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Writer's Profile
Kat Smith

Specialised Subjects

Environmental Studies, Geography, Health, Nutrition, Psychology, Risk Management, Social Policy, Social Work, Sociology

I am a researcher and writer who has worked for a number of high profile educational, public and corporate organisations. I have a BA (Hons) in Classics, industry management qualifications and experience, a master’s degree in environmental management, and occupational health and safety. I recently finished my PhD in Psychology and my M.D. in Alternative Medicines. I am currently studying for a DSc in Psychotherapy and Wellbeing, a PgC in Evidence Based Psychological Treatments and an M.D. in Naturopathy. During my spare time I volunteer helping victims of crime. I am also an avid reader. I have been writing academic essays, papers, journal articles and dissertations for the past ten years and still thoroughly enjoy my work.

Exploring groups and their dynamics

Introduction

1.1 The importance of groups

This thesis seeks to examine groups and their dynamics.  These are important to us for a number of reasons, as often we spend much of our time in groups at work, with family or socially and the dynamics of these affect each and every one of these actions. This study seeks to explore these dynamics systemically by combining a number of theories from scholars to build an understanding of cause and effect in relation to attitudes/behaviours and how these affect groups. This will build on our existing knowledge, as group dynamics is often explored through examining a few elements. This study seeks to combine eight of these elements together to gain new insights into this.

Groups play a significant role in our lives scientifically, psychologically, socially and personally (as an example see: Armstrong, 2006; Bion, 2006; Cooley, 1909; Flowers, 1977; Goleman, 1998; Hirschhorn, 1988, 1997; Janis, 1972; Lewin, 1943).  Therefore, it could be argued that it is imperative to gain a deeper understanding of what a group consists of (Benson, 2000; Forsyth, 2006), how it operates (as an example see: Beal & Burke et al., 2003; Bollen & Hoyle, 1990; Campion & Medsker et al., 1993; Evans & Dion, 1991; Gully & Devine et al., 1995; Johnson & Johnson, 2003; Lewin, 1948; Molleman, 2009; Mullen & Copper, 1994; Saavedra et al., 1993; Shaw et al., 2000) or which of the elements that enables it to function are most important (see pp 19/20).  Therefore, this study is important as it seeks to ascertain a deeper understanding of groups and their dynamics.  Nevertheless, we must first define what we mean by a group and establish which attitudes or behaviours are important to them.

1.2 What is a group and which aspects of group life are important?

Before seeking to ascertain which aspects are important to groups and their dynamics, it is essential to understand what constitutes a group and how scholars have defined them (Benson, 2000; Cooley, 1909; Forsyth, 2006).  Scholars have applied a number of definitions to groups; from their size (Forsyth, 2006), to what constitutes their formation (Benson, 2000; Cooley, 1909).  For example, Benson defines a group as “a set of people who engage in frequent interactions.

  • The people identify with one another
  • They are defined by others as a group
  • They share beliefs, values and norms about areas of common interest
  • They define themselves as a group
  • They come together to work on common tasks and for agreed purposes” (Benson, 2000, pp 5)

Whereas Cooley (1909), explored other aspects of groups such as; their size, purpose and why they may have been formed.  Each different definition gives us an insight into what groups are and why they have formed.

Once we understand what constitutes a group it is then important to understand what the vital aspects of group life are and how these may affect upon a group’s dynamics.  Scholars have studied a number of aspects, which may be important to group life, such as:

  • shared goals – a group shares the same goals (Benson, 2000; Brown, 1988; Cooley, 1909; Deutsch, 1949, 1962; Forsyth, 2006; Johnson & Johnson, 2003; Lewin, 1948; Sherif & Sherif, 1969; Tuckman, 1965)
  • goal direction – a group work towards the same outcomes (Brown, 1988; Campion & Medsker et al., 1993; Lewin, 1948; Molleman, 2009; Saavedra & Early et al., 1993; Shaw & Duffy et al., 2000; Sherif & Sherif, 1969; Van der Vegt & Van de Vliert, 2001; 2005; Van der Vegt & Emans et al., 1999; 2000)
  • interdependence – group members are dependent on each other to complete tasks and realize that they must work together (Allen & Sargent et al., 2003; Bales, 1950; Borg, 2008; Campion & Medsker et al., 1993; Deustch, 1949; Ekman & Friesen, 1969; Homans, 1951, 1961; Lewin, 1948; Mills, 1967; Schippers & Den Hartog et al., 2003; Schutz, 1958; Van der Vegt & Emans et al., 1999; Van der Vegt & Van de Vliert,  2001; Wageman, 1995)
  • effectiveness – a group works effectively together (Beal & Burke et al., 2003; Bollen & Hoyle, 1990; Campion & Medsker et al., 1993; Evans & Dion, 1991; Gully & Devine et al., 1995; Johnson & Johnson, 2003; Lewin, 1948; Molleman, 2009; Mullen & Copper, 1994; Saavedra et al., 1993; Shaw et al., 2000; Tekleab & Quigley et al., 2009; Van der Vegt & Van de Vliert, 2001; 2005; Van der Vegt & Emans et al., 1999, 2000; Wech & Mossholder et al., 1998)
  • verbal communication or group tonality – the tone adopted when group members speak with one another (Bradac & Hung Ng, 1993; Brilhart & Galanes, 1992; Moon, 1999)
  • non verbal communication or body language – body language used by group members when they are communicating with each other (Borg, 2008; Ekman & Friesen, 1969; Mehrabian, 1972)
  • group interactions or energy – how group members interact with each other, for example, are they energetic or do they communicate frequently (Deutsch, 1949, 1962; Forsyth, 2006; Johnson, 1970, 1974; Lewin, 1948)
  • the perception of group cohesion  – how cohesive are group members (Allen & Sargent et al., 2003; Andrews & Kacmar et al., 2008; Bales, 1950; Barrick & Bradley et al., 2007; Beal & Burke et al., 2003; Bollen & Hoyle, 1990; Chang and Bordia, 2001; Deustch, 1949; Evans & Dion, 1991; Gully & Devine et al., 1995; Lewin, 1948; Ng and Van Dyne, 2005; Sherif & Sherif, 1969; Tjosvold and Deemer, 1980) vs. tension – how many conflicts there are between group members (Bales, 1950; Bion, 2006; Klein, 1928, 1935, 1940, 1946, 1948 and 1957; Tajfel & Turner, 1979; Tuckman, 1965)
  • the balance in the group between maintaining their task and emotional needs – how much attention do group members pay to completing their work tasks or discussing their emotional needs or personal issues (Allen & Sargent et al., 2003; Bales, 1950; Borg, 2008; Campion & Medsker et al., 1993; Deustch, 1949; Ekman & Friesen, 1969; Homans, 1951, 1961; Lewin, 1948; Mills, 1967; Schippers & Den Hartog et al., 2003; Schutz, 1958; Van der Vegt & Emans et al., 1999; Van der Vegt & Van de Vliert,  2001; Wageman, 1995)

Through the Literature Review, it is ascertained that each of these may be used to indicate how differing aspects of the group dynamics are being affected at a particular point in time.  In conjunction with this, it is also necessary to place these aspects which may be important to group life in the context of other factors.