Saturday, January 28, 2012

Social Groups

Social Groups

In all societies groups are important components and behavior and personalities of individuals are shaped by groups in which they are members. 

A group is a collection of people interacting together in an orderly way on the basis of shared expectations about mutual behavior. In a group, members expect certain kinds of behavior from one another that they would not necessarily expect from outsiders.  Every group has its own boundaries, norms, values and interrelated statuses. People form groups for a purpose, generally one that they cannot achieve satisfactorily through individual effort.

A collection of people who happen to be in the same place at the same is termed as aggregate. The members of the aggregate have not interacted for significant amount of time and hence there is no common sense of belonging that is developed over a period of time. A category is a term used to describe people having common characteristics such as age, education etc. Although, loosely group is used to describe aggregates as well as categories,  group in strict sense refers to only collection of people interacting together in an orderly way.

Groups are classified into primary and secondary groups. A primary group consists of a small number of people who interact in direct, intimate, and personal ways. A secondary group consists of a number of people who identify with the group but may not have any direct contact. A secondary group therefore consists of many primary groups. Some groups may start as secondary groups and over a period of time become primary groups.

Small Groups

A small group is one that contains sufficiently few members for the participants to relate to one another as individuals. Whether a small group is primary or secondary depends on the nature of relationships between members.  The smallest possible small group is a dyad, a two people group. In a group of up to about seven people, all the members can take part in the same conversation. Beyond that point maintaining a single conversation becomes difficult and regulation of interaction by a leader becomes necessary.

Leadership and Groups

Groups always have leader even when no body holds a formal authority. Research found two types of leadership in small groups (Bales, 1953; Slater, 1955). Instrumental leadership proposes courses of action and influences members to follow them. Expressive leadership is the kind necessary to create harmony and solidarity among the members.

Group Decision Making

The process generally proceeds through a sequence of stages. In the first stage members orient themselves to the problem by going through the facts or by presenting the facts. In the second stage they represent their opinions on the facts and react to the opinions of others. IN the third stage of decision making, emotional tensions may rise as coalitions form and efforts are made to collect majority for an alternative. IN the fourth stage after the decision is made, there is an effort to restore harmony in the group. The members react more positively to one another and there may be a certain amount of joking and frivolity to reduce tensions and increase solidarity.

Group Conformity

There is powerful pressure to conform to group expectations in small groups.

For Further Reading

Davis, James, H. (1969), Group Performance, Addison Wesley, Reading.

Robertson, Ian (1977), Sociology, Worth Publishers, Inc., New York.

Sociology - Related Knols


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