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Synthesis Integration And Reflections On Group Dynamics

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Sociology
Wordcount: 3125 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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We cannot talk about groups without including social psychology; to me these two terms go hand to hand. According to Forsyth (2006), the meaning of group is two or more people connected to one another by social relationships (p.3). Social psychology according to Baron, Byrne and Branscombe, (2006), is the scientific field that looks to understand the nature and causes of individual behavior in social situations (p.6).

The way roles, status, norms, and cohesiveness allow a group to function is by giving structure to its members. Each one of them plays an important part affecting the group’s members in different ways.

Roles – Different tasks assigned or obtained engaging specific positions within the group.

Status – Positions generally associated with different levels or categories in a group. The higher the level the better advantages.

Norms – Rules or regulations in a group that specify the way the members should conduct themselves.

Cohesiveness – all the factors that connect all the members together which will contribute for them to continue in the group such as “benefits”.

Definitely, cohesion is the foundation that establishes how well a group holds together. Group cohesion is characterized by the strength of the unity linking the group members and/or the group as whole. Cohesion develops if the group stays together with same members (stability) and develops more quickly in small groups (Group dynamics, 2010).

The way reciprocity, personal orientations, communication, and the discontinuity effect influence group’s cooperation vary and there is no doubt about how people utilize them to solve cooperation problems. There have been different studies on how directly and indirectly they are important determinants of successful cooperation. According to Baron, Byrne and Branscombe, (2006), in the situations in which cooperation could be developed, all the people participating in the process will benefit from it (p. 478).

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Cialdini, (n. d.), indicated that according to sociologists reciprocity is one of the most prevalent norms in the human culture. It is basically when one person tries to repay what others have done to him/her. The way this “rule” of reciprocity enables people to do or give something to another with the confidence that is not being mislaid and will be paid in the future (para. 2).

According to Baron, at al, (2006), personal orientation is another factor that has a strong effect on cooperation. Some people are willing to work together with others in almost every situation, others would follow their own interests, and some are just there just to compete with others. These three distinct orientations are called cooperative, individualistic and competitive (p. 480).

Working in this field I have witnessed how communication increases cooperation as well as the lack of it decreases cooperation in a group of people. I have experienced how communication affects the credibility and correlate with trustworthiness as well as enable expectation of compliance to those involved. Baron, at al, (2006), indicated that communication can lead to increase cooperation if certain conditions are met (p. 481). Although this is true in most cases, I do not agree that in order to increase cooperation there has to be certain conditions but a common goal.

I understand that the way discontinuity effect influences cooperation is more when a group of people get together with the sole intention to compete against others other than establishes a relationship between them. For some people their main focus is to be more competitive than just being there to establish a relationship.

A social dilemma is based on how individuals in groups often find themselves between acting selfishly and cooperating for the common good of all. For example getting together with a group of friends in a restaurant, we start ordering food but there was not a previous discussion to divide the bill. I often find myself in a dilemma of what to order a modest entrée or a nice high-priced piece of steak. The two major factors are, social facilitation, and social loafing.

Social facilitation – the effect of the presence of others in our performance. When the task is easy, the presence of others works as positive stimulus to perform better. When the task is difficult, the presence of others could affect negatively our performance (Social facilitation, 2010). An example of this is when I facilitate psycho-educational groups in my work. When I have ample knowledge of the topic or there is someone important in the group, I tend to be more energetic with the audience.

Social loafing – is when some people makes less efforts than others as a group, this usually happens when the contributions of each individual are combined to reach a group goal. An example of this, at my work there was a co-worker whom was supposed to be participant of a project in my department. The guy came to the first two meetings and after that he always had an excuse and left the meetings earlier than the rest of us. Another co-worker and I ended doing our part and his. The project was a success and at the time of the credits that person wanted his name to be included because he was part of the group.

According to Baron, at al, (2006), social loafing can be averted by identifying the role of each participant, this way each one know what to do and not just sit and watch others do the entire work. The second will be increasing the participant’s awareness and commitment to perform their tasks. Third, by giving emphasis on the importance of the participant’s task and therefore how will affect the outcome. And the fourth and most important is by letting the participants know that their tasks and/or contributions are unique due to expertise or experience (p. 475).

Perceived fairness in groups is very important to all individuals that are part of a group. This is important to maintain the satisfaction within the group. According to Forsyth (2006), member satisfaction creates a healthier workplace because people respond to each other in a more positive manner decreasing anxiety and tension in the group (p.153). We all want to be treated fairly and defend our status in whatever group we are involved but at the same time is a very complex issue to deal as not always all the parties implicated agrees. This fairness can be judge and describe based on three main categories of justice, distributive justice, procedural justice and transactional justice.

Distributive justice – is when the outcome in which the individual receive his/her dues, fair share and/or rewards based on the contributions.

Procedural justice – this is based on the idea of fairness of the process that resolves the argument and allocates or distribute the resources among all the individuals engage.

Transactional justice – is when the person has being explained the reasons why the resources or rewards have been divided like that and also the individual was treated in a courteous way throughout the process.

The social decision schemes are rules initiated by allocation of member’s views towards the group’s final decisions. Baron, at al, (2006) stated that some of those schemes are: majority wins, truth-wins, first shift, and unanimity decision rules.

Majority wins rule – when the group will decide on the arrangement that was initially supported by the greater part of the group members. For example when ten members of a club want to buy some equipment but the rest twenty five opposed to it declaring it unnecessary. No matter how hard those ten argue about the importance of buying it the majority of them opposed and decided not to buy.

Truth-wins rule – when the correct solution will be adapted or accepted by other members as the best decision just because is the most excellent answer. An example will be there is a financial problem in the group and some individuals are trying finding a solution. All of them make their propositions one of them provide extra information that based on his financial experience make more sense that the others. The members recognize that solution as its correctness.

First shift rule – when the group members are inclined to accept a decision consistent with the same line of the first shift in opinion revealed by any member. Example is when members are inclined to decision first given or modify at the beginning of the process.

Unanimity – when all group members agree in the decision made. Example is in a boxing match all judges point cards and results are in agreement toward the same fighter therefore a winner.

Members of a group could also change their attitudes in reaction to how others argument and their ideas. According to Forsyth (2006), persuasive arguments theory is an explanation of polarization in groups indicating that often group members change their judgment during group discussion (p.351). Usually members are more willing to convey arguments that are more reliable with social norms.

I understand that social norms are the rules a group of people use to show inappropriate or appropriate attitudes and behaviors regarding specific circumstances. In other words, social norms are behavioral expectations regarding a specific situation and/or condition. According to Baron, at al, (2006), descriptive norms are those that indicate how people behave in certain situations whether are approved or not by others (what is normal). The injunctive norms are those behaviors that people will perceive as approved or disapproved by others in certain situations (what have to be done).

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Norms in groups come forward progressively in unclear situations as members bring into line their actions. According to Forsyth (2006), emergent norm theory is an explanation of collective behavior signifying that the uniformity in behavior frequently observed in groups is caused by member’s conformity to unique normative standards that develop spontaneously in those groups (p. 574). This relates to a situation in Mexico where a small community decided to take justice into their own hands. They were tired of being victims of crime and robbery and they did not trust justice anymore.

After a group of thieves robbed a family business, the owners asked the people in the community to help capture the thieves. More than four hundred people or residents participated in the pursuit of those bad guys. When the residents captured the thieves they were taken to a soccer field where the residents made them pay for their actions and beat them badly. The injuries were so bad and serious that three of the thieves were taken to the hospital. At the arrival of the police they had to negotiate for about three hours with the people trying to convince them to hand over the thieves assuring that they will keep them in jail (Carenas, 2010). Forsyth (2006) stated that people do not actively try to conform to the judgments of others, but as an alternative use the group consent when making their own behavioral choices (p. 575).

Although they might look similar, conformity, compliance and obedience are slightly different. I understand the difference of these concepts is as follows; Conformity is how we change our perceptions, beliefs, and behaviors based on the social norms or “conforming” to the expectations. Compliance is when a request is made and even though is optional the person agrees to do it. Obedience is following orders when they are given and submit to without questions because comes from an authority figure.

People choose to “go along” and conform in certain situations because they want to be accepted by others or to feel they “fit in” (normative social influence) and want to be right and look into others opinion to direct theirs (informational social influence) Baron, et al, (2006). In order for some people to feel comfortable when others are talking or doing something different, they tend to conform. According to Constable, Shuler, Klaber and Rakauska, (2002), “Those that conform tend to be obedient and compliant” (para. 1).

Some people will not conform and resist therefore they will go in the opposite direction. When this happens, the person wants to develop or maintain his/her individuality and/or maintain control over his/her life. A good example of this will be teenagers going against what their parents and society estipulate just to show they are different and also as desperately seeking acceptance from their clique, friends, and in some occasions gangs. There are others that even though they would like to conform they are not able to due to a significant limitation, like physical, cultural, and language between others.

Cialdini’s six principles of compliance are principles that will produce automatic responses from people. Those principles are liking, commitment or consistency, scarcity, reciprocity, social validation, and authority.

Liking – people are more likely to comply with requests or favors from people they know, like or are familiar with than “strangers”.

Commitment or consistency – people stand behind any previous decision they have made previously or are consistent with.

Scarcity – people are more likely to comply with requests that might be available just temporarily. Example, a person will buy a product because it is the last one of its kind.

Reciprocity- when a person complies to a request because that person or identity has previously granted us one and he/she feels obligated to do it in return.

Social validation – when people belief they need to comply because others are doing it and it might be the right thing.

Authority – people will comply with request from any authority figure because they know better.

Group decision making has advantages and disadvantages. Ideally one of the advantages is the diverse expertise and strengths of its members and the greater number of higher quality of alternatives that could be generated increasing the rate of a problem solution. A disadvantage is the so call “group think” which occurs when members of a group feel pressure to obey to what might be the dominant view in the group (Group Decision Making, 2010).

There are also serious problems that can interfere with the process to make precise decisions. Some of those group problems can lead to costly and devastating decisions. Among those are group think, group polarization, advocate technique, and authentic dissent (Baron, at al, 2006).

Group think – when there are high levels of acquaintance among group members and all of them make a decision believe that the group as whole cannot be wrong even though the results are no favorable. Example of this when a group of ten marines agreed to engage a confrontation against an army of fifty soldiers. Even though the odds for them to win the battle are minimum to none they made the decision to do it.

Group polarization – when individual members of a group change in the direction from conservative to more extreme action or point of view as a consequence of the group discussion. An example will be when some senators slightly opposed to a law reform but by the end of the meeting they strongly opposed to the reform to the extent of wanting to change it completely.

Advocate technique – better known as devil’s advocate; this is when a group member is assigned the duty of disagree and condemn the decision or action made by the majority of the group. It is usually done to motivate further discussion so the can be more careful on making decisions. An example of this is when a CEO of a company vote against the decision of all of the vice-presidents of the company so they could revisit the proposal and make changes as needed.

Authentic dissent – when one or more group members without being assigned disagree with the original idea with the intention of improving the quality of decision making process. Example would be member of an association want to change some of the ethic codes and four of them opposed to stimulate the examination of all possible angles of the original proposal.

Overall, one of the reason people usually look to belong in a group is identity. The sense of belonging to a group at times is so strong that it will defeat other characteristics of the person’s identity. This is called collective identity, which through the participating in social activities, people usually gains a sense of fitting in with a unique “identity” that exceeds the person (What is collective identity, 2008). According to Forsyth (2006), collectives as intergroup provide members with a broad view of the self, not only based on individual but also collective qualities (p. 582). This is the reason why people like to participate in a variety of social groups. As described throughout this essay, social groups provide immense satisfaction and sometimes immense risks from participating.

The terms group and social psychology go hand to hand when discussing collective and people’s behavior. Group is two or more people connected to one another by social relationships (Forsyth, 2006). Social psychology is the scientific field that looks to understand the nature and causes of individual behavior in social situations (Baron, at al, 2006). The identification on how roles, status, norms, and cohesiveness allow a group to function as they cause us to act in some ways we might never will prefer to act. We all want to be treated fairly and defend our status in whatever group we are involved but at the same time is a very complex issue to deal as not always all the parties implicated agrees.

The social decision schemes are rules initiated by allocation of member’s views towards the group’s final decisions. Norms in groups come forward progressively in unclear situations as members bring into line their actions. Social norms are behavioral expectations regarding a specific situation and/or condition. Serious problems also can interfere with the decision making process which could end with costly and devastating results. With advantages and disadvantages participation in group is vital for any person as it helps establishing direct and indirect relationships with others in different ways.


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