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Group Development Theory Wilfred Ruprecht Bion

(1897-1979)

Bions Theory of Group Development


Any group, organization, or society needs and evolves a structure of tasks, roles, procedures, rules, group culture in order to contain the anxiety of the unknown and the responses which unconsciously are mobilized to defend against that unknown

Bions Theory of Group Development


Within every group, two distinct groups operate:
Work Group: the manifest level of group performance Basic Assumption Group: unconscious defenses against anxiety/ unpleasantness

The Work Group


Overt group performance concerned with solving a problem or completing a task Members are aware of the task and are able to define it Members respect and accept one another Leadership and support roles shift depending upon the demands of the task

The Work Group


Members are aware of their roles and responsibilities Members use dialog and reflection to transfer knowledge and enhance learning Work is structured and organized Group produces solutions and products of high quality and usefulness

The Basic Assumption Group


Group experiences internal emotional and psychological barriers not related to the task Members are not conscious of the barriers Basic because the anxieties expressed are primitive and instinctual Assumptions because the group operates as if the assumption was implicit truth

The Basic Assumption Group


Time boundaries vanish as if time was unlimited Critical dialogue and reflection is avoided / discouraged Result is a breakdown of group effectiveness

Types of Basic Assumption Groups


Dependence Fight / Flight Pairing

Basic Assumption: Dependence


Feelings, thoughts and actions directed toward making someone the sole leader of the group Members look to leader for all solutions, structure, etc. Insistence on simplistic solutions

Basic Assumption: Dependence


Members sabotage leader by providing partial or inadequate information Members demonstrate disappointment and hostility toward leader Leader may be expelled from group or demoted Group seeks out a new leader

Basic Assumption: Fight / Flight


Group behaves as if its purpose is to fight or flee a real or imagined enemy Members refuse to critically evaluate themselves Members are singled out and scapegoated Weaknesses (as perceived by the group) are not tolerated

Basic Assumption: Pairing


Members rely on a pair within the group for all creative effort Great interest in creative process Hopeful expressions of anticipation / use of clichs Solutions or leaders generated by the pair are sabotaged or destroyed by the group

The Concept of Valence


Individual group members have preferences toward one of the three basic assumptions Group performance depends on each members awareness of his/her preference and willingness to direct energy toward maintaining a work group stance Basic assumption state is always present in a group to some degree

Observable Behaviors
Long silence in which something is expected from a leader or other group member Hypothesis offered by one member and contradicted or shot down by another Search for something believed to be hidden and waiting to be discovered Members seeking approval of leader or alliances with other members

Observable Behaviors
Strong feelings of love, hate or comradeship Projection of strong feelings, beliefs or behaviors on other group members Scapegoating Member expelled or voluntarily leaving group