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Article

Group Dynamics  

Mark J. Macgowan

This entry is an overview of group dynamics relevant for group work practice. The history of small group theory and group dynamics is described. The bulk of the entry is dedicated to discussing four main areas of group dynamics: communication and interaction, interpersonal attraction and cohesion, social integration (power, influence, norms, roles, status), and group development. How these might vary according to gender, race, ethnicity, and culture is included. The entry ends with a discussion of trends and needs for further research.

Article

Group Processes  

Charles Stangor

Group process refers to the behaviors of the members of small working groups (usually between three and twelve members) as they engage in decision-making and task performance. Group process includes the study of how group members’ characteristics interact with the behavior of group members to create effective or ineffective group performance. Relevant topics include the influences of group norms, group roles, group status, group identity, and group social interaction as they influence group task performance and decision-making, the development and change of groups over time, group task typologies, and decision-making schemes. Relevant group outcomes include group cohesion, process losses and process gains in performance, free riding, ineffective information sharing, difficulties in brainstorming, groupthink, and group polarization. Other variables that influence effective group process include group member diversity, task attractiveness, and task significance. A variety of techniques are used to improve group process.

Article

Group Work  

Ronald W. Toseland and Heather Horton

This entry begins with a brief history of group work in the United States. Next, there is a description of the wide range of treatment and task groups used by social workers. This is followed by a discussion of group dynamics, diversity and social justice issues. Then, there is a brief overview of the developmental stages that groups go through and widely used practice models. The chapter concludes with a brief review of the evidence base for the effectiveness of group work practice.

Article

Team Building and Group Cohesion in the Context of Sport and Performance Psychology  

Mark Eys and Jeemin Kim

Over the past 30 years, researchers studying group dynamics in sport have provided insight regarding the importance of considering a team’s environment, structure, and processes for its effective functioning. An emergent property resulting from activities within the group is cohesion. Cohesion is a dynamic property reflecting members’ perceptions of the unity and personal attractions to task and social objectives of the group. Generally speaking, cohesion remains a highly valued group property, and a strong body of evidence exists to support positive links to important individual and group outcomes such as adherence and team performance. Given the importance attached to cohesion and other group variables for sport teams, coaches and athletes often attempt to engage in activities that facilitate group functioning. Team building is a specific approach designed to facilitate team effectiveness and individual members’ perceptions of their group. Cohesion has been the primary target of team-building interventions in sport, although recent work on team-building outcomes suggested that the effects of these interventions on cohesion may be limited. The most effective team-building approaches include a goal setting protocol, last at least two weeks in duration, and target a variety of outcomes in addition to cohesion, including individual cognitions and team performance. There is a clear need to identify a team’s requirements prior to intervening (i.e., a targeted approach), consider a variety of approaches to team building, and investigate the effects of team building via more stringent research methods.

Article

Meeting Management and Decision-Making  

John E. Tropman

Many CEOs and other top-level managers spend over half of their time in meetings. There are several ways to address meetings that can make them more productive and useful. “Meeting Masters” create such useful groups and sustain enthusiasm in them over considerable periods of time. “Decision Maestros” then build high-quality decisions from these productive meetings. Codifying this successful work requires a new vocabulary (decision elements, rounds of discussion, decision crystallization). This language is then applied to selected moments in the meeting process. The ideas and techniques presented here are intended to assist nonprofit managers to move toward improved meetings and better decision-making.

Article

Faultlines  

Keith Murnighan* and Dora Lau

Group faultlines are hypothetical dividing lines that may split a group into subgroups based on one or more attributes. An example of a strong faultline is a group of two young female Asians and two senior male Caucasians. Members’ alignment of age, sex, and ethnicity facilitates the formation of two homogeneous subgroups. On the other hand, when a group consists of a young female Asian, a young male Caucasian, a senior female Caucasian, and a senior male Asian, the group faultline is considered weak because subgroups, regardless of how they are formed, are diverse. As a relatively new form of group compositional pattern, the group faultline is associated with subgroup formation, and these subgroups, rather than the whole group, can easily become the focus of attention. When members strive to obtain more resources and protect their subgroups, between-subgroup conflict, behavioral disintegration, lack of trust, lack of willingness to share information, and communication challenges are likely. As a result, group performance is often negatively affected, and sometimes groups may even be dissolved. These results were repeatedly found in studies of experimental groups, ad-hoc project groups, organizational teams, top management teams, global virtual teams, family businesses, international joint ventures, and strategic alliances.

Article

The Group Dynamics of Interorganizational Collaboration  

Sandra Schruijer

This article addresses the relational dynamics of interorganizational relationships where multiple legally independent organizations work on a joint goal, for example in public–private partnerships, alliances, or joint ventures. It focuses on the dynamics of groups that consist of members representing different organizations and thus different interests, who come together to work on the multiparty task. The relational dynamics are understood from a so-called systems-psychodynamic perspective, which aims to understand the emotional life of social systems in context. The article first will depict the relational challenges of working across organizational boundaries. It then will briefly sketch how social psychology (the domain par excellence for studying intergroup relations and group dynamics) helps fathom the relational challenges and where its insights are incomplete. Then, a systems-psychodynamic perspective is introduced. The article proceeds with describing an action research approach that is sensitive to the emotional underpinnings of interorganizational relationships, by providing two illustrations: one involving a real-life infrastructural project, the other concerning a complex behavioral simulation of interorganizational dynamics. The article ends with some reflections on the use of a systems-psychodynamic perspective in understanding and working with multiparty dynamics.

Article

Leaderless Group Decisions  

Seong-Jae Min

Leaderless group decision-making denotes the idea that political decisions from a non-hierarchical discussion structure can be more legitimate and effective than those from a hierarchical structure. Since the latter half of the 20th century, such decision-making has been practiced widely in community groups, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), “deliberation” forums, as well as in the business and management settings. While one may argue its origins go back to Athenian direct democracy, it was the zeal of the 1960s participatory democracy movement in the United States that produced the more sophisticated principles, philosophies, and mechanics of leaderless group decision-making. The progressive social movement activists at that time considered non-hierarchical groups as ethically appropriate to their causes. Since then, this tradition of leaderless group decision-making processes has been adopted in many grassroots social movements. Debates and controversies abound concerning leaderless group decision-making. It has been a normative imperative for many social activists to adopt decision-making in a leaderless manner. Research to date, however, has produced no conclusive evidence that leaderless group discussion results in better or more effective decisions. Proponents argue that members of a leaderless group would develop greater capacities for self-governance because in such a setting they can take more personal and egalitarian initiatives to organize activities of the group. This, in turn, would lead to better group dynamics and discussion, and, eventually, better decisions. Critics suggest that leaderless groups are slow and inflexible in decision-making and that the supposedly leaderless groups usually end up with leaders because of the social dynamics and human nature present in group interactions. Regardless of its potential benefits and problems, the ideals of deliberative and participatory democracy are strongly propelling this egalitarian, discourse-based form of group decision-making. Researchers will gain a great deal of insight from literature in deliberation concerning the functions, problems, and future directions of leaderless groups. In addition, there is a need to study leaderless groups in a more multi-faceted way, as research to date has been dominated by psychology-based quantitative assessment of groups. Qualitative and ethnographic approaches will be helpful to further assess the dynamics of leaderless group decision-making.

Article

Politician-Public Group Dynamics  

João R. Caetano and Alexandra F. Martins

Politics is a field of interaction between a multiplicity of actors—both individual and collective—with different interests operating in the so-called public space and trying to influence the outcomes of the state’s (or groups of states’) action, typically public policies. In politics, people do not defend their interests alone but within groups and in relation to other groups, which presupposes a communication strategy and tactics. The diversity of political and social groups has not ceased to grow in recent decades throughout the world, particularly in democratic systems, with implications for the way politics and democracy are depicted by the media, as well as the way the make-up of public policies is analyzed. This important issue gets at the essence of politics and of society, in relation to communication processes, and is subject to new interdisciplinary approaches and developments in social science, particularly in political communication (the study of the connections between politics and citizens and the interactions connecting groups). Political and social groups are groups composed of two or more people who interact and maintain relations of interdependence in order to obtain power, stay in power, or influence policy makers, in their own interest. Every day, people see the action of political and social groups when they watch television, listen to the radio, access the Internet, or simply talk with other people, in different situations. In fact, an isolated person would not need politics. Only the necessity of regulating relations between people in society explains the creation of politics and the action of political and social groups through the use of communication tools. Political and social groups can be categorized in different ways, according to their structure, functions, and types of activity. According to a structural perspective, political and social groups can be classified as political institutions, political and social (nonstate or public) organizations, and social movements. One can distinguish between permanent and nonpermanent groups, depending on their expected or usual time of duration, and based on function there are: public and private groups, interest aggregation groups, and interest articulation groups. Lastly, according to their activities, there are institutional and noninstitutional groups, taking into account their role in political decision-making processes. During the early 21st century, the use of technology has revolutionized the way people conceive of politics. Networks brought with them new social demands and forms of public scrutiny. As a result political and social groups have been experimenting with new ways of doing politics as they break with the past. These new facts require social scientists—facing a new and demanding scientific challenge—to rethink the politics of today in relation to society. Communication is important because it relates to many of these political dynamics.

Article

Advisory Groups and Crisis  

Thomas Preston

Advisory groups and their dynamics play a critical role in crisis management. If they function well and complement the leadership styles of political leaders, advisory groups can provide broad information search, diverse advice and perspectives, and reinforce a leader’s own strengths. They can surround an inexperienced leader with advisors possessing policy expertise or experience in an issue area. On the other hand, advisory groups can also easily fall into more dysfunctional patterns where they do not compensate for a leader’s weaknesses, fail to provide varied perspectives or alternative views, and engage in limited information gathering. Advisory groups can help seal an administration into an “alternative reality bubble” during crises, resulting in policy decisions being made based upon faulty perceptions instead of realities. How should we seek to understand advisory groups and crises? The first cut should involve the consumer of the advisory group’s inputs themselves, the leader. Advisory groups almost always serve at the pleasure of the leader, not themselves, and therefore the leaders will play a major role in determining their influence, how the groups will function, and their importance during crisis decision making. Important variables such as leadership style, sensitivity to context and need for information on the part of leaders, how much control they require over the policy process, and how their prior experience or expertise leads them to rely more or less upon advisors must be examined. The second focus should be upon the advisory groups themselves, their internal dynamics and reactions to stress, how decision rules and policy formulation occurs, and how group pathologies can undermine their crisis performance. Variables such as group malfunctions resulting from stress and the needs for cohesion during crisis (like groupthink) or the splintering of group consensus to warring factions that undercut cohesion (like polythink) must be considered. The stage of development an advisory group is in (i.e., newgroup versus established), the stage of the policymaking process involved (i.e., deliberative versus implemental), how sequential decision-making processes function, the composition of the group members (i.e., experts versus novices), the type of crisis the group faces, and the bureau-political dynamics involved all impact crisis management.

Article

Inclusion, Exclusion, and Marginalization of Group Deviants  

José Marques and Isabel R. Pinto

Basic concepts and important processes about groups’ reactions to deviance, such as group affiliation, social norms, deviance, and its consequences for groups and behavior of their members, have largely been conceptualized by social psychological and sociological theoretical frameworks: the small group framework, the social identification framework, and the collective solidarity framework. Subjective group dynamics theory articulates between these frameworks on the understanding of antecedents and consequences of group reaction to deviance. Punishment or derogation of deviant ingroup members stems from an interplay between an intergroup descriptive focus and an intragroup prescriptive focus that are adopted by group members when faced by ingroup deviance in intergroup contexts. Ingroup deviants contribute negatively to individuals’ social identity, and they are punished or derogated, which may materialize in terms of negative evaluations and/or marginalization and social exclusion. However, normative individuals’ reactions to ingroup deviants are protective of the group’s identity and its norms, not because the group is purged from its deviants but rather because in derogating and punishing them, normative members strengthen their ingroup identification, their commitment to the norms the deviants have violated, and, ultimately, reinforce group cohesiveness and the solidarity among ingroup members. Derogation and punishment of ingroup deviants would therefore function as an ultimate device to ensure normative members’ social inclusion.

Article

Developing Athletes in the Context of Sport and Performance Psychology  

Luc J. Martin, David J. Hancock, and Jean Côté

Talent development in sport is achieved through years of preparation and requires constant interaction between personal and contextual resources. Accordingly, extensive research has been dedicated to understanding factors that contribute to sport performance. Literature suggests the factors influencing athletic development can be classified in terms of the physical environment, the social environment, and engaging learning activities. Investigations pertaining to the physical environment suggest the importance of appropriate settings, which can relate to the sport organization or the larger community. Researchers must also cogitate the activities in which athletes take part. These considerations involve the maturational status of athletes, the volume of deliberate practice and play, and early specialization versus diversification. Finally, the salience of the social environment in relation to sport performance cannot be overlooked. Not surprisingly, the relations established with social agents (i.e., coaches, peers/teammates, parents) can facilitate or impede the developmental process. Consequently, the development of athletes in the context of sport and performance psychology extends past the individual and is influenced by several factors that must be discussed.