Social Groups Chapter 7


The Group 

Humans are fundamentally social. 

If deprived of social contact over a long period of time, mental breakdown occurs. The Geneva Convention defines more than 30 days of solitary confinement as a form of torture. 

The group (defined): a collection of people interacting who share expectations about each other·s behavior. 

Groups have a shared sense of ´specialµ belonging or membership ² they know they have something in common with each other. Examples: a family, Carolina Panther fans, a rock band. 

The group is one of the fundamental components of social structure.

The Group 

A group differs from an aggregate. aggregate. 

An aggregate is a collection of people who merely happen to be in the same place at the same time, but who have no sense of special membership. 

Examples of aggregates: moviegoers, plane travelers. 

Crowd: Crowd: a temporary cluster of individuals. Category: Category: a number of people who share similar characteristics. 

Category members may have never encountered each other.


The Group 

All groups have an internal structure. 

They have membership boundaries. They have their own values, norms, statuses and roles. They have leaders and followers.  

The structure of a group may be rigid and explicit (such as in the military) or flexible and vague (such as among friends). People form groups for a purpose or a common goal. 

This purpose may be explicit or implicit. For this reason, group members tend to be similar to each other in ways that are relevant to this common purpose.

The Group 

The more group members interact with each other, the more they are influenced by the group·s norms and values, and the more similar to each other they are likely to become.


Two Basic Types of Social Groups  1. lasting. impersonal or anonymous.  2. intimate. Primary group: small. Secondary group: large or small. group:  The vast bulk of social interaction in pre-industrial societies preoccurs in primary groups.   Since the emergence of industrial societies. task group: oriented. temporary. formal. meaningful. 6 . there has been a dramatic increase in secondary group interaction. Large secondary groups always contain smaller primary groups within them.

A small group may be a primary or secondary group. 7 . if the group meets only a few times and disbands after it has fulfilled its purpose.   However.Small Groups  A small group is one that contains few enough members that they can relate or interact as individuals with one another.  Small groups have a tendency to develop personal or primary group relationships if they meet a lot over time. then members may remain impersonal and relatively anonymous toward each other.

It·s distinguishing characteristic is that each member has to take account of the other. then the group is destroyed. the more personal and intense the interaction can become. consisting dyad: of two people.   This has implications for the American family and its middle class emphasis on the nuclear structure.  Dyads are highly unstable. The dyad: the smallest possible group.The Effects of Group Size   Basic insight: the smaller the group. 8 . The nuclear family has fewer supports from extended family members.  If one ignores the other.

2 members can unite against the third.  The triad is more stable than the dyad.The Effects of Group Size  The triad is significantly different from a dyad. because any one member can ignore the others without destroying the group. groups get progressively more stable. subjecting them to peer pressure. pressure.  In the triad.  Beyond 3 members. 9 .

 Beyond 7 members. it becomes difficult to hold people to the same conversation. 10 . and usually several simultaneous conversations begin to occur.The Effects of Group Size   The quality of group interaction changes with increases in the size of the group.  Something else happens: because individuals can no longer tailor their speech to specific individuals. Group sizes of 2 to 7 members allow all members to take part in the same conversation. speech becomes more formal.  Groups larger than roughly 12 members usually cannot have all members engaged in the same conversation unless one member takes the role of leader and regulates the interaction.

making old members uncomfortable until new norms emerge. A sudden increase in group size can be particularly disruptive because 1. Interaction becomes more difficult. the more difficult the interaction. New members usually bring changes to the old norms of interaction.  11 .The Effects of Group Size   Generally the larger the group.  2.

 12 .Leadership  Leadership is always present in groups. A leader is someone who is consistently able to influence the behavior of others. usually by virtue of certain personality traits.  Even a group that claims to have no leader usually has a leader.

13 . Expressive leadership: the kind necessary to create leadership: group harmony and solidarity. men are traditionally socialized into instrumental leadership roles while women are traditionally socialized into expressive leadership roles.  2.  This leader is goal oriented.Two types of leadership in small groups  1.  In the American family. Instrumental leadership: the kind necessary to leadership: organize and achieve a goal.  This leader focuses on keeping morale high and on minimizing conflicts. They tend to be well liked.

people who direct group activities (instrumental leaders) tend to lose popularity fairly quickly.  Result: leaders generally do not fill both instrumental and expressive roles at the same time for very long.Leadership   Expressive leaders (who are well liked) are sometimes pressured to be instrumental leaders by the members of the group. but less well liked. it is not uncommon to see another member of the group assume an expressive leadership role. 14 .  They are greatly respected. However.  When an expressive leader becomes an instrumental leader.

it usually gives both instrumental and expressive roles to the same person. Generally what occurs is that this leader loses popularity over the next 3 or 4 meetings. few members still consider the leader likable. but another member emerges to assume the expressive role.Leadership  When a newly formed group chooses a leader. By the 4th meeting.  In such cases. the original leader may retain the instrumental role.  15 .

Leadership   Do leaders have distinctive characteristics? Generally. they are more likely to be        Taller than average Judged better looking Rated higher in IQ More sociable More talkative More self confident More liberal in political outlook (even in conservative groups) 16 .

Leadership  However. personality traits alone cannot tell use who would make a good leader because different conditions require different leadership qualities.  The same leader who may be appropriate for fighting a war may be inappropriate for waging peace. 17 .

Three Basic Styles of Leadership     1.S.   Authoritarian leaders are usually less effective because groups can get bogged down in internal conflicts. Democratic: where leaders seek group consensus. Democratic: 3. Authoritarian: where leaders simple give orders. Laissez faire leaders are less effective because the group loses goals and directives. Authoritarian: 2. 18 . democratic style leadership is usually the most effective style in holding small groups together and accomplishing goals. In the U. Laissez ²faire: where leaders seem easy going and faire: make little attempt to direct or organize the group.

an authoritarian style produces the most effective leader. non19 . Americans are socialized into democratic ideals and tend to react negatively to authoritarian leaders in non-crisis situations. there may be different situations that call for different styles of leadership.   It is not uncommon to see an authoritarian style of leadership being used on the job when a democratic style would be more effective.   In emergency situations where speed and efficiency are primary. there are situations where democratic leadership is less effective. the laissez-faire style works well. laissez-  Within any formal organization or bureaucracy. In ordinary friendship situations where folks are just hanging out and relaxing.Three Basic Styles of Leadership  However.

are two heads better than one? Yes. These are problems tasks. but only for determinate tasks.Group Decision Making     When it comes to making decisions. Two heads are not necessarily better than one when a problem has no necessarily-correct solution. 20 . group decision making may not be the best way to go. When several solutions seem correct. for indeterminate tasks. that have only one correct solution. In other necessarilywords.

such as in union-management bargaining.   This insight has applications for understanding the jury deliberation process. union- 21 . Juries usually move toward general agreement and certainty.How do groups come to a decision?  Usually.  No matter what the views of the individual members at the outset. The only exception to this pattern toward consensus is when members represent the fixed opinions of others outside the group. through consensus. the general tendency is for discussion to bring about general conformity.  Only rarely does a majority impose its view on a reluctant minority.

Recent evidence shows that the CIA and other security agencies adopted a risky shift policy under pressure from President Bush and Vice President Cheney. are groups likely to make less risky or more risky decisions than individuals?    Generally groups are likely to make more risky decisions than individuals. 22 .Group Decision Making  Because members tend to arrive at a consensus. An example of a disastrous risky shift was the decision to invade Iraq in 2003. This is called the ´risky shiftµ and is partly explained by individuals being absolved of personal responsibility for the decisions made by the group.

Part of the issue involves groupthink.  23 .Group Decision Making  Conclusion The process of group discussion tends to intensify member·s opinions at the same time that consensus begins to emerge.  The problem is that unanimous decisions that are boldly stated can cause major problems if the decision happens to be wrong.  Discussion toward consensus breeds boldness in group decisiondecision-making.  In other words. the initially tentative opinions of members becomes more bold as the group moves toward consensus.

 Groupthink keeps members from ´rocking the boatµ by disagreeing with each other.  Historical American foreign policy examples where groupthink occurred:     1961 Bay of Pigs invasion (John Kennedy) 1965 Vietnam escalation (Lyndon Johnson) 2003 Iraq invasion (George Bush) In each of these historical blunders. An atmosphere of consensus is assumed. 24 .Groupthink  Groupthink is the informal norm associated with small groups that says that loyalty to the group (or group harmony) is more important than asking the tough questions that may cause group arguments. either the President permitted little disagreement (thus encouraging groupthink) and/or groupthink emerged among the inner circle of policy advisors.

and their decisions may be a product of groupthink. they are overly certain that they are right.µ but wrong.  Their decisions may be ´bold.Groupthink  Policy Implication  Beware of leaders who surround themselves with members who don·t like to rock the boat. Their decisions may be overly risky. 25 .

1956).   Asch found that unanimous group pressure of 4 or more people to conform to a wrong answer swayed one-third oneof his subjects away from their (obviously) right answer to the (obviously) wrong unanimous group answer. This insight was confirmed by the research of Solomon Asch (1951. 26 .Group Conformity  The smaller the group. 1955. Therefore the pressure to conform is particularly powerful in the small group due to the intense atmosphere. the greater the intensity of social interaction.

Without group pressure they did fine. there was group pressure on the subject to conform to the group·s mismatched lines. In one-third of onethe cases. 27 . But when the subject witnessed others mismismatching the lines. the subjects over-rode cases.Soloman Asch on group conformity  Subjects were shown lines of different lengths and asked to match the lines. overtheir own assessment and adopted the unanimous wrong assessment held by the others.

28 .Soloman Asch on group conformity  Conclusion: group pressure can override an individual·s own physical senses. or they may allow the group to override their own assessment and believe they are wrong. People may yield to the group by giving the answer they think the group wants.  They may suspect or know it to be the wrong answer.

People want to be well liked.  Later psychological research suggests that the actual perception of line length changed as a function of exposure to other·s views of its length. effectively making you see almost selfanything. 2. People doubt their own correct answers when everyone else provides a consistently wrong answer. 29 .Soloman Asch on group conformity   Why did some of the people conform to the wrong answer? Researchers asked the subjects this question and learned that   1. It is less of a conscious judgment.  The group pressure implied by the opinion of others can lead to self-modification. so they conform to the group rather than rock the boat.

All it took was one other person disagreeing with the group.  He found that the subjects conformed to a group of 3 or 4 as readily as they did to a larger group. then subjects felt much freer to stick to their original opinion.  Researchers varied the Asch experiment to address the issue of unanimous group consensus. 30 .Solomon Asch on group conformity  Asch varied the number of conspirators who gave the wrong answers between 1 and 15. and under this circumstance less than 10% of subjects adjusted their opinion to the majority group (wrong) opinion.  If the group was not unanimous.

 2. The group has a powerful effect on perception. People tend to obey legitimate authority figures even when there is evidence it may be wrong behavior.  In the Asch experiments. causing people to doubt their own senses in favor of the group definition. they attributed their wrong behavior to misjudgment or poor eyesight. Rather.Group Pressure and Obedience  Both the Solomon Asch and Stanley Milgram studies suggest that 1. Some people will conform to group pressure even when there is physical evidence such conformity may be incorrect. people did not attribute their ´wrongµ behavior to an authority figure. 31  .  This misjudgment can occur at the perceptual level.

Obedience ² the Zimbardo research   Another famous study which contributes to why people conform was done by Philip Zimbardo.  Role expectations play an important part in how we behave. 32 .they also obey from the pressure of particular social situations and their implied statuses and roles. Zimbardo learned that people do not just obey from the pressure of authority and/or from group pressure .

 Link to youtube clip: The Stanford Prison Experiment 33 . What is the role expectation of ´prison guardµ or ´prisonerµ?  The experiment was cut short after only 6 days because those playing the role of prison guard quickly became mean and sadistic.Philip Zimbardo: Status and Role in a Mock Prison (1971)   Zimbardo set up a social psychological experiment that quickly went awry. while the ´prisonersµ became depressed and sadistic. He had undergraduates play the role of prisoners and prison guards in a mock prison environment. passive.

for more information. Good people can do harm to others if they find themselves in particular social situations within the context of socially approved roles. rules. Effect. American guards quickly became sadistic in much the same way that the student guards did back in 1971.Zimbardo  Zimbardo found that even the temporary adoption of a status can quickly affect one·s personality.  See Zimbardo¶s recent book.    Conclusion: Conclusion: The social situation and its implied roles are powerful influences of how people can be expected to behave. a legitimizing ideology. norms. 34 . The Lucifer Effect.  At the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq (2004). and institutional support that transcends individual agency.

 Note that these boundaries may be vague in some cases (like peer groups).     All groups tend to maintain their boundaries by developing a sense of ´usµ and ´them. By the same token.Ingroups and Outgroups  Every group has membership boundaries. Outgroup: Outgroup: a social group one does not belong to toward which one feels competition or opposition. they regard the outgroup as less worthy or perhaps even with hostility. People tend to regard their ingroups as special. 35 .µ Ingroup: a social group commanding a members Ingroup: esteem and loyalty.

  Thus.Ingroups and Outgroups The very presence of an ´enemyµ outgroup tends to promote ingroup solidarity or loyalty. 36 . conflict between groups increases the loyalty and solidarity of members within each group.

37 .   Social networks provide access to resources and are helpful in getting jobs and solving problems requiring special resources. thanks to Internet resources. The rise of the 500Internet and links like My Space have greatly helped computercomputer-literate people widen their social networks. and through them.Social Networks  Social networks are webs of relationships that link the individual directly to other people.  An individual·s social network is not a group ² because its members don·t all interact together. indirectly to even more people.  Today it is relatively easy to find other people interested in the same obscure topic or underground band. In modern industrial societies the average individual has a network of roughly 500-2500 acquaintances.

 It is important to use realistic reference groups and realistic role models. We constantly evaluate ourselves.Reference Group    A reference group is a group which people compare themselves with when they evaluate themselves. We do this by comparing ourselves with others and the standards of other groups. their self evaluation will be low. The verdict of our evaluations is strongly influenced by the reference groups we choose to compare ourselves with (or the one we are provided with to compare). and thus buy something. commercial culture teaches young women to rely on runway models as their reference group ² which guarantees she will feel she needs improvement. Similarly.   If a trainee evaluates their performance by referencing the performance of experienced veterans. 38 .

we are likely to be born in a formal organization. formal organizations. just as we are likely to die in one. nearly all social life took place in primary groups. Today the social setting is dominated by large.Formal Organizations   Until a century ago. impersonal.  Today. 39 .  A formal organization is a large secondary group that is deliberately and rationally designed to achieve specific objectives.

 40 . impersonality. and power can be dehumanizing. rights and responsibilities are attached mainly to the office or role a person occupies and not to the person as an individual. yet on the other hand their size. Formal orgs are a double edged sword: On the one hand we need them for our material standard of living.Formal Organizations   In formal organizations.  Max Weber believed that much of the feeling of alienation (powerlessness) of industrial societies stems from the rise of bureaucracies.

Many people can be ´processedµ efficiently. and there are many people with little power at the bottom of the pyramid. they liberate us from the traditional values of ascription. obedience. The bureaucracy is highly efficient and rational.   Bureaucracies are shaped like a pyramid. thereby allowing mass access to education. making them efficient. where there are a few people with a lot of power at the top.  Bureaucracies uphold the values of rationality. racism. non41 .  Because they value meritocracy and achieved statuses. efficiency. and other non-rational bigotries. and other resources. and meritocracy.  Those at the top command the behaviors of those at the bottom. productivity. government.Bureaucracy  A bureaucracy is a formal organization with an authority structure that is hierarchical. sexism.

Technical competence to perform specialized tasks used as a criteria of evaluation. written records to assure rationality. 5. 2. Formal. where rules take precedence over feelings. Impersonality. 3. Specialized tasks within the organization. 42 . Rules and regulations that serve as rational guides for behavior. 6. Hierarchy of statuses and offices. 4.Six Characteristics of Bureaucracy       1.

Rationalization refers to the replacement of traditional. productivity. 43 . efficiency. he also found them problematic. with its mystery and beauty being replaced by the new values of technical rationality. the world was becoming disenchanting as it became increasingly rationalized. emotionalized) with abstract. Weber argued that the modern world was becoming increasingly dull. carefully calculated rules and procedures that are associated with secondary group interaction. and other dehumanizing values. predictability. rule-ofrule-ofthumb.Max Weber·s Analysis     While Max Weber appreciated the rational nature of bureaucracies. explicit. To Weber. primary group based interaction (spontaneous.

µ The members of the bureaucracy are expected to remain impersonal in their contacts with the public ² to be ´detachedµ from their own humanity. people are treated impersonally as ´casesµ or ´numbers. was ´trapped in the iron cage of bureaucracy.Max Weber on Bureaucracy    Bureaucracies bring the subordination of humans to the interests of impersonal.µ Within the bureaucracy. technical goals. Feelings interfere with the efficiency of the system. to Weber. The spirit of humanity. 44 .

Within all bureaucracies.The Informal Structure of Bureaucracy    Despite Weber·s concerns about the cold-hearted coldnature of bureaucracies. all bureaucracies consist of a bundle of formal rules and regulations mixed with a bundle of informal norms and relationships. 45 . there is also an informal side. Therefore.µ  Note . where primary groups reside. informal networks develop and primary groups emerge.The 1970s TV show MASH captured this informal side.  These informal norms are created by the members themselves and are a source of humanity within the ´machine.

and in essence the bureaucracy is a negotiated reality. Ultimately it is the people who create and operate an organization. members will negotiate informal norms and patterns that have little relationship to the formal hierarchy. 46 . the formal structure of a bureaucracy provides only a general framework for social interaction.The Informal Structure of Bureaucracy   In reality.  Within the larger structure of a bureaucracy.

Dysfunctions of Bureaucracy    Max Weber appreciated the paradox of bureaucracies. 47 . yet it is dehumanizing too. Weber was especially interested in how bureaucracies dehumanize us ² they detach us from our humanity by turning us into cold technocrats. Weber and other researchers have identified a number of dysfunctions of bureaucracies. In a mass society a bureaucracy is functional for most people.

De-humanization. a technocrat. 3. 4. The bureaucratic personality: detached. 2. Goal displacement. Bureaucratic enlargement. Inefficient in unusual cases. 6. Inability to be innovative. 5. antiauthoritarian nature. De- 48 . 7.Dysfunctions of Bureaucracy        1. Oligarchy (rule by the few) and its anti-democratic.

49 . Uniformity and predictability. The human element is automation.McDonaldization      George Ritzer recently expanded on Weber·s concerns about overover-rationalization. computers and automation. Control through automation. Both product and service are guided by this Efficiency. eliminated as much as possible through assembly lines. Efficiency. 3. 4. Calculability ² fixed amounts of product for fixed prices. He argues that our society is increasingly organized around four principles that McDonalds has perfected: 1. 2. same way. Every product is made the predictability. value.

but there are some variations. and it is the team ² not the individual ² which is evaluated.  Membership is a reciprocal lifetime contract.Other Forms of Organization   Most formal organizations are similar in structure.  All promotions are from within. The Japanese Corporation  The extraordinary achievements of Japan are largely due to the unique features of the Japanese industrial corporation. Each individual may belong to different teams over the years. providing job security to workers. 50 .  Workers are organized into small teams.  Emphasis upon the group over the individual.

Top officials merely ratify. health care. Japanese workers show great loyalty to the firm. day care. education.The Japanese Corporation top managers are not paid that much more than the bottom workers. 51  The .  Decision-making is collective and discussion Decisionoccurs from the bottom up. recreation. including housing. but nothing like the American system where the top makes 400+ times more.  In turn.  They fuse leisure activities with work activities.  Japanese corporations go beyond strictly business to offer their workers welfare. etc. perhaps 3 to 5 times more.

The Collective  Collectives are nonbureaucratic organizations often associated with progressives seeking to affirm participatory democracy. The larger a collective gets. Generally authority is democratic and arises from consensus. with a democratic leadership style. the more bureaucratic it is likely to get. and only applicable to relatively small scale enterprises. Strength: affirms democracy and equality. Members treat each others is equals. Weakness: less efficient. 52 . They have several features:       Little division of labor. The individual usually has a variety of tasks. Individual initiative is valued.

there has been a call to reform bureaucracies with new policies like  flextime.Organizational Reform  The rise of humanism during the 1960s resulted in the criticism of bureaucracies because of their tendency to stifle personal growth. and because of their oligarchyoligarchyemphasis.  paternity leave. 53 . As a result.  and a more egalitarian division of labor.  job security.  periodic sabbaticals.

54 . We need to develop a means of making bureaucracies more accountable to the public interest and to their workers.Organizational Reform    Ultimately the most significant reforms will be those that allow greater social control over the affairs of bureaucracies. not the other way around. In the final analysis organizations exist for the benefit of people.

and subsupersubordinates. advancement. oligarchal responsibilities.Humanizing the Bureaucracy     There are at least 3 ways to make bureaucracies more humane: 1. and work to minimize outgroup hatreds. structures by spreading power more widely and keeping lines of communication open between super. Sharing responsibilities. Social inclusiveness. everyone feel included. Expanding opportunities for advancement. 2. Reduce rigid. 3. 55 . The organization should make inclusiveness. Reduce the number of workers stuck in dead end jobs and encourage new means of upward mobility.

End of Chapter 7 56 .

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