Group Dynamics and the Public Sphere - Group Dynamics

6 important questions on Group Dynamics and the Public Sphere - Group Dynamics

How do we define a group?

There are various ways to define groups. Groups can be defined as a collection of people who share a common fate, who share a social structure, or who engage in face-to-face-interaction.

In his 2000 book, Rupert Brown suggests the following definition: a group consists of two or more people who identify themselves as members of the group. Additionally, the group's existence must be recognized by at least one other person who is not a group member.

Did psychoanalysis have any influence on the study of group dynamics?

While social psychologists were interested in the uniformity of groups - that is, the way that group members act in concert - some psychoanalysts became interested in the interactions among group members.

From working in clinical settings, these clinicians recognized that group dynamics influenced the ways people relate to each other. Specifically, they noticed the ways that group members formed alliances with each other, split into different factions, and aligned with, and then rebelled against, group leaders.

Wilfred Bion (1897-1979) was a pioneer in this movement. Another influential clinician in the group therapy movement is the psychiatrist Irvin Yalom (1931-).

What is group identity?

Group identity refers to the recognition of the group as a distinct unit by both members and nonmembers. Group identity is a critical part of a group's well-being and much of the behavior of a group will serve to promote and maintain group identity.

For example, specific rituals, forms of dress, and speech patterns can help distinguish group members from nonmembers and thus promote group identity. We see this with teenage cliques, religious groups, and even military regiments.

How does group identity affect personal identity?

Individual group members reshape their own individual identity in keeping with their group membership. Our social identity is a function of our group memberships. By identifying with certain groups, we state that we share values, goals, and beliefs with that group.

Moreover, our self-esteem is impacted by our status and value within the group as well as the group's status in relation to other groups. People who belong to low status or devalued groups suffer damage to their self-esteem. Likewise, people can gain self-esteem by joining a group that vaues them and/or is valued by others.

What are group norms?

When individual group members violate group norms, the group will act to bring their behavior back into compliance. Consider what would happen to a corporate employee who shows up drunk for work, makes explicitly sexual overtures to his or her colleagues, and then destroys office furniture. The group (in this case the corporation) would act immediately to bring the employee back in line. Either that, or the employee would be expelled.

What function do initiation rituals serve?


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