Group dynamics

Group dynamics

Group dynamics is the study of groups, and also a general term for group processes. Relevant to the fields of psychology, sociology, and communication studies, a group is two or more individuals who are connected to each other by social relationships. [Forsyth, D.R. (2006) "Group Dynamics"] Because they interact and influence each other, groups develop a number of dynamic processes that separate them from a random collection of individuals. These processes include norms, roles, relations, development, need to belong, social influence, and effects on behavior. The field of group dynamics is primarily concerned with small group behavior. Groups may be classified as aggregate, primary, secondary and category groups.

In organizational development (OD), or group dynamics, the phrase "group process" refers to the understanding of the behaviour of people in groups, such as task groups, that are trying to solve a problem or make a decision. An individual with expertise in 'group process, such as a trained facilitator, can assist a group in accomplishing its objective by diagnosing how well the group is functioning as a problem-solving or decision-making entity and intervening to alter the group's operating behaviour.

Because people gather in groups for reasons other than task accomplishment, group process occurs in other types of groups such as personal growth groups (e.g. encounter groups, study groups, prayer groups). In such cases, an individual with expertise in group process can be helpful in the role of facilitator.

Well researched but rarely mentioned by professional group workers, is the social status of people within the group ( (i.e., senior or junior). The group leader (or facilitator) will usually have a strong influence on the group due to his or her role of shaping the group's outcomes. This influence will also be affected by the leader's sex, race, relative age, income, appearance, and personality, as well as organizational structures and many other factors.

Key theorists

Gustave Le Bon was a French social psychologist whose seminal study, "The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind" (1896) led to the development of group psychology.

Sigmund Freud's "Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego," (1922) based on a critique of Le Bon's work, led to further development in theories of group behavior in the latter half of the twentieth century.

Kurt Lewin (1943, 1948, 1951) is commonly identified as the founder of the movement to study groups scientifically. He coined the term "group dynamics" to describe the way groups and individuals act and react to changing circumstances.

William Schutz (1958, 1966) looked at interpersonal relations from the perspective of three dimensions: "inclusion, control," and "affection." This became the basis for a theory of group behavior that sees groups as resolving issues in each of these stages in order to be able to develop to the next stage. Conversely, a group may also devolve to an earlier stage if unable to resolve outstanding issues in a particular stage.

Wilfred Bion (1961) studied group dynamics from a psychoanalytic perspective, and stated that he was much influenced by Wilfred Trotter for whom he worked at University College Hospital London, as did another key figure in the Psychoanalytic movement, Ernest Jones. Many of Bion's findings were reported in his published books, especially "Experiences in Groups." The Tavistock Institute has further developed and applied the theory and practices developed by Bion.

Bruce Tuckman (1965) proposed the four-stage model called Tuckman's Stages for a group. Tuckman's model states that the ideal group decision-making process should occur in four stages:

* "Forming" (pretending to get on or get along with others);
* "Storming" (letting down the politeness barrier and trying to get down to the issues even if tempers flare up );
* "Norming" (getting used to each other and developing trust and productivity);
* "Performing" (working in a group to a common goal on a highly efficient and cooperative basis).

Tuckman later added a fifth stage for the dissolution of a group called "adjourning". ("Adjourning" may also be referred to as "mourning", i.e. mourning the adjournment of the group). It should be noted that this model refers to the overall pattern of the group, but of course individuals within a group work in different ways. If distrust persists, a group may never even get to the norming stage.

M. Scott Peck developed stages for larger-scale groups (i.e., communities) which are similar to Tuckman's stages of group development. [Peck, M. S. (1987) "The Different Drum: Community-Making and Peace."p. 95-103.] Peck describes the stages of a community as:

* "Pseudo-community
* "Chaos"
* "Emptiness"
* "True Community"

Communities may be distinguished from other types of groups, in Peck's view, by the need for members to eliminate barriers to communication in order to be able to form true community. Examples of common barriers are: expectations and preconceptions; prejudices; ideology, counterproductive norms, theology and solutions; the need to heal, convert, fix or solve and the need to control. A community is born when its members reach a stage of "emptiness" or peace.

Dimensions of group process

Some of the aspects of group process that a "process consultant" would look at include:
* Patterns of communication and coordination
* Patterns of influence
* Roles / relationship
* Patterns of dominance (e.g. who leads, who defers)
* Balance of task focus vs social focus
* Level of group effectiveness
* How conflict is handled

Groups of individuals gathered together to achieve a goal or objective, either as a committee or some other grouping, go through several predicatable stages before useful work can be done. These stages are a function of a number of variables, not the least of which is the self-identification of the role each member will tend to play, and the emergence of natural leaders and individuals who will serve as sources of information.Any individual in a ledership position whose responsibilities involve getting groups of individuals to work together should both be conversant with the phases of the group process and possess the skills necessaryy to capitalize on these stages to accomplish the objective of forming a productive, cohesive team.

Various theories of group development exist. The model below combines elements of theories by Jones (1973), Tuckman (1965), and Banet (1976). In this model, each phase of group development is looked at with respect to group members' concerns with task and personal relations (process) functions. [The CEDA Meta-Profession Project. [ Group Process] . Retrieved on: September 27, 2008.]


Group dynamics form a basis for group therapy, often with therapeutic approaches that are formed of groups such as family therapy and the expressive therapies. Politicians and sales personnel may use their knowledge of the principles of group dynamics to aid their cause. Increasingly, group dynamics are of interest in light of online social interaction and virtual communities made possible by the internet.

See also

* Cog's Ladder
* Collaboration
* Collaborative method
* Counterproductive norms
* Crowd psychology
* Facilitator
* Forming-storming-norming-performing
* Group development
* Group-dynamic games
* Group (sociology)
* Group conflict
* Group selection
* Groupthink
* Interpersonal relationships
* Small-group communication
* Talking circle
* Team building



* Bion, W. R. 1961. "Experiences in Groups: And Other Papers". Tavistock. Reprinted, 1989 Routledge. ISBN 0-415-04020-5
* Dyer, William (1994). "Team Building", 3rd Edition, Prentice Hall.
* Forsyth, D.R. 2006. "Group Dynamics, 4th Edition". Belmont, CA: Thomson Wadsworth. ISBN 0-534-36822-0 .
* Freud, Sigmund (1922) "Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego." New York: Liveright Publishing.
* Homans, G. C. 1974. "Social Behavior: Its Elementary Forms," Rev. Ed. New York, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich. ISBN 0-15-581417-6
* Jones, John. E. (1973). "A model of group development." In Pfeiffer, J. William, and Jones, John E. (eds.), "The 1973 Annual Handbook for Group Facilitators." University Associates: La Jolla, CA.
* Le Bon, G. (1896) "The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind." London: Ernest Benn Limited.
* Lewin, K. (1947) Frontiers in group dynamics 1. Human Relations 1, 5-41.:— (1948) Resolving Social Conflicts: Selected Papers on Group Dynamics. New York: Harper & Row.
* Lui and Chan (2008) Software Development Rhythms, John Wiley and Sons.
* Peck, M.S. 1987. "The Different Drum: Community-Making and Peace." New York: Simon and Schuster. ISBN 0-684-84858-9
* Schein, Edgar (1998). "Process Consultation", Prentice Hall.
* Schutz, W. 1958. "FIRO: A Three-Dimensional Theory of Interpersonal Behavior". New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston.
* Tuckman, B. 1965. Developmental sequence in small groups. "Psychological bulletin," 63, 384-399.

External links

* [ Theory of Group Relations]
* [ Group Dynamics, Processes & Development]

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