vi) Membership and Reference Groups:
It is not possible on the part of a person to be members of several groups. A person may be a member of one group, but through his contact with another group he may relate himself with it. This is called a reference group.
Those groups to which a person actually belongs informally or formally is designated as his membership group. Ordinarily his attitudes, identifications and subsequently his diverse and specific reactions are regulated and determined by such membership groups.
But this does not always happen. He may actually be a member of a particular group but psychologically refer himself to different group and regulate his attitudes and aspirations accordingly. Member of a particular religious group may be psychologically influenced by another religious group and this becomes his reference group.
He may be an ordinary member of a group and may not follow actively the norm and standard of the group. His subjective sense of belongingness to another group called the reference group modifies and changes his behaviour.
Certain reference groups of the world indirectly and psychologically influence us though we are not directly the members of such group. A person who has affiliation for another group develops an “in groups” feeling towards such a reference group.
The activities of such groups directly or indirectly influence our behaviour though we are not members of such group. You are not the member of UNESCO but you share the activities of UNESCO and relate yourself to its functions and performances.
So it becomes a reference group for you which directly or indirectly influences your behaviour and activities. Thus it is clear that although a person is not a member of a group, but it influences his behaviour and he identifies with it, it is a reference group for him.
These groups serve as a standard and a source of group norm. A reference group always acts as a yard stick or standard for assessing the magnitude of relative deprivation, for comparing one’s status and position in his membership group with the reference group where he is not a member.
Several studies conducted by New Comb (1958) show that social clubs and college communities are considered important reference groups for college students.
Similarly studies indicated that the middle class mothers use medical child psychologists, experts and pediatricians as their reference groups in developing attitude towards child care whereas working class mothers follow their own mother’s attitude as references.
It is also found that middle class people follow middle class norms and higher class people follow higher class norms. Reference groups are usually positive in nature. But in some exceptional cases it may be negative.
Occasionally an individual may be influenced by a group which he dislikes. Children who rebel against their own parents and reject it as their primary group, sometimes become a member of a group or political party opposite to that of their parents like the mother belonging to the BJP and the daughter belonging to the Congress party.
According to Sherif (1948) “In many cases (perhaps in all) the referring of social attitudes to one group negatively leads to referring them to another group positively or vice versa so that the attitudes are dually reinforced.” But nevertheless a reference group may not be completely positive or completely negative.
6. Properties and Formation of Groups:
All groups are structured on a number of dimensions. When individuals from different fields of the society are brought together for the first time and interact with each other during their formal and informal meetings, difference of opinions crop up within the group initially. Secondly, some people by nature are more influential, and dominant than others.
So they exert more influence in the group than the others. Some are more communicative, outspoken and some are appreciated better by the group members. In the view of Mann (1985) some important properties of small groups are sociometric, power, communication and role or work structures.
Structure or friendship refers to the pattern of liking and disliking among group members or friendly relationship among them which leads to group cohesiveness. The sociometric structure is very important for a group to continue and sustain and work effectively. Close friendship in a group makes the group cohesive.
It makes easier for the members to communicate and express themselves fully without any inhibitions. It is observed that cohesive and friendly groups are more productive, efficient and conform to the group norms. In a study conducted to find out the effects of friend on communication, Kerck-off and Back (1968) found that hysterical contagion spreads primarily along strings of friends within a group.
(ii) Power Structure:
It refers to the distribution of authority and influence within the group. Power is of major importance in a group since it determines a member’s status, worth and prestige. A person’s knowledge and ability also provide him with power in the group even if he does not hold a very important status in the group.
It is noticed that the more powerful members of a group are sociometrically preferred and arc more respected than other rank and file members. The individual’s status in the group is reflected in his feelings of self esteem. The power itself is also satisfying, makes him feel worthy and great.
(iii) Communication Structure:
The communication channels between different members of the group affect the function of the group. Groups differ in the degree to which members feel free to communicate with each other on the issues relating the group or relating to their own problems. The imposition of some form of communication structure on the group increases its organized quality and efficiency.
Studies by Leavitt (1951) and Marshall (1947) throw light on the effect of communication on group performance. An empirical study by French (1944) shows the advantages of structured and cohesive group for dealing with stressful situations.
(iv) Role on Work Structure:
It refers to the pattern of members tasks and responsibilities in the group. In other words, it aims at task specialisation or division of labour among the members of the group. But satisfaction and interest may lack and boredom may enter among the group members on the other hand due to over task specialization which may also hamper work efficiency.
Groups are therefore never formed in a vacuum nor they can be completely separated from the environment. They are formed in course of interaction of individuals in definite locations and to cope with problems that cannot be only handled individually.
A group functions with definite roles, norms and cohesiveness. Persons belonging to a definite group share common goals, interact with one another and are interdependent.
So one influences the other, and is also influenced by the other. Once a particular individual assumes a particular role in a group he is expected to behave in certain ways according to the code of conduct. Such role expectations are very powerful and frequently they constitute an important way in which groups focus strong effects upon the members.
Properties of Group Situation Advanced by Sherif:
From the definition of group advanced by Sherif and Sherif indications of most of the properties and characteristic of psychological groups are evident. For the formation of small and informal groups they indicated certain important properties.
(i) Common Motivation and Group Goal:
When interaction of individuals with common motives or goals is made informal groups are organized. Thus a group is born out of interaction between common motives and individuals.
Common motivation lies at the root of formation of any group. Motivation serves as a common goal and keeps the members united until it is attained. Motivation works as a cohesive and binding force. A group once formed on the basis of common human motivation becomes instrumental in satisfying other common goals.
It might not have initially been formed to serve all these ends as certain goals may grow even after the formation of the group.
Motivation may be based around two types, Biogenic and Sociogenic. Hunger, sex and thirst etc. belong to common biogenic needs. Food, recreation, entertainment lie at the crux of many informal group formations. Some inmates of a hostel may form a group to collect food and pickle from next door. Similarly, a gang may be formed for sex hunting, for teasing members of the opposite sex and the like.
According to Sherif and Sherif, the motivational basis of group formation is conductive to repeated and prolonged efforts to attain goals. It covers the entire range of human needs, desires, interests, aspirations, insecurities and anxieties that may be common to a group of individuals.
The sociogenic needs are varied in a human being and also vary from culture to culture, society to society and class to class. But the need for power, prestige, recognition, social distinction and status affiliation, gregariousness and the search for human companionship, security, belongingness desire for excitement and adventure, cooperation and competition etc. may lead to the formation of a group or to belong to a group.
Thus a set of common problems pull some people of the society together to fulfil these motives through common efforts and interaction. What is most important is, the common problems pave the path for social interaction in a group situation.
When all the members of a particular group share the motivations, the formation and functions of the group indicate tremendous improvement as found from the study by Ketchum (1965). However, it has been noticed that many states of arousal directed towards similar goals are not at all condusive to group formation.
Further it is also observed that for the continuation and persistence of a group common motivations are necessary. So during group formation new motives and goals emerge that contribute to the maintenance of a group. Sherif and Sherif hold that such new motives are central in understanding group solidarity of cohesiveness morale, loyalty and responsibility.
Various social motives are formed and changed under various stimulus situations. These stimulus situations are patterned as human groups.
Thus by and large, common motives whether sociogenic or biogenic help not only in the formation of the group but also in the maintenance and continuance of the group. A feeling of belongingness, a status and a hierarchy of statuses originating out of common motivation regulate the organisation, stability and function of various informal groups.
(ii) Social Interaction:
Interaction is a process which involves the reactions of two or more persons to each other and it is different from action which is only one way process. Inter communication of some members with some common motives or goals give rise to the formation of a group.
Members of a group, interact with each other and influence each other. In the process of interaction all the psychological functions like emotion, perception, thinking, imagination, learning etc. are affected to a greater or lesser degree.
In the course of interaction, the individual members understand in a more or less definfte way the intellectual and character qualities of each other. This may lead to either development of identical or different attitudes.
Social interaction leads to interpersonal relations which help in the stabilization of the group. The feeling of in group is created if the interpersonal relation developed out of social interaction is positive.
If the members of the group come from a common socio-economic and cultural background, the interaction proves to be more beneficial and positive for the effective functioning and continuance of the group. If the group interaction is lasting to some degree there is a tendency to the formation of structure.
(iii) Feeling of Oneness:
It is the starting point of in group and out group relationship. Due to the spirit of belongingness out groups serve as competitors, and rivals to the in groups. Out groups are always necessary to make any in group strong, stable and powerful like the strong opposition parties in the assembly or parliament. This “we” feeling, feeling of oneness of cohesiveness works as a cementing agency which keeps the group intact and unified.
If the group goals are identical, if members of the group have clear and defined values, goals, motives and role status and if they come from a common socio economic status and common cultural setting, usually the feeling of oneness is seen.
The feeling of oneness raises the morale of the group. For any informal or psychological group to continue, and function effectively the feeling of oneness is most essential. It is definitely an inevitable property of group situation.
(iv) Role of a Leader in the Group:
Every group contains one person who yields more power than all the rest. Such individuals are called leaders.
Formation and stabilization of group depends a lot on the leader. Every group whether small or big, formal or informal has status structure which indicates different dimensions. This status structure is formed if the group interaction is lasting to some degree. The appearance of relative, interdependent roles for individual members in a hierarchical order at relative distances from a leader is one of the evidences of a formation of group structure.
As Sherif and Sherif put it “A leader is the member with the top status (Power Position) in an organizational hierarchy.” The leader plays a vital role in coordinating interaction between different members of the group. The emergence of a leader in the group depends upon varied factors like physical features, intelligence, prestige, tact, initiative, capacity to hold group members together, decisiveness, quick judgement etc.
However, the role of a leader is not determined by absolute traits and capacities but by the demands of the situation at hand. A leader at one situation may be a follower at another situation. So the qualities of a leader are also situational. In one situation it may be physical power and bravery while in another situation it may be intelligence and initiative.
Leader is thus more or less specific to the particular situation under investigation. The process through which leaders influence over others and guide group activities is called leadership. Inspite of that, the operation of some common leadership qualities cannot be totally ruled out.
According to Sherif and Sherif the leadership process centres around:
(a) The initiations of policy decisions and activities within the group and with outsiders
(b) Following their course as they are executed
(c) Applying sanctions for noncompliance.
A leader is a part of the group or organization and hence cannot be considered separate from the roles and statuses of other member. The role of a leader is subject to regulation by other properties of the group like values and norms. He is also abided by the rules, regulations and norms of the groups. In general, the leadership role is limited by other role relations, traditions, rules and norms stabilized in the group.
Studies by Whyte (1943), March (1954), Sherif and Sherif (1953, 1964) show that in general the leader and the high status members adhere more closely to the major values and norms than those with lower status. He plays a powerful role in shaping the norms of the group.
However, the leader can introduce new norms, values and goals with the cooperation of the group members. The impact of leaders in the group can be profound. They strongly affect and influence the attitudes, behaviour and even perception of the followers.
Stogdile (1948) found that leaders rather consistently excelled others in atleast one skill or personal characteristics but what is that characteristic differed from situation to situation or organisation to organisation. Mann (1959) could not find general leadership traits or personal qualities.
Cattell and Stice (1954) have indicated that leadership qualities are usually specific to particular measures of personality, criteria for status and situations.
Gibb (1954) holds that in general leadership is a function of personality and of social situations and their interaction. Longstanding research has shown that a few consistent traits of all leaders have ’emerged. Mcclelland and Boyatzis (1982) hold that leaders do not simply differ from the followers in Clear and consistent ways.
But they differ in some respects. Persons possessing certain patterns of motives like high need for power plus a high degree of self control are more successful as leaders than persons not possessing these traits.
The formation and functions of a group is also determined by the democratic and autocratic nature of the leader. The way a leader treats others i.e. whether he is directive or permissive, whether dominant or submissive is however only one aspect of his role relations.
The next question arises whether a leader is necessary for a group. The answer is obviously yes. To give guidance and direction to the members of the group and to coordinate their functions, to unite them together a leader is essential for any psychological group.
What factors determine the degree of success of a leader? Fielder (1978), Fielder and Garcia (1987) have developed contingency theory to develop leader effectiveness. A leader’s contribution to successful performance by his group is determined both by the leaders’ traits and by various features of the situation in which the group operates.
(v) Formation of Group Norms:
With the formation of group structure group norms begin to emerge which direct and regulate the behaviour of the individual member of the group. These norms or values and standards are fixed for the members of the group.
Each member of the group has to follow these standards. The group norms develop because of the expectations arising out of interaction of the members of the group. Once the norms are established restraint on the group of members is exercised.
Norms are said to be rules which may be explicit or implicit established by various groups to regulate the behaviour of other members. Thus, these norms tell the group members how to function, the dos and don’ts, how to behave and how riot to behave in various situations.
Individuals who join a particular group are to follow these rules of the game, or the norm. Control is imposed on the members to regulate the range of permissible behaviour, attitudes and relationship. The sharing of the norms is one of the most outstanding features of a group.
According to McGrath (1964) group norms include:
(a) The frame of reference for viewing relevant objects,
(b) Prescribed right attitudes and behaviours towards the objects
(c) Effective feelings ‘about the rightness of these attitudes and tolerance of norm violation.
(d) Positive and negative sanctions by which proper behaviour is rewarded and improper behaviour is penalized.
For promoting the continuation and success of a group it is desirable to regulate the conduct of members through control, coordination and proper application of group norms. Group norms enable the member to act and behave in disciplined manner.
These norms work as guidelines for individual members. Any group to function and continue in the right direction with a right approach undoubtedly should have a set of rules, regulations and code of conduct otherwise known as group norms.
In the absence of group norms, it is not possible on the part of the leader to coordinate regulate and control the behaviour of individual members. Once a person becomes a member of a group, he tries to accommodate and adjust his behaviour, thinking and feeling with the group norms. Usually sociable, dynamic and normal persons have no difficulty in changing themselves in the direction of group norms.
But someone who is seriously maladjusted and very rigid, fails to accommodate himself to the norms of the group and hence sometimes is considered as an indisciplined and dissatisfied member of the group having low morale.
They become a threat to group solidarity. Schechter’s study supports this view. Besides the above major properties of groups, the following properties also influence the function and continuance of a group. Highly cohesive groups adhere to group norms quite often which strengthens their cohesiveness.
7. Functions of the Group:
(i) Satisfaction of Needs:
Satisfaction of needs of individual members is supposed to be the most essential features of the function of a group. People join different groups and societies for satisfaction of different needs. For example, people join photographic society, music associations, health clubs, dance clubs, psychological or economic society according to their respective interests.
Further, among so may groups and associations present in the environment, people try to be the members of a group where maximum satisfaction is obtained. However, a group cannot satisfy the needs of all the members equally. In every group the satisfaction of needs of the active and dominant members comes first. They are given preference over others.
The needs of a group can be both primary and secondary. The group objective serves as the unique or major need of a group. The unique need cannot satisfy all members equally as different members participate in the group with a mixture of different motives.
A labour union is not only interested with planning grievances and asking for the redressal from the authority, it has also other purposes like organising cultural functions, and promoting good relation among different workers of the factory.
All students come to college to read, which is their primary aim. But among them some have also the need to be a good sports man, singer, N.C.C. worker, actor or debator. These auxiliary needs are called minor or secondary needs.
Rank and the members may not be interested only in the group objective. They are also eager to satisfy their secondary needs like recognition, prestige, social security and the desire to show off. After attainment of group objective new needs are also created among the group members for the sustenance of the group.
The creation of the new needs depends upon the types of members in a group, their ingenuity and creativity. Here leadership plays a very important role in creating new goals keeping in mind the demands of the members and spirit of the time.
(ii) Loyalty of the Members:
The group loyalty will depend upon the extent to which the group satisfies the vital needs of the individual members. These vital needs are social and biological. In a social context, the need for dominance or belongingness, recognition, prestige etc. are important.
More a person identifies with a group with the hope of satisfaction of his needs, more will be the loyalty to that group. Smooth group functioning is closely inter-related with such membership loyalty.
(iii) Belief for the Group:
Just as people have common needs in a group, a common belief also serves as uniting the different members of the group. Different values for the group are also connected with the beliefs. The degree to which a group can live upto its values and beliefs with more solidarity is to be expected in the group.
The interrelationship between needs, beliefs and actions is intimate and complicated. Possession of a common belief system is a paramount characteristic of a social organisation.
This belief system tends to eliminate the behavioural differences among the members by inducing a common mode of expression of the common needs. The belief of the group is generally clearly related to the needs of the dominant members of the group than to the needs of other members.
When the beliefs of a particular individual tallies with the beliefs of one group among many, he chooses that group. Thus, this selective factor always operates to ensure a common set of belief among the different members of the group coming from diverse fields of the society. The belief of the leader is specially of prime importance which influences all the members of the group.
Thus, Tresselt and Volkman (1942) have pointed out “Each person in a group says what he does not only because he has been persuaded by argument, induced by reward, compelled by pressure, guided by his own past beliefs or influenced by the voiced opinion of other people of social and nonsocial stimulation and this range has determined his scale of judgement.”
Beliefs also influence the social behaviour of the group members. It is said often changing beliefs and values by political parties prove detrimental for the function of the group. The beliefs of the subgroups are also to be coordinated with the group goal or group objective so that there is no conflicting of values and beliefs between groups and the subgroups.
More often than not emotional attachment to a particular party or group leads to all sorts of emotional outbursts when any change in the group belief is introduced.
8. Flexibility and Stability of the Group:
Group stability depends upon group cohesiveness, high morale, loyalty and sense of belongingness of the members towards the group. It also depends upon the functions of the leader.
Slavson conducted an experiment on children’s groups and he has observed that flexibility in the group allows for its stability. Such a group has more permanence than a rigid group. Flexibility of group serves as a neutralizing force of opposite tendencies.
For instance, if any disturbance of conflict in a group is observed, discussion and compromises may be made and gap among the group members may be bridged for common interest of the group.
Kurt Lewin while studying on group dynamics has made some very important contributions on this aspect. He held that group properties are extremely dynamic and equilibrium is the result of balance between positive and negative tendencies. In a flexible group, the opposite movements are allowed to stabilize and thereby the equilibrium is reached.