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Group Behavior

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Group Behavior

You can't sit here with us."

Many people can immediately identify this as a popular quote from the movie Mean Girls. In this scene, one of the "popular girls," Gretchen Wieners, tells the former queen bee, Regina George, that she can't sit with the group at lunch because she broke one of their fashion rules. This is one of the many examples in the movie that reveals how powerful a group's actions, thoughts, or feelings can affect an individual or group.

  • What is group behavior?
  • What are the four aspects of group behavior?
  • What are different types of group behavior?
  • What are examples of group behavior?

Definition of Group Behavior

First, let's examine what defines a group. Groups are formed for many different reasons and in many ways. They can be very powerful in that an individual may be able to accomplish more with a group than by oneself.

A group is defined as two or more people who interact and share a common identity, belief, purpose, or morals.

Group behavior refers to the actions, thoughts, or feelings of a collection of people or individuals within a group.

Group behavior is often guided by a set of rules or regulations that may not always be the case for every individual within that group.

Group Behavior and Group Identity

Once we identify with a group, we begin to categorize ourselves within an ingroup and others in an outgroup. The tendency is to form an "us vs them" mentality and view outgroups as homogeneous and favor our ingroup.

Group Behavior, games and group behavior, StudySmarterOn game nights, we tend to see our team as the ingroup and the other team as the outgroup, freepik.com

Outgroup homogeneity refers to our tendency to see members of our ingroup as individuals and members of an outgroup as the same.

Ingroup favoritism or ingroup bias refers to our tendency to assume that people similar to us are like us, favoring ingroup members over outgroup members.

Four Aspects of Group Behavior

There are four aspects of a group’s behavior that may be present within a group.

  1. Purpose and Mission: Individuals within the group share similar beliefs, values, or attitudes resulting in a unified mission or purpose. The group may then develop clear goals or a specific agenda.

  2. Norms: The group has a clear standard of behavioral norms. These norms are used to evaluate group members. Behavioral norms may be clearly written as rules, or they may be informal. However, group members are always aware of what the behavior norms are.

  3. Cohesion: How well the group can overcome conflict or other unpleasant experiences. If cohesion is low, the group may struggle to establish control over its members and enforce its behavior norms and rules.

  4. Structure: Each group has a structure for status and authority. This may be hierarchical or more democratic. There is also a clear dynamic between the leader and the follower.

Types of Group Behavior

Communal labor, joining protests or a march, acting patriotically, and spectating are examples of social situations in which group behavior may occur.

Group Behavior: Communal Labor

Communal labor refers to a group that comes together to accomplish a specific task that benefits the group as a whole. This type of group behavior is usually constructive as cooperation is imperative for the group to accomplish its task. Members of groups that gather for communal labor often have common social interests, aspirations, feelings, and a particular topic.

Group Behavior Garden and Group Behavior, comunity garden as an example of communal labor, StudySmarterA community garden is an example of communal labor where Group Behavior can form, freepik.com

Joining a Protest or March

Another form of group behavior is when individuals join a protest or march. In this case, individuals come together to protest for or against a cause. A modern-day example of a protest or demonstration is the one that took place after the murder of George Floyd. Or the Women’s March that formed following the inauguration of former President Donald Trump.

Acting Patriotically

Groups that have been formed as a result of shared love and pride for their country are acting patriotically. The behavior of groups who have gathered for this purpose is often zealous and committed. Groups acting patriotically can be constructive but can also easily become destructive.

Group Behavior: Spectators

A spectator group behavior refers to gathering a group of people with the shared purpose to participate in or attend an event. Events may include a concert, movie, or sports game.

Culture as a Form of Group Behavior

Culture refers to a group's shared attitudes, ideas, values, traditions, and behaviors passed down from generation to generation.

Humans are social animals capable of learning and adapting their behaviors for survival. Cultures form as the result of this human trait. Through language, humans have been able to preserve innovation throughout history. Even though we differ across cultures, our capacity for culture is the same. Culture enables us to communicate, play, engage in commerce, and live.

As cultures compete for resources, they evolve over time. A Frenchman in the fourteenth century might not fully understand a Frenchman in the twenty-first century. While cultures evolve to survive, the change is not always positive. For example, although the federal government increased the loan amount a student could borrow for their post-secondary degree, it may have allowed colleges to raise their tuition costs. (Bundick & Pollard, 2019). Culture and cultural differences can greatly affect the behavior of groups and individuals within that group.

Group Behavior, cultures and types of group behavior, StudySmarterDifferent cultures form their own Group Behavior, freepik.com

Group Behavior – Examples

Group behavior can occur in everyday situations. Here are some examples:

  • Planning/executing cultural festival
  • Organizing the clean up of a dirty street corner

  • Setting up a community garden

  • Black Lives Matter Protests

  • March on Washington during the Civil Rights Movement

  • Dakota Access Pipeline Protest

  • January 6th United States Capitol Attack

Group Behavior in Psychology

Individual behavior differs from group behavior in the first may be influenced by several internal and external factors. Individual behavior may result from genes, mental health, environment, or self-perception.

When group behavior is observed in psychology, the focus is on how groups affect an individual's behavior, thinking, decision-making, or ideas. Psychologists also observe how groups behave as a whole and how groups interact with one another.

Group Polarization

The ways in which a group interacts with other groups and with one another is called group dynamics. Group polarization is when a group’s beliefs and inclinations are enhanced through group discussion, and decisions are more extreme than an individual’s initial inclination.

Group polarization is when a group’s beliefs and inclinations are enhanced through group discussion, and decisions are more extreme than an individual’s initial inclination.

For example, a class discussion would make students whose prejudice is low become more accepting after discussing racial issues. However, students whose prejudice is high would become less accepting after discussing racial issues. In the real world, we see group polarization occur in politics. After a debate, political groups may become more polarized in their views.

Group polarization often intensifies the "us vs them" mentality. Group members may also behave in more extreme ways than while on their own. While increasing access through the internet can be a powerful tool in connecting people, it can also be a powerful tool in polarizing people's opinions. Conservatives can connect more with other conservative perspectives, and liberals can connect more with other liberal views.

Conformity

In 1955, Solomon Asch conducted an experiment to test conformity within a group.

Conformity is when a person's behavior changes to match the group's behavior, regardless of their own opinion.

In the experiment, he had a group of people answer a very easy question. However, each group had confederates, people who work for the researcher, who answered the question incorrectly. Then, Asch observed how often the subjects would give the wrong answer. This resulted in the Ash effect, which refers to how the group majority influences an individual's behavior and judgment.

Groupthink

When faced with a decision, groups may reach a consensus due to the desire for harmony. This phenomenon is called groupthink. This consensus, however, may not have been achieved through reason or evaluation.

Groupthink is the phenomenon in which decision-making groups reach a consensus due to the desire for harmony, regardless of any consequences or alternatives.

Groupthink is often fed by overconfidence, conformity, group polarization, and self-justification. (Meyer et al., 2009). Throughout history, administrations in the United States have fallen victim to groupthink. For example, social psychologist Irvan Janis (1982) discovered that the Kennedy administration's decision to invade Cuba with Cuban exiles trained by the CIA was likely led by a collective desire to preserve the morale. Leaders opted to ignore their doubts to protect the harmony of the group.

Helping People

Individual behavior can be especially influenced by the presence of others when it comes to helping.

The bystander effect, for example, refers to a situation in which people are less likely to offer help if others are around.

This phenomenon can often have negative effects where no one steps up to help because they believe someone else will be there to do it. Or, have you heard of the saying, “Scratch my back, and I’ll scratch yours?” This reflects the reciprocity norm, the idea that individuals within a group expect others to help them if they help others.

Group Behavior - Key takeaways

  • A group is defined as two or more people who interact with each other and share a common identity.
  • Group behavior refers to the observable actions, thoughts, or feelings of a collection of people or the individuals within a collection of people.
  • Outgroup homogeneity refers to our tendency to see members of our ingroup as individuals and members of an outgroup as the same.
  • Ingroup favoritism or ingroup bias refers to our tendency to assume people similar to us are like us, therefore favoring ingroup members over outgroup members.
  • Four aspects of group behavior are purpose/mission, norms, cohesion, and structure.

Frequently Asked Questions about Group Behavior

The term group behavior refers to the observable actions, thoughts, or feelings of a collection of people or individuals within a group of people.

Individual behavior differs from group behavior in that the first may be influenced by several internal and external factors. Individual behavior may be the result of genes, mental health, environment, or self-perception. However, group behavior focuses is on how groups affect an individual's behavior, thinking, decision-making, or ideas. Psychologists also observe how groups behave as a whole and how groups interact with one another.

The three types of group behavior are: 

1. Group dynamics

2. Individual’s behavior in the presence of others

3. Deindividuation

An example of group behavior is social loafing. Social loafing is a situation in which members of a group do not exert as much effort towards a task while working as a group as they would if held individually accountable.

Concepts of group behavior include:

  • Ingroup favoritism/bias
  • Outgroup homogeneity
  • Group polarization
  • Conformity
  • Groupthink
  • Bystander effect

Final Group Behavior Quiz

Question

What three factors cause deindividuation?

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Anonymity, suggestibility, and contagion.

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Which researchers oppose the idea of deindividuation?

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Postmen and Spears

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How did the "Stanford Prison Experiment" showcase deindividuation?

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The"prison guards" were anonymous and worked as a group, and were, therefore, more violent and cruel.

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Who conducted the "Stanford Prison Experiment"?

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Philip Zimbardo

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What was the Trick-or-Treating Experiment?

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Trick-or-treating children were either asked about their identities or not, and were present in both groups and alone. It was recorded whether they broke the rules and took more candy than they were supposed to.

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Who held the Trick-or-Treat experiment?

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Diener, Fraser, Beaman, Kelem

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What is anonymity?

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Concealing your identity, through large crowds, uniforms, masks, etc.

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What is suggestibility?

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Being ready to take on suggestions and be influenced by others.

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What is contagion?

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The ability of a behavior or mindset to spread through a crowd.

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______________ refers to our tendency to see members of our ingroup as individuals and members of an outgroup as the same.

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Outgroup homogeneity

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Which of the following is not an example of communal labor?

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Dakota access pipeline protest

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____________ refers to our tendency to assume people similar to us are like us, therefore favoring ingroup members over outgroup members.

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Ingroup favoritism or ingroup bias

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____________ is when a group’s beliefs and inclinations are enhanced through group discussion and decisions are more extreme than an individual’s initial inclinations.

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Answer

Group polarization

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____________ refers to the actions, thoughts, or feelings of people or the individuals within a group.

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Group behavior

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True or False? Individual behavior differs from group behavior in that individual behavior may be influenced by several internal and external factors.

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True

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Which of the following is not an aspect of group behavior?

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Patriotism

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__________ refers to the shared attitudes, ideas, values, traditions, and behaviors of a group that is passed down from generation to generation.

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Answer

Culture

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_______ refers to how the group majority influences an individual's behavior and judgment. 

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Answer

Asch effect

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_______________ is the phenomenon in which decision-making groups reach a consensus due to the desire for harmony, regardless of any consequences or alternatives.

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Groupthink

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Rachel doesn't feel the need to work as hard on the group project because there are five other people in the group. However, she knows that if she had to do the project on her own, she would work much harder. What phenomenon explains Rachel's behavior?

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Social loafing

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True or False? Cultures do not usually form their own group behavior?

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False

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This aspect of group behavior refers to how well the group can overcome conflict or other unpleasant experiences.

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Cohesion

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This aspect of group behavior usually results in the formation of leadership.

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Structure

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The study of the actions, changes, and processes within and between groups is called _____________. 

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Group dynamics

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Which of the following is not an example of a primary group?

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People on the elevator

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What occurs during norming stage of group development?

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At this point, members have agreed on the best way to achieve their common goal and have identified the needs of each member. Leadership also establishes a plan for the group to stay on track.

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At which stage of group dynamics development is the group working at its highest level of synergy and cooperation?


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Performing

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What are the five main elements of group dynamics?

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Interaction, goals, interdependence, structure, and cohesiveness.

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_________________ is any behavior within a group that is primarily focused on accomplishing the group’s goals, projects, or plans.

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Task interaction

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According to McGrath (1984), what four things are required for a group to achieve its goals? 

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  • Generating of ideas 
  • Choosing between options
  • Negotiating solutions
  • Task execution

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________________ refers to the ways in which group members must depend on one another to achieve their collective and individual goals.

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Interdependence

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What is group cohesion?

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Group cohesion is the unity, connection, or bond within a group that is the result of interpersonal bonds or other forces like a shared commitment to achieving the group’s goals.

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Which of the following is an example of an informal group dynamics?

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Bible studies

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What is entativity?

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Entativity is the extent to which a group is perceived as a single entity rather than individuals.

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What does the Thomas theorem state?


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"If men define situations as real, they are real in their consequences" (Thomas & Thomas, 1928, p.572)

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True or False?  The Thomas theorem in group dynamics can rarely lead to stereotyping.


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False

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At which stage in the development of group dynamics do group members discuss their ideas and begin to form a plan to complete tasks.


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Storming

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True or False? Norms specify the standard and expected behaviors in a given context.


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True

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What is diffusion of responsibility?

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Diffusion of responsibility is the principle that states that responsibility in responding is shared amongst everyone present

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When does diffusion of responsibility most often occur?

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Diffusion of responsibility most frequently occurs in large groups

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What's the main cause of diffusion of responsibility?

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People assuming that others will act so they don’t have to. Not one single person is responsible so that responsibility gets shared by the whole group. 

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What is an example of diffusion of responsibility?

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The murder of Kitty Genovese. She was killed outside her apartment building where people heard her crying for help, but no one called the police in time. They all assumed someone else would. 

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What other psychological principle is often linked to diffusion of responsiblity?

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Bystander effect

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Why was Kitty Genovese not saved?

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Her neighbors assumed others were dealing with the situation (diffusion of responsibility and bystander effect)

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What is an experimental study about diffusion of responsibility?

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Darley and Latané’s fake seizure study

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What were the findings of Darley and Latané’s fake seizure study?

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If the participant was just talking to the person seizing, they would go get help 85% of the time but if there were any more people than just themselves, the percentage drastically dropped

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How do the findings of Darley and Latané’s fake seizure study show diffusion of responsibility?

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When there were more people involved, participants didn't respond as much because the responsibility of them acting was spread among the other people too

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Does diffusion of responsibility happen only in emergencies?

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No! It can happen anytime something is asked of a group

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Why does making the group smaller reduce diffusion of responsibility?

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There are fewer people for the responsibility to get diffused over so they will be more likely to act appropriately 

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Why does setting expectations reduce diffusion of responsibility?

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Then there are understood consequences that will happen if diffusion of responsibility does occur

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