User:MandaG/Lecture Week 11

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What is a Group and Why do we Care?[edit]

So I guess when talking about groups it is probably best to define what it is. Most define a group as being two or more. I find that two people is more a partnership than a group, but hey I'm just a student so we'll go with the experts on that one. Next, why do we have groups. Well it has be reiterated in social psych that we as humans are social creatures thus it is logical to assume being social involves more thaqn just ourselves, and as it only takes two to constitute a group, one might argue it is human nature to form groups. There are also demonstrable advantages to group nature as well.

No way would I let a pack of these near me!

In animals it means survival, if one spots danger, unless they are particularly evil they can warn everyone else. The ability to work together increases power, a sharing of numbers and safety in numbers. While I probably wouldn't attack a lone wolf, you can bet your bottom dollar if I saw a pack of them I would be running for the hills. In humans there are very practical reasons for group work. As a group there is role differentiation and division of labour, this allows for more to get done in a shorter period of time. We can also pool our resources to improve on things and pass it onto our next generation, who in turn will do the same hopefully in a perpetuating cycle.

Group Theories[edit]

Social Facilitation

  • The tendency to perform well when others are present.

Triplett (1897) found that children will wind a fishing reel faster when there are others present. This is one theory that has one hell of a life span as there are still countless examples of social facilitation every minute of every hour of every day. Most records held have been made at public events, most play better than they practise and almost everyone will behave better when company is present. Though there is the odd occassion where the opposite is true and the presence of someone else completely messes up the performance (eg. public speaking, stage fright) for the most part we will do better as arousal enhances the dominant response. While social facilitation is cross speciel it appears that it is unique to humans that loafing may also occur. Social loafing is when a person is not held responsible they will not contribute to the group. This was demonstrated in a tug of war (of all things) experiment which found that when in a team an individual pulled about 61-65kg but when on their own pulled about 85kg. I hate social loafers because I find it very salient when doing group assignments. Because the overall grade given is a group grade its not like those who are doing the work can just not do the loafers part, and the loafer takes full advantage of that. Luckily I don't have too many group assignments in my degree!

The Hawthorne Effect

  • People who know they are being observed modify their behaviour not only conciously but unconciously. What an interesting bit of knowledge! I can't quite remember where I read and now can't find the reference so do not under any circumstances take this as bible but I(think) read an article about how they used this effect in a prison setting. A watch tower was set up where the inmates could not be sure whether they were being watched or not and just in case were much better behaved, which I guess also taps into Allport's theory on what social psychology is anyway with the idea of implied or imagined presence.
Performance improves most of the time as an individual

Diverse Groups I love diverse groups because I think the positives far outweigh the negatives. Sure you could find it harder to cooperate and work together but as adults we should be able to work around that in most cases. And the advantages of having a diverse group are of great value. There is a better chance of being more flexible and creative which in turn generates more knowledge and a better chance at bringing in different information. That advantage can achieve the goal in a way similar minded people could never have even imagined. In my own experience I have also found a diverse group to be much more fun, no psychological reason forthcoming, just because.

Deindividuation This idea to be honest, scares me just a little. The concept of deindividuation is that the group allows a person to lose self-awareness and evaluation ability and may lead to antisocial behaviour. Zimbardo (1970) found that when deindividuation occurs people were willing to cause greater harm and I think that can be seen in today's socity but is called "mob mentality" and in some cases has been accepted as diminished responsibility in cases of violence, which also scares me.


Leadership: The process of getting cooperation of others in accomplishing a desired goal. But how does this happen? A leader must have certain characteristics to achieve their status. They must be goal directed and charismatic, ambitious and energetic, honest and of integrity, be intelligent and confident. They should be able to inspire non-coersive influence and they need followers. That is a long list! However there is also an exhaustive list of good leaders. Now even if one were to have all those traits they may still not be a good leader. There are also different leadership style that lead to different responses and outcomes of the followers.

Passive Leadership

Autocratic- is job centred in approach and centralises power and decision making. An autocratic leader is in effect a dictator, like Fidel Castro.

Democratic- encourages followers to be a part of the decision making process.


Laissez Faire- a hands off approach allowing the followers as much freedom as possible. This kind of approach is taken in the university setting. Students have the choice whether to turn up to lectures or not, nobody tells us when to start our assignments, we basically need to motivate ourselves to reach our goals while at the same time having help available if necessary.

Power Power is the ability to get someone to do something you want them to do. A good leader should have this ability and thus power. This has the effect of making that leader feel good and might change the relationship between people. "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men." It is important to note the almost in that quote. I think the end is a bit overboard though people like Suddaam Huessein, Fidel Castro and Adolf HItler certaintly give rise to that comment. History has seen many great men such as Luther King Jr and Gahndi who had much power and used it for good. In social psych terms I think power and its use will be determined not only by the person holding it but the situation they are in.