Introduction: individuals and groups
Every human being functions within a group. People are born into a family group. Later in life, humans form other groups with friends and coworkers. Group membership is a dominate characteristic of human interaction. Humans are social creatures from birth until death. Survival is dependent on our ability to function in groups. Our identity is determined by how we are perceived and treated by our peers. An area of social science called group dynamics is the scientific study of the nature of group life, how people behave in groups, how groups develop, and how group members interrelate with each other and with the group as a whole. The aim of this book is to explain group theory and research as well as to help the reader improve their small-group skills.
It is important to clarify what the term “group” means. Many social scientists disagree with each other in this regard. Here, we’ll discuss seven of the most common definitions. Pay close attention to how and where the definitions are alike or different. One way to define a group is as a number of individuals who join together to achieve a goal. People join groups to achieve goals that they would not be able to achieve alone. Social scientists, Freeman (as early as 1936), Mills, and Deutsch argue that groups would not exist unless there is a common goal that the members are all trying to achieve.
A second way to define a group is as a collection of individuals who are interdependent in some way. By this definition, individuals are a group when an event that affects one member of the group affects all members of a group. Cartwright, Zander, Fiedler, and Lewin are social scientists that adhere to this definition.
A third definition defines a group as a number of individuals who interact with one another. By this definition, a group cannot exist unless its members interact. Social scientists who adhere to the interpersonal interaction definition of group are Hare, Bonner, Stodgill, and Homans.
A fourth way to define group is as a social unit, which consists of two or more persons who perceive themselves as a part of a group. Bales and M. Smith adhere to this definition based on perception of membership.
A fifth way to define group is as a collection of individuals whose interactions are structured by a set of roles and norms. McDavid and Harari, and Sherif and Sherif subscribe to this definition based in structured relationships. A group can also be defined as a collection of individuals who influence each other. By this definition, individuals are a group only if they affect and are affected by each other. The main characteristic of a group in this definition is interpersonal influence or mutual influence. Shaw is a social scientist who champions this definition.
The last common definition we will discuss defines group as a collection of individuals who are aiming to fulfill a personal need through joint association. By this definition, individuals are in a group because they have a personal reason to be a part of the group and a group may not exist if the members’ needs are not satisfied. Bass and Cattell define group this way, based on member motivation.
Some of the above definitions are too specific while others are very vague. The common element is that not every collection of people is necessarily a group. The Oxford English Dictionary gives the definition of group as a number of persons or things regarded as forming a unit on account of mutual or common relation or classified together on account of a common degree of similarity.
If we consider and combine all the definitions we have discussed, a small group can be defined as a collection of two or more individuals in person-to-person interaction who are positively interdependent, aim to achieve common goals, and are aware of their own membership in the group as well as the membership of others in the group. While not all groups will fulfill this very specific definition, the most common examples of small groups do. There is a difference between small and large groups. While small groups can be defined in terms of member interaction, a group can also include members who share characteristics without having actually met each other. Examples would be a community or people who share the same ethnic background.
In contrast to a group, an aggregate is a collection of individuals who while present at the same time and place, are not similar and do not form a unit. Examples include people standing on a street corner and students attending a lecture. Additionally, some people do not believe that groups exist. Such people are supporters of the individualist orientation, which focuses on the individual since without individuals a group cannot exist. These social scientists study the individual group members. An early supporter of an individualist orientation, Floyd Allport felt that groups do not feel, act, or think. These are attributes of individuals, thus individuals should be studied rather than groups. Allport saw groups as nothing more than a shared set of values or habits of each individual member or the sum of the actions of each individual member.
On the other hand, those that support group orientation study the group as a whole, independent of the individual members. Social scientists who support group orientation focus on the influences of the group and the larger social system. Emile Durkheim was such a supporter and believed groups were different from individuals. He felt that small primary groups such as families and close friends were the building blocks of society. Another supporter of group orientation, Le Bon, felt that the mind of a group exists separately from the minds of each group member. Cartwright and Zander felt that a group mind could be healthy or harmful. Cattell felt that groups had different personalities. Lewin felt that groups could not be understood through individuals because once the individuals came together in a group, a new entity was formed. Solomon Asch advocated both individualist and group orientation explaining that groups are like water. Each of the elements, hydrogen and oxygen needed to be studied separately, but the combination of hydrogen and oxygen is a new element that should also be examined. It is important to note that evidence has shown that group behavior produces stronger reactions than individual behavior. Additionally, when individuals are viewed as belonging to a particular group, they may be susceptible to stereotypical judgments or assumptions.
Importance of groups
Historically, humans function in small groups. Early humans lived in small hunting and gathering groups; later humans lived in small farming communities. More recently, humans live in large cities. All of these situations require teamwork among people. Some see this ability to work well in groups as the reason humans still exist today.
Neanderthals and Cro-Magnons are two recent branches of the human species. Modern humankind developed from Cro-Magnons. Cro-Magnons were physically inferior to the Neanderthals however through working together were able to out survive them. Cro-Magnons cooperated through group hunting, experimenting with new materials and sharing knowledge. Thus they were able to develop new technologies and tools. Ultimately, humans developed a higher standard of living and improved the quality of life through cooperation.
Almost every part of modern life is affected by how individuals work in groups. By understanding group dynamics, we can improve our lives through building more effective groups in all areas of life: family, business/industry, education, and psychological health. Anthropologist Margaret Mead saw the family as the toughest human institution.
In the last one hundred years, family structure has changed as the extended family disappeared and the number of single parent homes increased. Understanding group theory and having small-group skills is necessary in order to have constructive families in light of these new challenges. In terms of business and industry, more and more businesses rely on the high productivity of small groups. This is in contrast to the mass production and large scale manufacturing that dominated the first half of the twentieth century. Today, employees work in teams to create new products, conduct research, and more. Additionally, new technologies allow teams of employees across multiple continents to work together.
Today’s successful organizations need to be continuously learning, innovative, and adaptable. Essentially, people need to work well in small groups to produce positive results. In terms of education, the structure has changed from a lecture format to cooperative learning. Rather than listening to a lecture and taking notes, students work in groups. This leads to higher achievement, greater mental health, and better relationships. In terms of psychological health, support groups such as a strong network of friends and family can help prevent depression and other psychological problems that are becoming increasingly prevalent. When a person feels more connected to the world and their environment they tend to be less depressed and anxious. In addition to the knowledge of group dynamics, it is also necessary to develop social skills so that you can create an effective group. One needs to understand how a group is structured, how group structure and group productivity are related, how group dynamics affect effectiveness and how groups develop over time.
Structures of groups
When trying to identify how a group is structured it is necessary to look for patterns. While there are many different types of groups, there are basic elements that all groups feature. This can be a common purpose, a pattern of communication, the different roles members play, what is considered acceptable and unacceptable behavior within the group, and how the group is adapted to the larger society. Group structure develops when members work together to achieve a goal. There are two aspects of group interaction that are essential in order to understand the underlying structure of a group: differentiated roles and integrating norms. Differentiated roles are the different responsibilities of each group members and integrating norms are what unite the group as a whole.
Roles are expectations regarding appropriate behavior of a specific position such as president, vice-president, or secretary. These positions can be assigned in a formal way, such as through an election. Other times, individuals naturally take on a role based on their skills or interests. Once an individual assumes a certain role, they are expected to carry out the responsibilities of that position. Roles function to help a group achieve goals. Group members’ tasks are interrelated and complementary since one cannot be performed without the other, such as in teacher/student roles. Expectations of a role include obligations as well as rights. For example a teacher has an obligation to structure a learning situation, while a student has the right to learn in a situation structured by their teacher. Sometimes the expected obligations of a role can conflict in a situation called role conflict. For example, a principal and a student may expect very different things from the same teacher. This type of contradictory expectation is one example of how role conflicts can occur. Another way role conflict can occur is if the demands of one role do not match the demands of another role. Roles can affect our actions and make us behave in ways that differ from our own feelings or interests since everyone has multiple roles to play and everyone belongs to more than one group. In 1974, Stanley Milgram’s conducted a study where adult subjects in the role of teachers were paid to give students electric shocks if they remembered an item incorrectly. Milgram expected that the teachers would refuse to administer shocks since it contradicted their personal beliefs. However, Milgram’s study showed that over sixty percent of the subjects administered the maximum shock of 450 volts. His study suggests that people can commit harmful and immoral actions if subjected to enough pressure.
Different social roles suggest different degrees of social status. Status is determined by how crucial an individual person’s contribution is to the success of the group, how much power an individual has on the outcome, and the extent to which he or she has desirable traits such as physical attractiveness. In some cases, status is decided by physical dominance, in others it is determined by wealth, or level of education or anything else the group finds to be important. Status and power do not always occur together. In 1972, Johnson and Allen conducted a series of experiments where they separated the two. They found that if someone had high status and high power, they behaved kindly but had disdain for the worker. However if a person has high status and low power in a situation that rewards high power, they behaved selfishly but respected the worker. Regardless of what determines status in a group, the differences in status affect group processes. People of high status are more tolerated by the group and valued.
As a result, high status people tend to be less influenced by peer pressure and group norms than lower-status people of the group. This is partially because high status people are not as likely to expect punishment if they behave incorrectly. High status members have more influence over group decisions while low status people are more often ignored even if they have something insightful to contribute.
Norms are common beliefs within a group of what is appropriate behavior such as being punctual, courteous, and responsible. Unlike roles, which differentiate member from each other, norms bring the actions of all group members together. Norms are the rules determined by the group to control how members act. These rules not only guide group behavior but specify what is expected and acceptable behavior in specific situations. Every group has a set of norms that can be formal or informal. A group of friends may have an informal set of norms while students in a class have formal norms regarding assignments, absences, etc. Some norms apply to every individual in a group while others apply only to specific roles. For example, some norms exist for both students and teachers but others exist only for the teacher or only for the students. Some norms are more important than other norms. Norms that have a lower effect on the goals of a group will usually allow for a wider range of behavior.
Most groups ask individual members to adhere to the norms as a requirement for membership. Individuals who do not respect the norms may become excluded. In order for a norm to affect an individual’s behavior, a person must first be aware that it exists, see that other group members adhere to the norm, and adhere to the norm themselves. Norms cannot be forced on a group. Members adhere to norms because they assume there are rewards or punishment depending on if they follow the norm. Norms come out of group member interaction. Muzafer Sherif demonstrated this in 1936 using the autokinetic effect, which is a perceptual phenomenon that happens when a fixed point of light is viewed in complete darkness and it looks like it moves spontaneously. Sherif led participants (first one by one, then in groups) into a room with such a light. Participants were asked to estimate how much the light moved. Sherif found that when asked individually, participants still used the group estimates as a point of reference for their own estimate. This shows that the judgements that appear to belong to an individual are actually shaped by the judgements of their peers. Theodore Newcomb did another well-known study in 1943. He studied how the college experience affects students. His most famous study was conducted at an all female school called Bennington College. While the majority of the students came from wealthy and conservative families, the faculty and older students were liberal. Over the course of their education, many students become more liberal. Newcomb’s study found that this could be determined based on if the student identified herself more closely with her family or the campus community. Newcomb’s study began the study of reference groups, or a group that people identify with, compares their attitudes to, and use as a way to evaluate those attitudes.
How to create a productive group
Some groups are highly effective while others are not. Johnson and Johnson developed a group performance curve to show how ineffective and effective groups differ. There are four types of groups in their curve: pseudo groups, traditional work groups, effective groups, and high-performance groups. The aim of the curve is to depict how the structure of a group determines its effectiveness.
A pseudogroup’s members are assigned to work together but have no other reason for doing so. Members of a pseudogroup think they will be evaluated through being ranked from the highest performer to the lowest performer. While members of a pseudogroup interact with one another, they are in reality competing against each other. They may sabotage each other. Thus, the group is ineffective compared to the individual members. This means that members would be more productive if they were not working in a group. Additionally, the group does not grow because the members are not invested in each other or the future of the group.
In a traditional work group members are assigned to work together and accept that they have to work together. The individual members think they will be evaluated and rewarded as individuals. Members of the group interact to discuss how the work will be accomplished. The work is structured so that there is minimal interaction. Some members do not work very hard and expect others to contribute more. Thus the sum of the whole is more than the potential of some of the members but the harder working members would do better if they worked alone.
In an effective group, members work together to be successful. They are assigned to work together, but are happy to work since they believe that they will be evaluated and rewarded as a group so everyone needs to contribute. In an effective group, members depend on each other in a positive way, there is two-way communication, more than one leader, and power is determined based on skill. Effective groups make decisions in a way that allows individuals to voice their opinions. Effective groups must achieve its goals, its members must have good working relationships, and it must adapt to outside changes.
Keep the following guidelines in mind in order to build effective groups. The first guideline is to specify clear goals. This helps members to depend on each other and commit to the group goals. Groups exist because people want to achieve goals they cannot accomplish alone. If a group is to be effective, all members must understand the goals. Additionally, the goals must relate to members’ needs so they are committed to the realization of the group’s goals. The second guideline is to establish strong two-way communication so that each member of the group is able to express their thoughts and feelings. Communication is essential for all human interaction and is especially important when working in groups. If group members can communicate effectively, they will minimize misunderstanding and competition. The third guideline is to make sure that leadership and participation are shared among all the group members so that each member is invested in the work of the group. Through sharing leadership, the group can make use of the resources of each individual member and be a more cohesive group. The fourth guideline is to distribute power among group members.
In effective groups the power of members is based on expertise and ability rather than personality. If a group has power struggles, this becomes a distraction from the group’s goals. Power struggles can be avoided if every member of the group shares some power or influence. As the group changes, the power distribution should change as well. The fifth guideline is to match how decisions are made with the needs of the situation. When a group makes a decision there needs to be a balance between the time and resources available to the group and the decision making methods they employ. This depends on how important a decision is and how much commitment is needed to put it into practice. The most effective method is through consensus, which means unanimous agreement. This method promotes fair participation, equal power, and commitment. The sixth guideline is to have constructive debates, which leads to creative problem solving and decision-making. To be effective decision makers, group members should present and consider a variety of options. Debates over opposing ideas benefit the group by encouraging participation. This also allows minority and dissenting opinions to be considered seriously. The seventh guideline is to face conflicts and resolve them constructively. Group members should face their conflicts and try to negotiate to resolve them. Sometimes it is necessary to use mediation. When problems are resolved in a constructive way they can increase a group’s effectiveness.
A high-performance group is an effective group that has especially committed members. In such groups, members demonstrate mutual concern that allows them to out perform expectations. These groups are very rare and most groups never reach this level.
Theories on group formation
The changes that occur in most groups are discussed in over a hundred theories. These theories tend to have two possible approaches. One approach is called recurring-phase theories and the other is called sequential-stage theories. Recurring-phase theories focus on the issues that happen repeatedly in a group interaction. Robert Freed Bales theorized that there has to be balance between task-oriented work and emotion-based connections to strengthen relationships between group members. Wilfred Bion theorized that groups focus on three things: dependency on the group leader, pairing of members for emotional support, and fight-flight reactions to threats to the group. William Schultz suggested that groups develop when members focus on affection, inclusion, and control. Sequential-stage theories discuss the usual order that phases of group development occur in.
Moreland and Levine theorized that group members experience predictable stages of membership. The stages are: prospective member, new member, full member, marginal member, and ex-member. Warchel, Coutant-Sassic, and Grossman theorized that there are six stages of group development. They called the first stage discontent. This occurs when a person feels their current group is not meeting their needs. In the second stage is an event that connects members. In stage three, members start to identify with the group. In stage four, group members focus on group productivity. In stage five, individual group members negotiate with the larger group to meet their personal needs. In stage six, which is also the final stage, the group begins to break down. Bruce Tuckman put forth the most famous sequential-stage theory. He theorized five stages: forming, storming, norming, performing, and adjourning. In the forming stage, members are uncertain of their place within the group. Conflicts occur during the storming stage as members rebel. This stage focuses on conflict management. In the norming stage, the group sets the roles and norms of the group. In the performing stage, group members work together to achieve goals. In the adjourning stage, the group dissolves. Johnson and Johnson applied Tuckman’s theory to groups that have a coordinator or leader (as Tuckman focused on groups with passive leaders) to develop seven stages, which we will now discuss in further detail.
The first stage of development is where the group procedures are structured and defined. At this stage, members concern themselves with the group’s expectations and goals. Members want to know if they will be accepted, if they will influential within the group, how the group is going to work, who the other members are, and if they will be liked by the other members. In this stage the coordinator needs to describe what procedures are to be used, determine the goals of the group, organize the group, and establish interdependence among the group members.
The second stage of group development is where individual members familiarize themselves with group procedures and with each other. At this stage, members realize the strong points and weak points of themselves and other members. In stage two, the coordinator must give clear direction and clarify the goals and procedures of the group and stress key norms.
These norms are that each member must be responsible for their own performance and the performance of others, members should help each other, members should be accepting and supportive of each other and be trustworthy, the group should make decisions as a team, and the group should confront and resolve problems and conflicts. In this stage, the coordinator is in control of the group’s goals and procedures. While the group members conform to the coordinator’s norms, they are not personally committed to each other or the group’s goals.
In the third stage of group development, members realize that they are dependent on one another and begin to build trust in each other. They come together for a common goal as they realize that they either succeed together or fail together. Through discussions where all members express their opinions and other members respond in a supportive way, the group builds trust.
In the fourth stage of group development, the group matures and individual members attempt to differentiate themselves from the coordinator and from other group members through conflict and rebellion. This is a period where the members of the group challenge the authority of the coordinator. This can be short lived or a longer process. In contrast to stage two where members become more dependent on each other, in stage four members become more independent of each other. By rebelling against procedures and group norms, individual members establish boundaries and autonomy. This is a natural part of group development and should be expected. Coordinators should be accepting and not try to tighten control and force members to conform. Instead, coordinators should reason and negotiate. Coordinators will need to confront any issues that occur and resolve them. In some cases, coordinators will need to act as a mediator between members who are in conflict. The coordinator’s goal should be to help members take ownership of the group’s procedures and try to help each other attain success.
In the fifth stage of group development, members depend on each other rather than the coordinator. Rather than conforming to the standard procedures, members are personally vested in collaboration. At this stage, the group belongs to the members and not to the coordinator. Individual members internalize the group’s goals and are intrinsically motivated to achieve them. Members encourage each other and support and help each other.
In the sixth stage of group development, the group is mature and functions in a productive and autonomous way. The group has an identity and members work together to achieve goals and maintain their interpersonal relationships. In this stage, the group meets all the criteria for effective groups. The coordinator becomes more of a consultant than a leader, and all relationships continue to improve. Many groups do not reach this sixth stage of group development.
The seventh and final stage of group development is where the group disbands. If the group achieved the sixth stage of development and are emotionally connected to each other, this can be a difficult experience. However, once goals are met and projects are finished, it is necessary that individual members move on to other experiences.
There is no set timeframe for the stages of group development. Not every stage lasts the same amount of time. Some groups never move past the fourth stage, others move through all stages quickly. This figure shows the average amount of time groups spend in each stage.
Dynamics in groups
In order to understand the field of group dynamics, one needs to be familiar with Kurt Lewin (the main founder of the field of group dynamics) and the field’s foundation in theory, research, and practice. These three categories are closely interrelated. Theory identifies what makes a group effective and guides the research. Research validates or disproves the theory and will lead to refining or modifying the theory.
If the theory is validated, practical procedures test the theory in the real world, which may lead to further refinement or new research studies. As the term group dynamics suggests, what happens amongst members of a group is dynamic and not static. Social Scientists use theories and conduct research in order to analyze the dynamics of groups.
History of group dynamics
Group dynamics is a fairly new field of study of about 110 years old. While early philosophers had great insight into the nature of groups, and building blocks of group dynamics were discussed from the sixteenth century through the nineteenth century, group dynamics did not really develop as a field until the twentieth-century. It developed in North America. The roots of group dynamics go back to the late 1800s, but did not gain prominence until the early 1940s in response to concerns about democracy that arose out of World War II. People felt that by making groups like families, communities, etc. stronger, the overall democratic society would be healthier. This aim led to two connected movements in psychology: the scientific study of group dynamics and the application of research results to train leaders and members to function better in democratic groups. A new group of specialists called social psychologists studied group discussion, group productivity, changes in attitude within a group, and group leadership.
Later in the nineteenth century, researchers posed the question, “how does an individual’s behavior change when other people are present?” Norman Triplett analyzed this question through conducting a study on cyclists. He observed that their racing times where faster if they were racing against another cyclist than if they were racing against a clock. He hypothesized that people performed better in the presence of others. He tested this hypothesis by conducting a study where he asked children to wind fishing reels and compared their performance when they were alone to their performance when another child was present. He found that children did perform better in the presence of others. Triplett’s studies led to Zajonc’s 1965 study on social facilitation-impairment, Johnson’s 1989 study on social interdependence, and Harkins & Szymanski’s 1987 study on social loafing.
Researchers of social facilitation wondered if the influence of the presence of other people differed if the task was simple or complex. Allport’s 1924 study, and Moede’s 1920 study showed that audience presence increased an individual’s speed in simple tasks, like running the mile, and decreased an individual’s speed in complex tasks, like putting together a complicated machine. A different line of researchers wondered if individuals or groups where more productive problem solvers and decision makers. Researchers such as Gordon (1924), Shaw (1932), and Watson (1928) found that on average groups are more productive than individuals. Researchers like Deutsch (1962) and Johnson & Johnson (1989) studied social interdependence. Keer and his colleagues (1976) studied jury decision-making, Moscovici (1985) studied minority influence in groups. Asch (1951) studied conformity. D. Myers (1978) studied group polarization.
Muzafer Sherif, Theodore Newcomb, W.F. Whyte, and Kurt Lewin rapidly advanced the field of group dynamics by the end of the 1930s. Sherif found that the judgments of individuals were influenced by the judgments of their peers. Newcomb conducted the Bennington field study, which we discussed previously. Whyte studied the Norton Street gang and the Italian Community Club and the large influence groups have over individuals and society as a whole. Whyte found that performance expectations in an activity were stabilized in line with the status of the members even though low-status members sometimes showed a high skill level.
While Sherif, Newcomb, and Whyte made important findings in the field of group dynamics, Kurt Lewin made the largest contributions. His studies of 1943 and 1948 showed that individual behavior should be studied based on the groups to which the individuals belonged. In the most influential study, conducted in 1939 by Lewin, Lippitt, and White, the researchers studied how leadership patterns affected member behavior. In their study, groups of ten to eleven year-old children met at regular intervals for several weeks under the supervision of an adult who was democratic, autocratic, or laissez-faire. The study found that in the autocratic groups, children tended to scapegoat each other and even destroy what they had built. This study showed that the laboratory could be used to experiment with and study important social concerns. Lewin was famous for three achievements, the theory he developed, his advocacy for using experimental methods, and his dedication to using theory and research practically. Lewin was foremost a theorist who focused on building conceptual systems to explain observations, and creating a field theory analysis of group dynamics. In terms of the practical applications of group dynamic theory, Lewin felt that research should not only advance knowledge, but also form guidelines for action. He coined the phrase action research to describe using the scientific method to solve social problems.
Lewin and his colleagues went on to further develop group dynamic theory by studying how fear and frustration affected organized and unorganized groups, how training affected leaders of youth groups, how group decision-making could improve industrial production, and how group decision-making could be used to change eating habits during wartime food shortages. Through the mid 1950s, group dynamic research was popular and used to try to solve many issues.
However in the 1950s, researchers like Festinger who studied cognitive dissonance, Heider who studied attribution theory, and Hovland, Janis, & Kelley who studied persuasion, focused social psychology on the individual rather than the group. These researchers studied how the attitudes, values, and personality of an individual affected social behavior. Additionally, in the 1960s and 1970s, social psychologists felt that individuals were easier to study than groups because they were smaller segments than groups that needed to be connected to the larger social structure. Studies on groups were thought to be both expensive and difficult. However, in the 1980s and 1990s, researchers overcame many of the previous challenges to studying groups. Researchers like Deutsch (1985), Tjosvold (1991), Tjosvold & Johnson (1982), studied group issues of cooperation, conflict resolution, cross-cultural interaction and more. Researchers like Hackman & Oldman (1977) focused on work-group productivity in industrial psychology. Clinical psychologists like Johnson & Matross (1977), and Wolman & Stricker (1983) studied client-therapist relationships and dysfunctional families. In the twenty-first century, group dynamics has continued to be a popular field of study and research.
Social interdependence and cooperation are essential to how humans function and succeed. Trust is the foundation to how people work together effectively. Groups need to set goals that all members are dedicated to accomplishing. To this end, goals and the necessary steps to achieving those goals most be clear and measurable. Additionally, there needs to be a structure that encourages group member cooperation. The connection between group goals, social interdependence, and trust is complex and should be addressed in further detail.
A goal is an ideal that people work towards and value. In terms of individual goals, goals can be related positively so that individuals cooperate, goals can be related negatively which would cause competition, or they may be unrelated. When individual goals are related positively, this results in a group goal. Group goals depict a vision (an ideal and unique image of the future) that is achievable if group members cooperate. Some social scientists argue that group goals do not actually exist. Instead, they believe that group goals only a combination of individual goals. However, studies conducted by Horwitz and Pepitone show that individuals gain a feeling of personal satisfaction through achieving group goals since they provide a sense of unity that is difficult to identify in individual goals. Other studies conducted by Matsui, Kakuyama, & Onglateo, as well as Mitchell & Silver, show that group goals lead to higher group performance and cooperation. There is no clear answer when it comes to the debate on if group goals do actually exist. One potential explanation is that individual goals and group goals both exist and are interrelated.
In order for group to accomplish a goal, all members must be committed. One way to gain member commitment is by making sure that the goal meets the START criteria. START is an acronym: Specific (to be clear what needs to happen), Trackable and measurable (to record progress), Achievable but challenging (to have a 50/50 chance that the group can accomplish the goal, Relevant (personally meaningful), Transfer (to be applicable to other situations). Another way to gain group member commitment is in how the goals are determined. If the individual group members are involved in determining the goals, the goals will be more suited to the group. Of course other factors are at play as well. Members are more likely to commit to the realization of a goal if the goal seems desirable and if the members can relate to each other in a fun and involved way.
If goals are unclear, this can lead to tension within the group, joking or other distractions, and the failure to utilize good ideas. In a meeting with unclear goals, members could waste their time discussing irrelevant issues. For this reason, it is best to make operational goals. These are goals where specific steps to attain the goal are observable. Nonoperational goals do not have identifiable steps to their achievement; namely, they are ambiguous and not observable. For example, an operational goal would be to name three characteristics of a good group member while a nonoperational goal would be to draw conclusions about what makes group members effective.
The first example has a clear indictor of when the goal is achieved while the second example is vague. Operational goals help members and groups communicate more easily and evaluate the success of their efforts. Additionally, operational goals help members to structure how they intend to perform tasks in choosing references and developing a method. Operational goals encourage the group to evaluate their process and the outcome of their efforts. When goals are operational, group members address conflict in a more analytical and rational manner. In most cases, when groups spend time discussing their goals to arrive at a clear set of operational goals, they achieve the goals more quickly.
Group goals are a result of the level of aspiration of group members. Level of aspiration is a composite of a groups ideal goals and realistic expectations. Kurt Lewin and his colleagues theorized that people approach a given situation with an ideal outcome in mind and will revise their goals upward if they are successful and downward if they are unsuccessful. After they gain more experience, people’s ideal expectations are more in line with the reality of the situation. Zander & Medow conducted studies that showed that groups tend to set goals that are slightly optimistic. In most cases this bias is constructive, however it can lead to a cycle of failure, which can decrease morale and efficiency.
While group consensus helps groups to function, group conflicts will interfere. Hidden agendas are personal goals that are unknown to other group members and contrary to the group goals. Hidden agendas are common to most groups. To avoid hidden agendas, it is beneficial to discuss goals and for the group members to restate goals in their own words to help them take ownership of the group goals. Group members work towards the achievement of the group goals and the achievement of their personal goals. Be aware of what hidden agendas may be present and address them to solve them early. However, also be aware that some hidden agendas should not be discussed with the entire group. Different hidden agendas deserve different amounts of attention depending on how detrimental they are to a group’s effectiveness. It is not necessary to scold members for their hidden agendas, as they are only problems that should be solved. As groups mature they will resolve hidden agendas better.
There are two methods to help groups set goals. One is called the survey-feedback method with group interviews regarding the group’s goals and priorities. A second method is through program evaluation and review; this is also called the critical path method. In this method groups discuss the outcome they want to achieve. The group works backward from that goal to determine what steps must precede it. Groups use a timetable to set deadlines for subgoals and assign member responsibilities.
Social interdependence is crucial to humans. When researchers study cooperation they usually approach it from three general perspectives: the cognitive-developmental perspective based in Piaget and Vygostsky’s theories that knowledge is social, behavioral theory which states that the productivity of a group depends on reinforcers and rewards, and the social interdependence theory which is the most important.
Social interdependence theory began in the early 1900’s when Kurt Koffka stated that groups were dynamic wholes where the interdependence between its members varied. Lewin fine-tuned Koffka’s theory, stating that what makes a group exist is the interdependence between group members. This makes the group a dynamic whole. Thus changes in one member would affect the other members. This tension acts to motivate members to work to achieve group goals. Morton Deutsch, a student of Lewin, developed his theory of cooperation and competition in 1949. Deutsch’s theories have guided studies on cooperation and competition to the present day. Based on the theories of Lewin and Deutsch, social interdependence occurs when people have the same goals and each person is affect by the actions of other people. Social interdependence is different from social dependence (one person is affected by the actions of another person but not the other way around) or social independence (a person is not affected by the actions of other people). Social interdependence can occur in one of three possible ways. One way is positive interdependence. This is another way to say cooperation. The second way is negative interdependence, or competition. The third way is no interdependence. In this situation, people are individualistic and believe they can achieve the goal independent of if other people achieve their goals. The type of interdependence in a situation determines how individuals interact with each other. From this theory, if goals are positively interdependent, individual actions will most likely promote the success of every participant. If goals are negatively interdependent, individual actions will most likely interfere with the success of other group members. If there is no interdependence, individual actions will have no affect on the success or failure of others.
Patterns of interaction
Positive interdependence usually results in individuals encouraging and helping each other to achieve group goals. This interaction pattern is called promotive interaction. During promotive interaction, individuals share resources, give each other feedback, challenge each other’s conclusions in a constructive manner, trust and behave in trustworthy ways, and reflect on the process. On the other hand, negative interdependence usually results in oppositional interaction where individuals discourage and sabotage each other. No interaction has no pattern.
Results of interdependence
Cooperation and competition have been the focus of much research. This research utilizes meta-analysis which is a quantitative reviewing procedure which allows researchers to draw more definite conclusions. This method uses statistics to combine the results of separate studies of the same hypothesis. Then inferential statistics is used to draw conclusions about the overall result of the combined studies. Johnson and Johnson used this method to compare cooperative, competitive, and individualistic efforts to arrive at their theory that cooperation affects three main areas: the effort exerted to achieve, the quality of relationships between individual members, and the individual member’s psychological adjustment.
The research conducted on the degree to which the three types of social interdependence affects achievement is the longest research tradition in American social psychology. The findings have a high degree of generalizability since participants were of diverse culture, ethnicity, gender, age, and economic class. Meta-analysis shows that an individual that was cooperating performed slightly better than an individual that was competing who in turn performed slightly better than a person acting alone. Additionally, cooperation tends to cause people to be more willing to take on challenging tasks, people to achieve more and retain what they learned for longer, people to reason better, think more critically and think more creatively. Process gain also occurs. This is when new ideas, solutions, or efforts occur through group interaction that wouldn’t occur when a person is working alone. People are better able to transfer what they learn to other situations. Group-to-individual transfer happens when a person takes what they learn in a group situation and is able to apply that knowledge when they are working alone. Cooperation also leads to a more positive attitude toward the task at hand and individuals to focus on tasks better (time on task). A study conducted by Balderston in 1930 showed that workplace efficiency was doubled when employees were paid as a group.
Process loss is when groups produce less ideas, solutions, and effort than if individuals were working alone. Process gain happens when group interaction produces more unique ideas and solutions than if an individual were working alone. Meta-analysis has shown that groups who cooperate tend to out perform individuals. In fact, after individuals have learned in groups, they perform better on individual measures of achievement. Evidence suggests that cooperative groups are engaging in collective induction. Collective induction is when groups induce principles that could not be induced by the members individually. However, studies show that individuals generate more ideas while working alone than while working within a group. One possible explanation is that the brainstorming process is slowed when members have to take turns stating their ideas. Another possibility is that people are less motivated in groups. In 2002, Brown & Paulus conducted a study on the generation of ideas through accessing relevant information from one’s long timer conceptual memory. When people are asked to brainstorm, they tend to think of ideas from one category and continue to generate ideas from the same category. This is called convergent thinking. When people jump around to different categories, this is called divergent thinking. This method tends to generate more ideas. For groups to brainstorm well, it is helpful to encourage divergent thinking.
There are two important ways to encourage divergent thinking: priming and attention. In Priming, brainstormers are presented with ideas from low-accessible categories. Accessible categories come from a person’s experiences while inaccessible categories relate to concepts unconnected to a person’s experiences. One example would be if a wealthy American were asked to suggest ideas for improving the quality of life. They may be unlikely to think of preventing starvation (inaccessible category) unless it was suggested to them in the form of low-accessible category. However, the wealthy American may have relevant suggestions when prompted. Presenting low-accessible categories to brainstormers not only increases the number of ideas generated in that category, but also the number of ideas overall. Priming works only if members pay attention to other members’ ideas. Attention is the probability that a group member will generate ideas from the ideas of the current speaker. The more attention each member pays to fellow members, the better the performance during brainstorming. This is even more pronounced when the group is diverse and the individual members have varying perspectives.
National surveys show that people feel that life has meaning and purpose when they feel valued, loved, wanted, and respected by others and that people feel happy out of intimate relationships. Many studies have compared how cooperative, competitive, and individualistic efforts affect interpersonal attraction. Pure cooperative efforts (rather than a combination of the three) resulted in the greatest effect sizes. Additionally, studies have focused on relationships between white and minority individuals as well as handicapped and non-handicapped individuals. The research shows that working cooperatively also creates more positive relationships among heterogenous individuals. This type of research that focuses on relationships between diverse individuals is called social judgement theory. Social judgements that people make about each other increase or decrease how much they like each other. These judgements come out of a process of acceptance or a process of rejection. In a process of acceptance individuals view their interdependence positively and promote mutual goal achievement. In a process of rejection individuals either have no interdependence or they view their interdependence negatively. Both these processes are self-perpetuating. If a group is cooperating and has a positive view of their interdependence, there is a high level of group cohesion. This is the mutual attraction among the members of a group that makes them want to stay in the group. Groups that are highly cohesive set goals easier, are more likely to accomplish their goals, and are more easily influenced by other group members. Group performance appears to be driven by members wanting to perform tasks well. Doing well on tasks increases group cohesiveness. As that increases, so does motivation, persistence, morale, and productivity. Not only do cooperators like each other, they also give each other social support. Compared to competitive or individualistic experiences, cooperative experiences caused people to be more task-oriented and personally supportive.
Interdependence and psychological health
People are considered psychologically healthy when they have the ability to develop, maintain, and alter when necessary the interdependent relationships they have with others in order to achieve goals. It is then necessary for people to be able to recognize an interdependent relationship, as well as recognize if the relationship is positive or negative. They need to be able to behave in a manner that suits the normative expectations of the relationship. Five studies (on suburban high school seniors, juvenile and adult prisoners, step couples, Olympic hockey players, and Chinese businessman) show that cooperating with peers and valuing cooperation results in higher psychological health than competing or working independently. Cooperative attitudes relate positively to psychological health since both promote emotional maturity, well-adjusted social relations, strong sense of self, the ability to cope with adversity, and optimism in people. On the other hand, individualistic attitudes relate negatively to psychological health since people with individualistic attitudes show emotional immaturity, delinquency, self-alienation, and self-rejection. Competitiveness relates to psychological health in both positive and negative ways.
Social interdependence theory also relates to self-esteem. A process of self-acceptance is based on internalizing perceptions that one is accepted and liked, internalizing mutual success, and evaluating oneself positively in comparison to one’s peers. A process of self-rejection happens when one does not want to be known, has low performance, overgeneralizes in self-evaluations, and feels that others disapprove. Studies that have compared how cooperation, competition, and individualistic attitudes affect self-esteem show that cooperation promotes the highest self-esteem followed by competition, then individualistic attitudes. In cooperating, people feel that they are known, accepted, and liked as they truly are, that they have contributed to their own success and the success of the group, realize that each group member’s different skill-sets compliment each other. In competition, a person’s self-esteem is based on if they win or lose. Individualistic experiences tend to be based in self-rejection. The latter two experiences also promote more egocentrism while cooperation promotes perspective-taking ability. Perspective-taking ability is the ability to understand how a situation appears to someone else. Additionally, cooperation also increases social competence (ability to provide leadership, build trust, communicate well, make decisions, and manage conflicts). Things like career success, lifelong friendships, and caring families depend on strong social skills. The more depressed, angry, or anxious a person is, the less likely they are to be able to build and maintain positive relationships. It is through cooperation that people learn the attitudes and values that are needed in order to be psychologically healthy. A sense of mutual accomplishment, pride in working together, and mutual bonding leads to caring and committed friendships. The more people care for each other the harder they work to achieve joint goals. This results in higher self-esteem and confidence. When a person is psychologically healthy, they are more capable of working well with others. In this way, the effort to achieve, the quality of relationships, and psychological health are all connected.
Evidence shows that higher achievement is attained through cooperation than through competition. One explanation is that when a person competes they tend to engage in self-protective behavior. Self-worth protection, self-handicapping, and defensive pessimism are all examples of self-protective behavior. Self-worth protection occurs when a person does not expend as much effort so that failure can be attributed to lack of effort rather than incompetence. Self-handicapping occurs when a person creates obstructions to their performance. Examples include procrastination and setting unrealistic goals. Defensive pessimism happens when people have unrealistically low expectations that they will succeed and they do not value the task so that they will be less anxious about failure. All three of these strategies lower achievement in competitive situations. Some social scientists believe that competition is so destructive that it should be eliminated from schools and workplaces. Others feel that competition can be helpful in certain circumstances. Competition may be constructive if it leads individuals to be more effective at task completion, if individuals see that there is more to be gained than winning, and if individuals are more willing to take on challenges. Johnson & Johnson’s studies show that competition is more likely to be constructive when winning is unimportant, when all participants have a chance to win, and when there are specific guidelines and criteria for winning. Two field studies conducted on business and industry (Tjosvold, Johnson, Johnson, and Sun) in 2003 show that if the above factors are controlled for, competition is more likely to be constructive.
Realistic conflict theory and Social dominance theory also deal with competition. Realistic conflict theory states that conflicts between groups are rational when groups have dissimilar goals and are competing over scarce resources. Social dominance theory states that individuals, groups and species must compete because resources are scarce. This competition leads to groups developing hierarchies of individuals and groups. This theory has been used to explain bullying in schools and ingroup bias.
Social scientists have done the least research on when individualist efforts are constructive. However, it is important that an individual can work alone when necessary. Johnson and Johnson’s studies show that working alone is appropriate: when cooperation is too expensive or difficult, the goal is seen to be too important, individuals feel they can succeed in accomplishing their goals, tasks that cannot be divided must be completed, directions are clear and specific and do not require further explanation, or the work will be used later in a cooperative effort. Being able to cooperate in a group is essential to productivity. However, building and maintaining such groups is not simple. To be effective at cooperating groups need positive interdependence, individual and group accountability, face-to-face interaction, good social skills, and group processing.
Positive interdependence happens when an individual realizes that their success is linked to the success of others and that efforts must be coordinated in order to complete a task. The two main categories of interdependence are outcome interdependence and means interdependence. Without outcome interdependence, which is goal and reward interdependence, there is no reason to cooperate or to compete. Means interdependence is resource, role, and task interdependence, and specifies how tasks are to be accomplished. Positive interdependence affects an individual’s motivation and productivity. Group members, who feel that their efforts are not needed, exert less effort. However, group members who feel that they are providing a unique contribution will increase their efforts. There needs to be a balance of effort so that members don’t feel that they are over contributing or that their contributions are unnecessary.
Johnson & Johnson studied the relative contribution of various types of interdependence and made several discoveries. Group membership does not lead to higher achievement without positive interdependence. Interpersonal interaction does not increase productivity without positive interdependence. While positive goal interdependence will lead to greater achievement than in individualistic efforts, goal and reward interdependence combined is most effective. Working towards a reward and working to avoid losing a reward leads to higher achievement than working alone. Goal interdependence leads to higher achievement than resource independence. Resource interdependence may actually decrease achievement when compared to working alone. Goal and resource interdependence combined leads to higher achievement than goal interdependence alone or working alone. Positive interdependence not only motivates individuals but also makes it easier to develop new insights and discoveries through promotive interaction. The more complicated the procedures of interdependence are, the longer it will take the group to become fully productive. When individuals define themselves as being a part of a group, they are more likely to contribute toward the public good and less likely to take common resources.
The level of positive interdependence affects the entitativity of a group. Entitativity is the perception that a group is united and that the individual members are bonded together. The more interdependent the group is the stronger the entitativity. Perceived entitativity affects both group members and nonmembers. The group will have a stronger effect on a member’s self-definition, perspective, empathy, and promotive actions. Nonmembers may stereotype or discriminate against member of groups that appear to be highly interdependent. Additionally, group members may be seen as collectively responsible for a single member’s actions. Collective responsibility exists when all group members are held responsible and sanctioned for the actions of a single member. The greater the perceived entitativity of a group, the more likely it is that real conflicts will occur. This would lead to increased entitativity since members would band together.
Since members contribute their time, energy, and resources to the accomplishment of a group goal, it is possible that members would prefer to work less hard (a free ride). Of course if all members expect a free ride, the goal would not be accomplished. Positive interdependence leads members to feel responsible and accountable for finishing their share of the work and helping other members with their work. If a person’s performance affects what happens to other group members, the person feels that they are responsible for the welfare of other group members. When a person feels a sense of responsibility, they also feel more motivated. Additionally, if a person is well respected and liked by other members, the person will feel more responsibility towards other group members. Group accountability occurs when overall group performance is assessed and the results are given to the group to compare against a standard of performance. Individual accountability occurs when individual performance is assessed and given back to be individual and the group to compare against a standard of performance. In this case, the member is responsible to groupmates for a fair contribution. Hooper, Ward, Hannafin, and Clark discovered that structured indiviual accountability led to higher achievement. Increased individual accountability also leads to higher perceived interdependence (Johnson & Johnson 1994). If people do not feel individually accountable they will feel less personally responsible and contribute less. As groups get larger, it is harder for individuals to recognize the effect their contributions have. When groups get larger, members also communicate less often. When they do communicate, they may be less truthful in order to fit in. Therefore, social loafing increases as the group size increases. In 1970, Morgan, Coates, and Rebbin found that group members contributed more when one member was missing, possibly because they felt their contributions were more needed.
Promotive interaction or face-to-face interaction happens when group members encourage and help each other to achieve goals through offering assistance, sharing resources, challenging conclusions and reasoning, trusting and being trustworthy, and feeling less stress.
People cannot just be told to cooperate. Individuals need to be taught interpersonal and small-group skills (social skills) and want to use these skills. In order to work together to achieve goals, people need to know and trust one another, communicate well, be accepting and supportive, and resolve conflicts in a constructive way. Social skills are even more important when groups need to work together for the long-term or engage in complex activities for a long time. Lew, Mesch, Johnson, & Johnson conducted studies that showed a combination of positive goal interdependence, an academic contingency for high performance, and a social skills contingency led to the highest achievement by group members. The researchers Archer-Kath, Johnson, and Johnson found in a later study that individual achievement was increased when people received individual feedback than when they received feedback in a group. Individual feedback also leads to more positive relationships (as shown in a study by Putnam, Rynders, Johnson, and Johnson).
Groups work more effectively if they reflect on their procedures, how well they are functioning, and make plans for improvement of the group process. A process is a sequence of events that occurs over time. Process goals are the sequence of events that help achieve a goal. Group processing occurs when members reflect to discuss what actions were helpful or not helpful and to decide what actions should be continued or altered. In 1986, Yager, Johnson, and Johnson found that participants of all levels of achievement who participated in group processing cooperated better than participants who were asked to cooperate without group processing. Participants who had group processing and received individual feedback did better than those that received group feedback. This increased a participant’s achievement, led to more positive relationships, and higher self-esteem. Not only does group processing increase effectiveness and productivity, it also leads to the compensation effect since members receive feedback on their performance. The compensation effect is when members work harder to make up for what they feel other members are not contributing. Group processing reduces social loafing and clarifies goals. During group processing, members are also expected to express respect for each other. This increases self-esteem and increases member efforts when those outside the group devalue the group.
When the elements we’ve discussed are absent, group members are more likely to pursue their own hidden agendas. Cooperation is stabilized when several things happen: when members are invested in their future interaction, cooperators are easily identifiable, member actions are visible to other members, when members identify with other members emotionally, and members value reciprocity.
The way benefits are distributed has a strong effect on how effective a group is and on how members act towards each other. Benefits can be distributed based on merit, equality, or need.
Homans developed the equity or merit view of reward distribution as the main principle of distributive justice and equity theory. The principle states that in order to be fair, benefits should be distributed to individuals based on how much they contributed. The concept behind the theory is that people will work harder if benefits are based on their performance. There is also a symbolic value when a person receives the largest portion of the reward that they are superior to the others. There are of course downsides to this method of benefit distribution. It increases competition. Motivation becomes extrinsic instead of intrinsic (members work for a reward rather than for the group’s well being). The method suggests that members are only valuable to the extent they contribute to success, thereby depersonalizing group members. Members with many resource attractors (characteristics like beauty, fame, or wealth) may have an unfair advantage. The highest performing members may also be given more power in how future benefits are distributed leading to bias.
In an equality system of distributive justice, benefits are distributed equally to all members. This encourages cooperation and leads to mutual esteem, equal status, group loyalty, and mutual respect. Babchuk & Good’s 1951 study on sales clerks showed stronger job satisfaction and a greater sense of teamwork under the equality system. In their study, the equity system led to avoidance of maintenance duties, competition, and low morale. In 1954, Blau compared two groups of interviewers in an employment agency. In one group the members competed against each other and hid job openings from each other. In the other group, members worked together to fill positions. The cooperative group filled significantly more jobs.
In the distribution of benefits according to need method, benefits are given to members based on their need. The member with the largest family may receive a larger portion of the benefits. In 1971, Rawls pointed out that members should help each other. The help given to the member outweighs the losses of the other members.
Regardless of the method of benefit distribution being used, the most important factor is that the group members feel the method is fair. Research shows that before performing a task, members think the equity system is the fairest and that after performing a task, members think the equality system is fairest.
When a competitive member joins a cooperative group, the effectiveness of the group can suffer. The cooperative members start behaving more competitively. The competitive person sees the members who use to cooperate as having always been competitive. The formerly cooperative members are aware of the changes in their behavior but the competitive member is not aware of how he or she has affected the group.
Trust is essential to group effectiveness. Group members share their ideas more openly when trust is high. When trust is low, members may be dishonest and inconsiderate. It is important to remember that trust is dynamic, not stable. It increases or decreases with each member action. Trust is complex and difficult to define. Trust involves risk since there may be positive or negative results. The nature of the consequences depends on another person. If you will be more harmed by the negative consequences than you would be helped by the positive consequences, yet you are fairly sure that the other person will behave in a way that will result in positive consequences, then you trust that person.
Within a group, trust is developed through a sequence of actions. If person A takes the risk of sharing a secret, person B can confirm or disconfirm trust through acceptance or rejection. If person B takes the risk of being accepting, person A can disclose or not disclose. If person A discloses person B will be confirmed. The most important elements of trust are openness and sharing, and acceptance and support. Openness is sharing information about the issue the group is focused on. Sharing is offering materials and resources. Acceptance is communicating high regard for another member and their contributions.
Support is communicating that you notice the strengths of another person and that they are capable. Cooperative intentions are expectations that all members will cooperate. Interpersonal trust is built in a cycle of risk and confirmation. Trust is weakened if risk is taken and there is disconfirmation. Trust cannot be built without risk.
A group’s level of trust changes depending on how trusting and trustworthy members are. Trusting behavior is the willingness to risk beneficial or harmful consequences through being vulnerable to other members. Trustworthy behavior is the willingness to respond to another’s risk taking in a supportive way. It is important to remember that accepting and supporting another group member’s contribution does not mean that you necessarily agree with what they say. It is possible to express support while still holding different viewpoints. The key to building and keeping trust is to be trustworthy. If you are trustworthy, the more likely others are to be open with you. When you respond to their disclosures in a trustworthy manner this builds their trust in you. To increase trust, increase your trustworthiness. However, even one betrayal can cause distrust. Distrust is difficult to change because betrayal may happen again. Distrust causes group members to spend less effort on goal achievement and increases social loafing, competition, and conflicts. Besides making fun of someone, lecturing him or her, or judging him or her, distrust can also occur if you fail to reciprocate openness.
In order to try to regain lost trust, members should focus on goals that all members are compelled to try to achieve. Members should increase resource interdependence so that nobody thinks they can achieve success alone. Members should be open and consistent in showing cooperative intentions. Members should try to regain credibility and keep their promises. Members should be completely trustworthy in future dealings. Members should make themselves vulnerable to “test the waters.” Members should apologize right away when they behave in untrustworthy ways. If a member begins to compete, other members should first continue to respond cooperatively. If the competitive member continues their behavior, other members should mirror that behavior to show that competitiveness is self-defeating and that the group will fail unless everyone cooperates. Members should trust appropriately. There are times where it is best not to share feelings or thoughts since there are people who will respond in untrustworthy ways. Being able to tell when trust is appropriate is an important skill that should be developed.
Distrust and trust can both lead to self-fulfilling prophecies. A self-fulfilling prophecy occurs when people approach a situation with assumptions that affect their behavior thus making his or her original assumptions come true. Assumptions affect behavior, and thus affect how others respond to your behavior. People conform to the expectations of others. If you believe someone will violate your trust, they often do so. If you believe someone will behave in trustworthy ways, they will often do so. While trust exists in relationships rather than in people, Rotter developed the Interpersonal Trust scale in 1971 to differentiate between people who tend to trust and those who tend to distrust. A person that tends to trust will trust a person until there is clear evidence that the person should not be trusted.
A person that tends to distrust will not trust a person until there is clear evidence that the person should be trusted. High trusters are more trustworthy, more likely to forgive and be liked, and less likely to lie and be unhappy than low trusters.
This chapter focuses on how to achieve effective communication. Two main factors will be covered. The first is the patterns of group communication and what influences the effectiveness of group communication. Researchers have studied group communication patterns through three approaches. The approaches are: interaction analysis, one-versus two-way communication, and communication networks. Communication effectiveness is affected by several factors including: a cooperative rather than a competitive context, group norms, barriers, seating arrangements, and humor.
Group communication is a message a group member gives to one or more other members with the intention of affecting the behavior of those members. Effective communication happens when those receiving the communication interpret the message in the way that the sender of the message intended. Communication is complex because it occurs in all aspects of interaction. Additionally, communication is a simultaneous process where members send, receive, and interpret messages at the same time. This adds to the complexity. Since a group is made up of several members, it is difficult to develop a theory of group communication. For this reason communication models usually show communication between two people. Dyadic analysis is helpful for evaluating communication. However, it may be misleading since it does not show how complex group communication is. A dyad is communication in a two-way exchange. In a triad there are six lines of communication and a group of four has twelve lines of communication.
Several factors affect communication in a small group. A sender’s ideas, intentions and behavior cause them to send a message to receivers. The sender translates their ideas and intentions into a message. A message is a verbal or non-verbal symbol that one person gives to another person. The sender then sends the message to receivers through a channel. A channel is the means of sending a message such as voice sound waves or light waves that make reading possible. Sender perceives responses as feedback. The receivers interpret the meaning of the message and respond internally. Noise is anything that interferes with communication. Noise can be attitudes, backgrounds, and experiences that affect encoding or decoding of the message. Channel noise can include sounds in the environment, speech problems, or distracting mannerisms. In successful communication noise needs to be controlled and overcome.
Encoding and decoding messages
Senders can send messages more effectively by following some advice. Take control of your message by using first-person pronouns such as: I, me, and my. This shows that you take responsibility for what you are expressing. Establish sender credibility. This is how trustworthy the receiver believes you to be. If someone has sender credibility, they are seen to be reliable, motivated, warm, trustworthy, experienced, and dynamic. Give complete and specific messages. Match your body language to what you are saying. Repeat the message in different ways. Ask for feedback.
Consider who is receiving the message and tailor the message appropriately. For example, you should give a message differently to an adult than to a child. Use name, action, or figure of speech to express your feelings. For example: you are sad, you want to cry, or you feel down in the dumps. Describe the behavior of others without judgment. For example, “you are interrupting” is preferable to “you are self-centered.”
Receivers can receive messages more effectively by following some advice. Communicate that you want to understand the feelings of the sender and do not plan to judge them. Paraphrase the content of the message and restate the ideas expressed in your own words. Do not add or subtract from the message and do not evaluate or judge it. Describe your understanding of the message, “This is what I think you are saying…am I right?” Negotiate with the sender to come to a clear understanding on what they intended to communicate.
In order to effectively solve problems, group members must have the necessary information and utilize it to find a creative solution. In most problem-solving groups, there is information that is known by one member, by several members, and by all members. Each member needs to be able to communicate what they know to the other members and needs to be able to receive information that is known by other members. Noise can make this exchange difficult. How successfully groups are able to share information depends on member sending and receiving skills, group norms, and communication patterns. As previously mentioned, communication patterns can be viewed through interaction analysis, one- and two-way communication, and communication networks.
Bales’ equilibrium theory (developed in 1953) is the most famous observation system used to examine communication patterns. Bales believed that effective groups need to balance task and social-emotional activity. He also believed that effective groups need to have an observation system he called interaction process analysis (IPA) to analyze group interaction. If socio-emotional issues are not balanced, tension can result. Homans reviewed previous case studies and concluded that groups need to balance external system activity and internal system activity. External system activity refers to how groups achieve goals and adapt to the environment. Internal system activity refers to how group members relate to each other and develop. Gouran and Hirokawa analyzed group communication patterns in 1996. They felt that effective decision-making occurs when communication promotes good reasoning and critical thinking (promotive function) and when communication prevents groups from making mistakes (counteractive function). Group interaction can be anaylized based on three things: how frequently communicative acts occur, who communicates to whom, who triggers whom and how (an example would be if member A always interrupts member C regardless of the topic). This can provide information regarding how people view themselves. Someone who feels that they have more power or higher status may feel justified in interrupting someone they perceive to have less power or lower status.
Communication networks are acceptable ways of communication among group members. Studies have been done on how communication networks are physically arranged and how that can allow ideas and information to flow freely between members. In these studies members are forced to communicate in a specific type of network. Alex Bavelas suggested the most common way of imposing a certain network in 1948. He placed members in cubicles. There were slots in the cubicles where members could pass messages. When all the slots were open, every member was free to communicate with any or all of the other members. By closing certain slots, Bavelas could impose a specific form of communication network. Networks that have been studied are pictured below.
Communication networks affect how leadership develops, how members become organized, group morale, and how efficiently problems are solved. A group member that is physically in the center of the communication network tends to have more information and is more likely to become the leader. This person tends to also be able coordinate better. Group morale is usually higher in decentralized communication networks (circle, open) than in centralized communication networks (wheel, Y, chain). If the task is simple, centralized networks are more efficient when it comes to speed and lack of mistakes. When the task is complicated and require analysis of information (rather than just information collection), decentralized networks are more efficient. In centralized communication networks the members in the central position may become overloaded with information.
Most organizations and groups have an authority hierarchy. Authority hierarchies exist when group members have different roles and some of those members supervise other members. In such hierarchies a supervisor usually has some power over rewarding or punishing the person they are supervising. Authority hierarchies are intended to make a group more effective. However, they tend to lead to miscommunication, unequal effort, and unbalanced power. Since groups must work to achieve goals, members must schedule meetings, request information, and write summaries on group progress. A communication network determines the amount of information and the type of information a group member expects to receive. The network is formalized to coordinate member efforts. Groups also establish informal communication networks through friendship and other social interactions. Communication procedures in an authority hierarchy can be one-way, one-way-with-feedback, or two-way.
One-way communication occurs when a group leader gives instructions to a committee. The committee then gives the instructions to group members. The communication goes in one direction, from the leader to the members and not vice-versa. The effectiveness of the communication depends on how the messages are created and presented. In this type of communication, receivers are passive. This is the fastest type of communication and the least effective. The receivers tend to be dissatisfied. When one-way communication procedures are used, members often develop an informal communication network to clarify messages. The members who are better at decoding messages from supervisors will be asked by other members to clarify messages, thus becoming the gatekeepers. A gatekeeper translates and interprets messages. A gatekeeper can be information gatekeepers or technological gatekeepers. The former receives messages from supervisors and decodes written reports and verbal messages better than other members. The latter reads more on topics in their field and consults more outside resources than other members. The role of the gatekeeper is important because if he or she misconstrues a message, the error will increase as the message is passed from member to member.
When information goes from member to member without clarification, the more distorted the message becomes. Those communicating try to simplify a message to their frame of reference. This simplification is characterized through leveling, sharpening, and assimilation. In leveling a receiver remembers less of the message than was actually given by the sender. The message grows shorter and shorter as it moves from member to member. In sharpening a receiver remembers certain part of the message more clearly than other parts. The receiver’s memory is selective and certain points become dominant while other points are grouped together or forgotten. Leveling and sharpening occur together. In assimilation the receiver puts too much of his or her own personality into the message. In this case, a receiver may leave out key points they think are unimportant and substitute details relevant to their own frame of reference.
Two-way communication occurs when communication travels in both directions. The group leader and all members communicate freely. This form of communication encourages open and honest interaction and group decision-making. This method is more time consuming than one-way communication. While this method is more frustrating for the group leader, it is less frustrating for the other group members. Goal-directed, problem solving groups should be structured using two-way communication procedures. While two-way communication will encourage more open communication, it is still affected by the authority hierarchy. This is to say that members with higher authority will talk more and be the receiver of more messages. Members with lower authority tend to direct their comments to a member of high authority rather than address other members of low authority.
Factors of effective group communication
Many things affect how effective group communication is. The most influential is whether the group is mostly cooperative or mostly competitive. Group norms, physical setting, seating arrangements and humor also affect how effectively groups communicate. Most groups have a mixture of cooperative and competitive efforts. While cooperative groups have a long-term time orientation, competitive groups have a short-term time orientation. The more intense the competition is the less likely the communication is to be effective. Physical factors also affect communication. The environment surrounding the group can be stressful (too hot, too cold, too big, too small, too noisy). Ideally, temperatures should be between 60 and 80 degrees Fahrenheight. Sounds ranging form 0 to 50 decibels are manageable but those over 80 can be bothersome. Groups should pay attention to where they meet, time of day of meeting, and duration in order to maximize effectiveness. People often don’t realize the importance of seating arrangements. Where members sit affect how they view status, participation patterns, leadership activities, and effective reactions. If a member feels he or she has high status they may chose to sit at the head of the table. Members are more likely to communicate with someone they are facing over someone they are sitting next to. Humor is also important because it increases group cohesiveness and reduces tension. Smith and Powell’s 1988 study found that leaders who could laugh at themselves were seen as more effective at relieving tension, more likely to share opinions, and more encouraging. Humor is more effective when people of higher status initiate it. In 1989, Vinton’s study showed that humor did three things in groups. First, when people were able to make fun of themselves it showed to other members that they were willing to participate in a friendly way. Second, teasing relaxed members working in small spaces. Third, bantering lessened the status difference between group members.
Power is a basic part of life that can be taken or given, increased or lost. Power can be used for good, for evil, or for something trivial. Power exists within all human relationships, yet many people do not realize the influence they have over others. Mutual influence is needed to build effective groups and collaborations. Group members need to be skilled at influencing others and take responsibly for their influence.
Coleman & Tjosvold define power as the capacity to affect the outcomes of oneself, others, and the environment. Power can be used directly and indirectly. The direct use of power can be studied from the dynamic interdependence perspective and the trait factor perspective. Power is essential to the teamwork necessary to achieve goals. Mutual influence occurs continuously when people interact with each other. Power is distributed among all group members since every member has some influence over other members. When used, power can lead to positive (constructive) and negative (destructive) results. Power is being used constructively if it is used to enhance group effectiveness. Power is more likely to be constructively if it is used to benefit others rather than yourself. Others should agree to the use of power. The use of power is most constructive if it increases group effectiveness, benefits the entire group, and is encouraged by all members of the group. While many people think of power as being destructive, some social scientists like Mary Parker Follett and Deutsch think power is positive and necessary for mutual achievement.
Dynamic interdependence perspective
The dynamic interdependence view of power states that who is influencing whom and to what degree changes as members work towards goals. This perspective states that power exists in relationships, not in individuals. When two people interact they are being influenced by each other as well as influencing each other. Power relations are therefore always changing and complex.
When power is used in a competitive context it is used to gain advantage at the expense of others. Robert Dahl stated that a person with power can get another person to do something that he or she would not have done otherwise. Those with this type of perspective believe that there is a limit to the amount of total power and that the more power person 1 has, the less power person 2 has. They also believe that competitors use their power to gain more power. This is the iron law of oligarchy that essentially states that individuals in power tend to stay in power. The idea of powerholder is in line with this view. Powerholders see power as a commodity to be acquired and maintained. Proponents of this line of thinking see a divide between those with power and those without power. The powerful can influence those without power but not the other way around. Finally, they see the dominant person as being inherently coercive. The subservient person must be made to engage in the targeted behavior.
Most social scientists view power through the competitive view. However, there are negative consequences to this type of power strategy that is based on domination. Other people feel alienated and resistant. Those with power then need to be more controlling in order to hold on to their power. Resistance can be seen as psychological reactance. Reactance is the need for a person to reestablish their freedom when they feel it is threatened. When a person feels this way they will take action to regain their control. These actions can include sabotaging group efforts. The more a person resists influence, the more the influencer will be inclined to use stronger tactics. In this way coercive power escalates. As it reaches more extreme forms, group effectiveness decreases.
When power is used in a cooperative context it is used to maximize benefits to every member and increase group effectiveness. When group members work together they are inducible. Inducibility is being open to influence. When members want to achieve the same goal they are open to be influenced because of the shared nature of the goal. In this way, members want to enhance mutual power. In the cooperative context, power is expandable. Power should be shared. Members influence all other members. Power acts in a bidirectional way. Since members want to be influenced by each other, the influence is noncoercive. Positive interdependence between group members can be either symmetrical or asymmetrical. If the interdependence is symmetrical members are equally dependent on each other. If it is asymmetrical one member is more dependent on another than the other way around. Since groups are complex, power is always asymmetrical on a particular issue under a specific set of conditions. In cooperative situations power is based on expertise rather than personal characteristics or authority. Compared to competitive or individualistic situations, cooperative situations are less coercive and more supportive and persuasive.
Another view of positive interdependence in small groups states that the power of one group member over other members depends on the benefits of working together, the cost of working together, and the availability of other groups where the benefits are higher and the cost is lower. Essentially, if a member compares their current group to other groups and sees that he or she is on the path towards achieving his or her goal and works well with other members, positive interdependence increases and inducibilty increases. However if other available groups are more effective and less demanding, both positive interdependence and inducibility decrease. A member may end their membership and join other groups.
People mobilize power in five steps. Step one is to determine your goals. In order to do this you must be aware of the goals, see them as valuable, and be willing to ask other members to help you.
Step two is to determine your relevant resources. This will help you know what resources you are lacking, how to lend your resources to another member, and how resources of individuals in a group can be combined towards goal achievement.
The third step is to figure out your needed coalitions. You form coalitions by identifying group members who have the resources you need. You also need to identify how your resources can help other members achieve their goals. You then need to negotiate a support agreement to share resources. The fourth step is to negotiate contracts. This can be formal or informal and usually states the resources you want from other members, the resources you can contribute to other members, and how members should coordinate their efforts. The fifth and last step is to put the contract into action.
Trait Factor Approach
The Trait Factor approach to power attributes a person’s ability to exert power on another person to their genetic make-up. This approach focuses on continuity rather than change. It analyzes complicated topics in component parts. It assumes that the current behavior is a result of genetics and experience working together over a length of time. It aims to focus on explaining observed phenomena rather than validate general theory. Studies on this approach can be divided into studies on power and persuasion and studies on social dominance.
As previously mentioned, Aristotle was a proponent of this approach. He discussed the characteristics of effective influencers in Rhetoric. Carl Hovland was in charge of the Yale Attitude Change Program. The program studied the effects of a single attempt to influence a person through a form of mass media. This included politicians giving speeches and television commercials (among other examples). In each attempt, the contact between the communicator and the receiver was limited and only occurred once. The communication was one-way. Hovland’s studies on propaganda posed the question: “who says what to whom, and what is the effect?” This is best analyzed by describing three things: the communicator’s characteristics, the characteristics of the communication, and the receiver’s characteristics. This can be stated more succinctly as source, message, and receiver effects. In this context, power is exerted when a credible and attractive communicator delivers an effective message to an easily influenced audience. An effective communicator needs to be perceived as trustworthy, respecting others, and willing to share resources fairly. An effective message is two-sided, action-oriented, and in line with current member beliefs. The person with power (powerholder) is more effective if others have low self-esteem, are unaware of the attempt at influence, are distracted during message delivery, and are less intelligent. Researchers working in the Trait Factor approach assume that people are rational, learn a message, and are motivated to apply it to their life. This approach is weak when two or more members interact constantly. For this reason, the Trait Factor approach to influence is not applicable to group situations where members work together.
Social dominance theory is the trait factor approach applied to competition. Social dominance is the ability to control resources (essential to survival, growth, and development). Since resources are generally limited, individuals compete to acquire resources. Members have different degrees of ability to gain resources, thus forming a social dominance hierarchy. This is not a method used to organize the group; it results naturally from differences in individual ability to compete. It occurs anytime individuals interact with each other. To lessen conflict within a group members assert when they can succeed in competition and yield when they cannot. Another strategy is to form a coalition to work together to accomplish what members cannot do alone. Social dominance theory states that groups are made up of members with their own self-interests. These members must balance their own interests with those of others. When an individual is dominant, they are seen to be healthy, productive, and have more success in reproduction. This is likely because such individuals are more able to fulfill their needs than other members.
Social exchange theory states that power is determined by the ability to control valuable resources. A person that can control a resource that someone else wants has power over that person (unless he or she has an alternative resource). The type of resource being controlled determines the type of power base.
Reward power is the ability a person has to deliver positive results or to remove negative results. High salaries, food, gold stars, and salvation are all examples of rewards. A person’s reward power is greater when members highly value the reward, when members believe the reward will be given, and when members believe that the reward won’t come from somewhere else. However, too many rewards can cause members to feel like they are being bribed or tricked.
Coercive power is the ability a person has to enact negative results or remove positive results. Pain, isolation, or the withholding of money are examples of punishment. Punishing those who do not do as one wants increases pressure on members to behave in the desired ways. However, this makes members dislike and avoid the coercive person. This type of power is only positive if it can bring a conflict into the open.
When a person has legitimate power, members believe the person should have influence because of his or her role responsibilities or position in the group. An example of a person with legitimate power through role responsibility is a police officer. An example of a person with legitimate power through position is an employer. Members accept legitimate power through a sense of duty, loyalty, or moral obligation. They accept the norms of the group. Individuals have more legitimate power when they are seen as trustworthy, willing to share and distribute resources fairly, and treat people with respect. This power is often used to lessen conflict. The person with power can mediate conflicts. At other times, members will simply conform because they see the power as legitimate.
A person has referent power when members identify with him or her and want to be like him or her. Members obey a person with referent power because they respect, like, and want to be liked by the person in power. Charismatic leaders have this type of power. This type of power is usually used to motivate people to contradict social norms and engage in behavior that may require self-sacrifice and united action. The more members like this person, the more they identify with him or her.
A person has expert power when they have the necessary skills and abilities that others do not have. The more a person is seen as an expert the more influence the person has within the group. Members often need to work together for some time before they are able to gauge each other’s abilities. With practice, members are better able to identify abilities and coordinate more efficiently in order to achieve goals. People usually like a person who can use expert power to achieve goals. On the other hand, if members feel inadequate negative effects can occur.
A person with informational power is believed by group members to possess useful information others don’t have. This information could be in the form of facts, rational argument, or logic. The effects are similar to the effects of expert power.
Power can be drawn form any or all of the above sources. It is important to remember that people change their behavior based on the perception of another’s power. A person can have a lot of resources and no power if others do not perceive it.
Minority Power and Majority Power & Managing Power
Serge Moscovici, a French social psychologist, developed an intergroup conflict model on social influence. In this model, power decides if a group member is in the majority or the minority. A power majority is different from a numerical majority. This model assumes that people try to influence majority and minority members. Majority members try to persuade minority members to conform while minority members try to convert majority members to the minority position. Majority and minority in this model are defined in terms of power. A power majority has the most control over how resources are distributed and a power minority has little control.
Resources are rarely evenly distributed among group members. This does not mean that members with fewer resources have no power. Every member has some potential to influence other members. How groups manage power is important to how effective a group is. Groups tend to be more effective if power is mutual and based on competence, expertise, and information. Members with equal power cooperate more, are more responsive to other members, and are more committed. Studies conducted by Tjosvold show that subordinate members in an organization report higher satisfaction if they feel that they have some influence over how decisions are made. When power is unequal trust and communication lessens in groups. A group’s ability to problem-solve suffers when a person with high authority but low competence, expertise, or information is in charge.
Beyond the ability to influence others, power involves the ability to affect what happens to another person. A person with high power has a high capacity to affect another person’s outcome in a large way. A person with low power will have little affect on what happens to another person. High power group members and low power members behave differently.
High-power people are usually happy and unaware of much power is involved in their interactions. They think that low power people sincerely like them. When this view is threatened (if low power people express their dissatisfaction), high power people try to protect their status by rejecting any ideas for change that may alter the status quo. They do not listen well to people of low power and do not respond to attempts at cooperation. High power people get angrier at insult from low power people than the other way around. They feel that those of low power should know their place and not try to cause change. Consider the acronym LEAD for how high power people interact with low power people. L stands for legitimize and intimidate. E stands for self-enhancement. A stands for attribute in that high-power people think that they cause low-power people’s success. D stands for devalue.
High-power people try to create norms that make their position more legitimate and try to make any attempts at change on the part of low power individuals appear to be illegitimate. This can be called the “power defines injustice” or “might is right” strategy. High-power people also try to make the risk of change so great as to dissuade low-power members from even trying. They do this by creating severe penalties and offering benefits if low-power members do not rebel. This severe penalties strategy can also be called “this hurts me more than it will hurt you” or “if only you would behave neither of us would go through this suffering.” High-power people usually have high self-esteem since they think very highly of themselves and their abilities. Meta-analysis shows that as a person’s power increases, they evaluate themselves more positively. They develop an egocentric or self-serving bias. Stotle and Tjosvold showed through a study that when a person is randomly assigned to a central position in a communication network, they not only view themselves as powerful but also rate themselves as more capable than the individuals not in central positions. High-power people feel more secure than low-power members. They also receive more inflated positive feedback from other people. This results in an inflated sense of self worth. High power people attribute success attained by low-power members to the guidance of high-power members. Kipnis proposed the power-devaluation theory that states that as a person’s power increases, he or she will try harder to influence others. The more they influence others, the more they believe they are in control.
High-power members devalue low-power members and take responsibility for success. High-power group members also devalue the efforts of low-power members and have a tendency to see the worst in other people. Meta-analysis shows that as a person’s power increases, their negative performance ratings of others also increases.
High-power members show they do not value low-power members because they are not interested in learning about the plans of low-power members. They are less cooperative and more exploitative when responding to cooperative efforts of low-power members.
They are less likely to make concessions in negotiations. They think they deserve a larger portion of resources because they are more valuable. The more powerful someone is, the more insufficient their power seems because expectations increase faster than the power to reach them.
Power changes the person who has it. Zimbardo conducted a field study called Stanford Prison Study to research the role of prison guards and prisoners. Zimbardo chose twenty-four participants who he deemed to be normal. The participants where transported to a mock prison where some of them were prisoners and some were guards. The guards were told to keep order. The experiment ended after six days because the guards behaved in more aggressive ways than expected and enjoyed using their power to degrade prisoners. People in high power positions have a sense of privilege and feel entitled to special treatment. For example, supervisors used less effort than subordinates but took more than their fair share of the rewards given to the group. High status does not always mean high power. Johnson and Allen’s 1972 study showed that high status and high power led to enhanced self-perception and altruistic behavior, yet disdain for low power / low status members. Those with high status but low power tried to increase their rewards from the group. These members also complained about the incompetence and unfairness of high-power members. Additionally, they disliked group mates with higher power and respected those with lower power.
Low power people
The power stereotyping theory states that people in positions of power are more likely to stereotype subordinates. They pay less attention to those in lower power positions, possibly because they must interact with more people and more issues at a time. Another possibility is that they view subordinates as unimportant because the outcomes of the high power person do not depend on the low power people. High-power people often oppress those of low power. Oppression is an experience of repeated and systemic injustice. It may be in terms of the legal system, in accepted norms, or in violence. Once it is established, oppression becomes a part of the larger society. Moral exclusion is the most dangerous form of oppression. In moral exclusion low-power members are seen as not deserving of fair outcomes or treatment. Oppressors use their power to continue to oppress. They may exert control over the legal system, over recognizing new members, and use history, religion, science, or ideology to legitimize oppression. High power people have more control over an interaction than low power people. This can lead to the use of oppression, or to self-inferiority in the low-power members. As a result, the oppressor is seen in contrast as superior. Thus keeping oppression in place.
The ways low-power individuals react to high-power individuals can be discussed through the acronym CORE. The C in CORE stands for cooperation, compliance, and yielding. Low-power members tend to be more cooperative, compliant, and yielding because the larger group or organization is most likely structured in a way that gives other members clear authority. Low-power members also tend to conform and use flattery to get high-power members to like them and reward them. The O in CORE stands for attributing group success to one’s own efforts.
In this sense, low-power members devalue the efforts of high-power members. The R in CORE is for resistance, psychological reactance, and obstruction. If a low-power member does not see a high-power member’s power as legitimate, they may try to resist control. They may defy threats, issue their own threats, and refuse to obey even if there is severe punishment. Low-power members feel threatened by the high-power members. This results in an increased effort to understand and predict the behavior of high-power members. This also results in not openly criticizing high-power members, and refusing to explain one’s position to high-power members. Since they feel they cannot retaliate, low-power members direct their communication to high-power members and try to stay on good terms with high-power members. Finally, low-power members experience psychological reactance that may cause them to rebel and try to regain their control. The E in CORE stands for negative evaluation. Low-power members usually dislike high-power members, are suspicious of their intentions, and see them as competition.
Low-power members can apply several strategies. They can clarify goals and increase their positive interdependence. They can clarify and find resources so that if they have to they can work without the help of the high-power members. They can figure out what goals are important to high-power members that cannot be attained without the help of low-power members. This would serve to increase the positive interdependence between low-power and high-power members. They can negotiate a better contract with high-power members. Another strategy is for low-power members to educate and morally persuade high-power members. Charles Dicken’s book, A Christmas Carol, is an example of a high-power person (Scrooge) who is persuaded through education. Low-power members can use existing legal procedures to pressure for change or even harass a high-power member or obstruct their efforts. However, these last two strategies are likely to create negative feelings.
High power vs. low power
Terrorism is an example of an extreme attempt at influencing those with high-power. The U.S. State Department says that terrorism is a politically motivated violent act against civilians. Terrorism can also be seen as violent acts against innocent people meant to intimidate a political group or nation. Terrorism is defined differently by those with high-power than those with low-power. A high-power individual may call someone a terrorist that a low-power individual calls a revolutionary leader. There hasn’t been much research done on the effectiveness of terrorism, though it is clear that it can very negatively affect high-power individuals and reduce their quality of life. There are examples of terrorism that are motivated by a desire for social change that makes societies better. Nelson Mandela would be such an example. Terrorists seek to call attention to a cause, inflict pain on a perceived oppressor, protect values and create a sense of communal sacrifice.
Having low-power also changes a person, as in the previously mentioned Stanford prison experiment. Healthy and normal boys passively accepted brutal treatment. While much research has been done on how high-power and low-power groups relate, little has been done on how low-power groups relate to each other.
Brown and Byrne were proponents of the similarity-attraction hypothesis that says that two low-power groups may be attracted to each other because they share similar circumstances. Sherif and colleagues advocated the common-enemy position that says that two low-power groups will join to fight a common high-power enemy. Brown and Turner suggested that low-power groups might in fact deride other low-power groups to appear more different and distinct. Rothgerber and Worchel found that low-power groups react negatively to the good fortune of other low-power groups but positively to the good fortune of high-power groups. They may sabotage and try to restrain other low-power groups that are progressing. This allows high-power groups to keep their advantage.
In high-power and low-power interactions, unfairly distributed power affects whether revenge will occur. In most cases, people of low-power are not likely to seek revenge on those in high power because of potential punishment. However, if a third party interested in issues of justice is involved, revenge is more likely to go upward than downward.
While power always exists in interactions, conflict only exists when a person is unable to convince other members to do what he or she wants. Conflict can only exist if the person does not have the power to force others to do as he or she wishes. Conflict increases when attempts at influence fail. Most conflicts deal directly or indirectly with power. An example of a direct conflict regarding power is a conflict between the wealthy and the poor. An example of an indirect conflict regarding power is if one wants to leverage power to achieve goals. Additionally, power can be a symbol of one’s identity. When conflict is dealt with badly, power bases become ineffective. Ultimately, only coercive power is left and needs to be used more and more. While this power can shorten a conflict, it is usually destructive because it leads to more breakdowns in communication. If coercion includes the potential for violence it will cause increased aggression. For many reasons, coercion should be avoided in conflicts.
Group norms can also influence power in an indirect way. Norms are the prescribed conduct and behavior that serve as guidelines for how groups act. To be a member of a group, one usually needs to conform to the group norms. Indirect influence through group norms saves the group energy and resources. These norms control the behavior of both high and low power people. Each member gives up some of their own personal power in exchange for the more consistent behavior of all members. Members treat norms similar to how they treat moral obligations and will allow norms to influence them in ways that they would not allow people to influence them. In order for a group to exist, most of the group members must conform. Conformity is behavioral changes that result from group influences. These changes include compliance and private acceptance. Compliance is behavioral changes without internal acceptance. Many see conformity as negative. However, conforming to group norms often helps groups to function better and an individual’s principles do not suffer.
Soloman Asch conducted studies on conformity under group pressure in 1956. Participants were placed into groups and asked to choose the line that came closest to the length of line they were just shown. The correct answer was obvious. But when confronted with all or most of the other people choosing the incorrect answer (because they had been told to), 32 percent changed their answer at least partially. 68 percent of people remained independent. 25 percent made no concessions, 33 percent conformed on half or more of trails. The number of people agreeing to the incorrect answer did not matter as long as it was unanimous. However, if one other person besides the participant voiced a dissenting opinion, the majority opinion dropped 12 percent. Additionally, if participants were allowed to state their answer in secret, the errors were less. The study shocked people because it shows that people will go along with group judgment that they know to be wrong.
Conformity can be differentiated as conformity versus anti-conformity and independence versus dependence. Conformers and anti-conformers react to the group norm, whether they uphold it or rebel against it. Independent people do not consider the group norm when making decisions. Group norm does not cover all behaviors. As an example, groups don’t tend to care about what a member eats. Group norms focus on behaviors that affect the group or the accomplishment of goals. Groups accept nonconformist behaviors if they might improve the group but reject nonconformist behaviors if they interfere with maintenance or goal accomplishment. Studies showed that industrial workers establish production standards that most workers follow. Those who are too productive or not productive enough are both teased with nicknames. Raven and Rietsema found that the more clear the goal and the path to the goal, the more pressure there is to conform.
How Norms are Determined
Norms can be established in a variety of ways. A norm can be stated by a member and other members can be asked to conform. A norm can be modeled by a member. Norms can be taken from other groups or broader society. Norms like social responsibility, fair play, and reciprocity are such norms. The most effective way to initiate a norm is through discussion. Members accept and internalize norms when they do several things. First, they need to recognize the existence of the norm and see others doing the same. They then need to see the norms as helpful to their goal accomplishment. Group members should feel ownership of the norm. They are more likely to feel ownership if they participated in the establishment of the norm. Members also need to hold others to the same norms and see examples of other people performing the norm. Members should also try to import norms from the larger culture that can help them attain their goals. Finally, members need to see norms as flexible and adapt more fitting norms when necessary.
Sometimes group members will engage in collective behavior and perform abnormal actions. These actions are spontaneous and can take on many forms including riots, panics, or mass hysteria. Le Bon proposed one explanation for these odd behaviors. He developed the concept of the group mind. In his study The Crowd, Le Bon stated that crowds behaved irrationally and impulsively. He saw this as due to three things. The first is anonymity. People do not feel responsible for their behavior when they are not identifiable. The second mechanism is contagion. Like disease, emotional states can be contagious. The third is suggestibility. Crowd members accept suggestions as if they were hypnotized.
Convergence theory states that crowd behavior represents the convergence of people with compatible needs, motivations, and emotions. Once these people come together, they act out behaviors they had controlled before. Events attract a similar type of person. Members bring a common mood that is acted out eventually. Freud felt that people joined groups in order to satisfy desires they’d repressed. In groups, control is given to a leader. For this reason, crowd members do not feel responsible for their own behavior.
Turner and Killian developed the emergent norm theory. This theory states that crowds do not share mental unity. Instead they conform to the norms of a specific situation. Crowds have a few things in common. Crowds form in ambiguous situations and crowd behavior is not planned out. The members feel a sense of urgency and as the crowd grows, norms are communicated regarding mood, imagery, and action. The crowd members then act in ways they normally wouldn’t act.
Deindividuation theory provides a fourth explanation. Deindividuation is a state where members do not feel identifiable and are relatively anonymous. People in a group lose their personal identity. This creates a “reduction of inner restraints.” Zimbardo divided deindividuation into conditions of deindividuation, state of deindividuation, and deindividuated behavior. The conditions of deindividuation can be considered the input. This includes anonymity, less responsibility, membership in a large group, and arousal. The state of deindividuation can be considered internal changes. This includes extreme changes in emotions, memory, and self-regulation. In this state, people lose their self-awareness and have altered experiences where concentration and judgment are lessened, time slows down or speeds up, emotions are extreme, perception is distorted, and they feel intense pleasure. The deindividuated behavior can be considered output. They replace reason with impulse and replace order with chaos. People in this state demonstrate antisocial behavior because their sense uniqueness has been reduced.
Individual Variables versus Relationship Variables
In the field of group dynamics, social scientists are divided into those that focus on individual variables and those that focus on relationship variables. The former is interested in laws that govern an individual’s actions. They study individual attitude, personality, skills, genes and other causes of behavior. They view causes as static, constantly present, and as having some sort of physical (usually neuropsychological) manifestation. Social scientists who study relationships search for laws that govern how individuals interact. They study relationships to understand dynamics like power, conflict, or cooperation. They search for a pattern and try to find the cause of the pattern. They see causes as temporal and specific to certain situations. They do not see a direct representation, but study relationships through studying the effects.
Controversies are conflicts that occur when people disagree with each other and want to reach an agreement. Controversies lead to creative problem solving through the process of deliberate discourse. Aristotle used this term to refer to a discussion on the advantages and disadvantages of proposed actions. The purpose of deliberate discourse is to synthesize solutions.
The steps of how controversy leads to creative solutions are as follows. First, members should research and prepare a position. All the potential courses of action are assigned to different advocacy teams consisting of two-members each. An advocacy team is a subgroup that prepares and presents a specific alternative policy. The team is given time to research and prepare their evidence. They then organize their findings into a position. They must also have a strategy for how to present their position so that other members consider it fully and fairly. Second, members must present and advocate for their position. Third, members participate in an open discussion. The advocacy team continues to advocate their position and refute those who oppose their position. Fourth, advocacy teams switch perspectives and present the position of the opposing team. This helps to present a more holistic and diverse study of the positions being debated. The fifth and final step is for group members to come together and reach a position that all members agree on.
This type of structured controversy can be compared to a debate. Debates occur when two or more people argue incompatible views. In debates a judge decides who presented their position best. In concurrence seeking, members limit discussion to avoid controversy. This relates to the groupthink idea we discussed in the previous chapter. The motivation behind both concurrence seeking and groupthink is to preserve group harmony, cope with stress, and maintain self-esteem. Individualistic decision-making happens when individuals make decisions by themselves without discussion with other members. For the decision-making process to be effective, a mixture of cooperation and competition must happen. Conflicts are more constructive when the cooperative elements are greater than the competitive elements. However, competition is necessary. Controversy involves positive goal and resource interdependence as well as conflict. Debates involve positive interdependence and negative goal interdependence as well as conflict. Concurrence seeking has no conflict and has only positive goal interdependence while individualist decision-making has no interdependence and no conflict.
Controversy is a common and natural part of decision-making. The need for a decision suggests that controversy already exists. Once the decision is made, controversy ends. Participants then commit themselves to implementing the decision.
In organizations, conflict is often not handled properly. This leads to financial losses and time losses. Instead of suppressing or avoiding conflict, controversy should be encouraged and structured. Johnson & Johnson give several reasons for why people avoid conflict in decision-making situations. People may be afraid of conflict since controversy can result in constructive or destructive outcomes depending on how they are managed. People may not know how to engage in conflict in a structured way. Recently a more structured procedure on how to discuss controversy has developed which may allow people to participate more easily. Few people are properly trained to use controversy for creative-problem solving. This may cause people to avoid controversy all together. Additionally, culturally we are encouraged to avoid conflict. Group norms can also cause the suppression or avoidance of conflict. Norms tend to stress getting along. Thus challenging member viewpoints may seem counter to group norms. Members may also shy away from challenging the status quo. For group members to use controversy in a constructive way in decision-making, they need to overcome these obstacles. When experts of very different viewpoints and fields of knowledge come together to make a decision or advise a decision, disagreement will often occur. This also occurs when people strongly advocate their own point of view. They may become biased when analyzing evidence. For this reason, a structured procedure to exchange information is necessary.
Controversy helps groups make more optimal decisions. Over twenty-five studies have been done that show that controversy promotes productivity, higher quality decisions, creativity, greater involvement in tasks, psychological health, and more positive relationships. When controversy does not take place, poor decisions can result. One example is the NASA Challenger space shuttle disaster. Many engineers knew that there was the potential for a seal to fail and tried to warn officials to delay the launch. However, controversy was suppressed. Johnson and Johnson conducted meta-analysis that showed that controversy produces greater productivity and achievement than concurrence seeking, debate, or individualist efforts. Additionally, controversy helps members to apply their learning in new situations and use high level reasoning more often.
One question to consider is if controversy can lead to better solutions if two opposing alternatives are both incorrect. Ames and Murray and other researchers conducted studies that do show that decision-making, level of reasoning, and learning can be improved even if one or both sides in a controversy have incorrect information. Controversy encourages participation that allows members to generate more ideas, better ideas, more original ideas, and more diverse ideas. Controversy and creativity are strongly connected.
Task involvement is how much and to what extent individuals invest physical and psychological energy into their efforts. Individuals who participate in controversy tend to have a more positive attitude toward the experience than those who engage in concurrence-seeking, individualistic efforts, or debate. Controversy leads to greater task involvement. While it may seem logical that the disagreement that may result from controversy would lead to dislike and negative interpersonal relationships among members, the opposite is true. Controversy promotes liking and support and leads to more meaningful relationships. Additionally constructive controversy promotes psychological health. Participants develop greater task-oriented self-esteem and perspective-taking accuracy.
The controversy process
In the first step, individual members draw an initial conclusion to the problem they are given. They reflect on present information and categorize, organize, and derive conclusions from their experiences.
In the second step, individual members present and advocate their conclusion to others. Before doing so, they mentally prepare (thereby deepening their understanding of their position).
In the third step, individual members are challenged by opposing viewpoints. In this process, weaknesses and strengths in arguments become more obvious. Members are motivated to understand and appreciate opposing views.
In the fourth step, individual members doubt their own views. They experience conceptual conflict, uncertainty, and disequilibrium.
In the fifth step, due to their new sense of uncertainty, individual members actively search for more information, new experiences and more perspective to resolve the uncertainty. This search is called epistemic curiosity.
In the sixth step, individual members adapt their reasoning after understanding and accommodating the perspectives of others. They develop a new reconceptualized conclusion and transition to the higher stages of cognitive reasoning. Note that the purpose is not to choose one of the advocated positions but to create a synthesis of the best reasoning from all the alternatives. Synthesizing happens when individuals combine different ideas and facts to form a new single position. This leads to better and more unique solutions. The aim of synthesis is to do two things: lead to the best possible decision and lead to a position that all members can be committed to. Synthesis relies on probabilistic rather than dualistic perspectives. The probabilistic perspective states that knowledge exists in degrees of certainty. The dualistic perspective states that there is a clear right and wrong and authority should not be questioned. Relativistic thinking states that authority may be seen as sometimes right, however right and wrong depends on individual perspectives.
Outcomes of controversy
Without controversy, it is very likely that a group will not reach an optimal decision. While controversy might be viewed as something negative, there are actually several positive outcomes that arise from it:
Quality of Decision-Making and Problem-Solving: Research has shown that participants who participated in constructive controversy were better able to remember and integrate the thoughts and opinions of others, were more skillful at transferring these efforts to new situations, and were able to generalise learned principles to a wider range of situations. Decisions made by groups who engaged in controversy, particularly constructive controversy were also rated to be of higher quality
Creativity: Disagreement between individuals often leads to new creative insight. Controversy has been found to increase the number of ideas, quality of ideas, feelings of stimulation and enjoyment, and originality in creative problem-solving. This is stimulated by controversy because bouncing ideas off of someone who doesn't agree with everything you say provokes thought.
Higher-level Reasoning: When people engage in a dispute, they often turn to higher-level reasoning and metacognitive thought more than if there is no dispute.
Task Involvement: When individuals participate in controversy, it has been shown that they tend to invest more physical and psychological effort into the task, indicating a higher level of involvement.
Motivation to Improve Understanding: Controversy also encourages group participants to seek more information in order to resolve the conflict within the group. Participants want to understand opposing views and integrate the information into what they already know, in order to form an updated, more complete opinion.
Social benefits: While it is intuitive to think that controversy deepens a divide between opposing individuals, studies have shown that constructive controversy actually increases the mutual likability between group members. In addition, it was found to promote social support, both within the task and on a personal level.
Constructive vs. destructive controversy
The context that conflict occurs within affects the outcome of the controversy (positive or negative). Two possible contexts exist: cooperative and competitive. A cooperative context encourages frequent, accurate, and full communication. A cooperative context is supportive and allows members to feel safe so that they may challenge each other’s ideas. Members working in a cooperative context feel that controversy is valid and valuable. Members have a more accurate perspective which allows them to better understand what others are feeling and why. A cooperative context defines conflicts as problems to be solved together rather than a situation with winners and losers. Finally, a cooperative context helps members identify similarities in different positions.
Tjosvold and his colleagues found that cooperation and controversy induced comfort, pleasure, and helpfulness in groups. They found the contrary to be true for competition and controversy. Controversy in a competitive context causes members to be more close-minded and reject opposing views. Members in a competitive context refuse to incorporate opposing viewpoints and defend their own positions even if they were unsure if they were correct.
To engage in controversy in a constructive way, individuals must have the social skills to be able to disagree with someone’s ideas while still confirming their competence. When members can do this, the person they disagree with respond more positively and cooperatively. Perspective taking is necessary so that information can be presented in ways that can be understood by others. A person needs to consider a situation from the perspective of others. This leads to more creative solutions and more positive perceptions of several aspects: the information-exchange process, other group members, and the work the group does.
Members need to differentiate positions. This means they must see the differences between the positions. Members should then integrate the best information from all positions into a new position. Differentiation happens first. Integration happens after differences have been clarified. Many controversies go through this cycle several times before reaching a conclusion.
Note that controversy should abide by the rules of rational argumentation. This includes generating ideas, gathering evidence, using logic, and drawing tentative conclusions. Group members should keep an open mind and be flexible in their conclusions. This is necessary for groups to manage controversies constructively.
It can be challenging for members who hold the minority opinion to persuade members who hold the majority opinion to change their position. As we’ve discussed in previous chapters, this is difficult because minority members have little social or normative power over majority members. Members holding the minority opinion can be most persuasive when they follow a few guidelines. They should remain consistent in their position. They may be more persuasive if they use to hold the majority position and then converted to a minority position. They have more credibility after conversion. They should be willing to compromise a little when appropriate. This also helps them appear more credible. Members holding the minority opinion need some support from other members. Two members holding a minority opinion are more credible than one member. Members with a minority opinion should present their views as being compatible with the majority opinion. This allows those in the majority to change their positions more easily. When minority opinion members are persuasive, their influence may not be noticeable right away. Their arguments may not affect change right away but may lead people to reconsider their views later. Controversies allow the minority opinion to be heard. Additionally, the procedure focuses on information and evidence rather then group norms. This may allow unpopular views to be more influential.
Groups should engage in constructive controversy. The following steps will help lead to positive outcomes. First, members should suggest several possible courses of action that will address the problem at hand. Second, groups should form advocacy teams so that each action receives fair and complete consideration. Then members should engage in the controversy procedure by doing two things. First each advocacy team should research their position and prepare a presentation to convince other members of their position. Second, each team should present their case uninterrupted. Other group members should listen carefully, take notes and try to understand the presenting team’s position. All members should then participate in an open discussion and challenge all positions. Advocacy teams then switch perspectives and present the best case for opposite positions. Then, members should hold another discussion to arrive at a consensus and synthesize all positions. Finally, the group should implement the decision. American democracy functions in a similar way. Citizens are given a chance to advocate for their ideas. Once a vote is taken, the majority rules. Those in the minority go along with the majority because they know their position has been fairly heard and considered. They also know that they will have another chance the next election cycle. To function as a citizen in democratic society, members need to know how to advocate their views, challenge other views, make a decision, and implement the decision.
Creativity is the process where something new is brought to existence. The creative process happens in overlapping phases. The first phase is for members to recognize a problem exists and commit to solve it. For creativity to occur, members must be motivated enough to sustain the effort needed to problem solve. However, this motivation cannot be too overwhelming. Then members must gather information and strategize a long-term solution. Third, the context must be structured to be cooperative. Members should not feel threatened and feel encouraged to share views openly. Then members search for different perspectives to arrive at a creative solution. Arriving at such a solution depends on the availability of a wide-range of information as well as on member cooperation and constructive controversy. Divergent ideas and controversy leads to new solutions, a wider range of solutions, and moments of inspiration. Creativity may include emotional or exciting moments that lead to a new solution. Fifth, members should experience a time where they are frustrated because they haven’t produced a solution. They should take a break and revisit it later since they need time to reflect. Sixth, members should come together again to arrive at a new solution, figure out how to implement it, and test the solution in the real world.
To maximize the potential for creativity, members can do several things. They can reaffirm the cooperative goal. Promote controversy. Give proper time for reflection. Members should meet to make a final decision without rushing. David and Houtman, the authors of Think Creatively: A Guide to Training Imagination, suggest four methods to generate ideas. The first method is the part-changing method. In this method group members identify the parts or attributes of something that may be changed.
The second method is the checkerboard method. In this method, group members make a checkerboard figure and list different sets of properties on the vertical axis and on the horizontal axis. Members can then discuss how the combinations of each pair of properties interact. The third method is the checklist method. In this method, group members make of list. Examples of what can be on the list include: change color, change size, change material, add or subtract something, or rearrange. A fourth method is the find-something-similar method. In this method group members try to think of examples of people, animals, or social units that do what the group hopes to do.
William J. Gordon developed another technique to maximize group creative thinking. This technique is called synectics. Synectics focuses on metaphors and creating psychological states conducive to creative thinking. Gordon notes three techniques. The first is called personal analogy. In this technique individuals imagine how it feels to be a part of what is being studied. The second is called direct analogy. Here, group members imagine a parallel situation. For example, members may be asked to consider how a book is like a light bulb. The third technique is called compressed conflict. Members are asked to consider an object or idea from two frames of reference (for example, cooperative competition).
For cooperation, constructive controversy, and creative thinking to be effective, members must be open-minded. This means they must be willing to listen to, understand, and learn from information and perspectives that differ from their own. Open-minded groups seek differing beliefs, discover new beliefs, remember and consider differing beliefs, and organize new beliefs to find a solution. On the other hand, closed-minded groups focus on differences between what they do and do not believe, deny information that differs from what they believe, do not question their own contradictory beliefs, ignore the similarities between what they do believe and do not believe, avoid differences in beliefs and distort information that contradicts their beliefs. Dogmatism is a closed set of beliefs about reality based on a closed set of beliefs about absolute authority. This creates a framework for intolerance. Open-mindedness is necessary for creative thinking. Open-minded individuals must be willing to give up their current beliefs and adopt new beliefs. This process is called the analytic phase of problem solving. Once members accept the new beliefs, they must organize these beliefs and use them to solve the problem at hand. This is the synthesizing phase of problem solving. Close-minded groups are less likely to effectively analyze and synthesize information. In comparison to open-minded people, close-minded people are less able to learn new beliefs, change old beliefs, and organize and integrate new beliefs. They are also less accepting of information that contradicts their current beliefs and more resistant to changing their beliefs. They reject information that threatens their beliefs more frequently. They remember less information that contradicts their beliefs. They are biased and evaluate information that confirms their beliefs more positively. Additionally, close-minded individuals have trouble separating information from the source of the information. For example, they take information from authority figures as being true. Finally, they resist compromise and solve fewer conflicts.
Brainstorming is helpful to creative problem solving. Brainstorming is the procedure where members produce as many ideas as possible while withholding criticism of the ideas of others. In brainstorming, members think more divergently, come up with many different ideas in a short amount of time, and fully participate. There are a few rules during brainstorming. Ideas are stated and should not be evaluated or criticized. Impractical ideas are expected and welcomed. As many ideas as possible should be generated without consideration for the quality of the ideas. Members should build on the ideas of other members. The environment should be relaxed, friendly, and cooperative. All members should express their ideas. All ideas should be recorded. After brainstorming, ideas should be organized and critically evaluated. Members should chose and apply the best ideas. Brainstorming is seen as a way to allow all ideas to be heard without fear of criticism or fear of being silenced by more dominant members. However, studies show that brainstorming is less effective than if individuals came up with ideas alone. A possible explanation for this is production blocking. This is similar to the group norm where only one person can express their idea at a given moment. Brainstorming is still widely used because people enjoy working in groups and are more motivated in groups and group dynamics can lead to better analysis and implementation of the solution later on. Priming, which we’ve discussed in chapter 3 can encourage more divergent and less convergent ideas. The goal of priming is to help people move from thinking from their experience (accessible category) to thinking from concepts outside their experience (inaccessible category). Priming is effective only if members pay attention. Attention is the likelihood that an individual member will use another’s ideas as the basis for coming up with a new idea.
Being able to constructively manage conflicts is important to group effectiveness. According to Tjosvold, groups can be conflict negative or conflict positive. Conflict-negative groups manage conflicts destructively through suppression or avoidance. Conflict-positive groups manage conflicts constructively because conflict is encouraged and supported. This chapter will focus on topics that need to be grasped to create conflict-positive groups.
Conflicts of interest
The nature of conflicts of interests should be understood. Every person has their own set of interests that include wants, needs, and goals. A want is a desire for something. This differs with each individual. A need is what is necessary for survival. Needs tend to be more universal. People need to survive and reproduce, to belong, and have power, freedom, and fun. People set goals based on their wants and needs. When people have mutual goals, they cooperate. When they have opposing goals, they compete. Interests are what may be gained if goals are achieved. A conflict of interest is when one person’s actions intended to maximize benefits interferes with the actions of another person intending to maximize his or her own benefits. Conflicts of interest can happen for several reasons. They may occur due to differences in wants, needs, or goals. They may occur due to a limited amount of resources such as money, space, or power. They may also result from rivalry. Conflicts of interest are common since they happen naturally and can be purposely created.
As we’ve already mentioned, conflicts can be constructive or destructive. They should not be avoided because positive outcomes are possible. For example, members can form an agreement where all members can achieve their goals. The relationships between members may be strengthened, leading to more liking, respect, and trust. Members can learn skills to help them constructively solve conflicts in the future. Destructive conflicts can lead to aggression. Aggression is verbal or physical behavior that is meant to hurt another person. This is different from assertiveness which is behavior meant to show confidence or dominance. Aggression can be direct or indirect. Indirect aggression has no obvious face-to-face contact. For example, a person can act aggressively by spreading malicious gossip. Direct aggression is behavior intended to injure a person with face-to-face contact. Aggression can also be emotional or instrumental. Emotional aggression comes form out-of-control anger, while instrumental aggression comes from intent to hurt to achieve a goal. People may also have displaced aggression which is behavior directed at a person that is not the source of provocation. Aggression is related to many factors. These factors range from temperature, provocation, a person being primed for aggression, and a utilitarian need to achieve a goal. Frustration-aggression leads to hostility and physical violence. The frustration-aggression process happens when a person unable to attain his or her goals experiences frustration which leads to aggression. In certain situations this aggression can build to hostility and violence.
Strategies for managing conflict
People deal with conflict in different ways. Since we learn these methods when we are children, it seems natural. However, this is a learned behavior so people have the power to develop new strategies for managing conflict. There are two main points to consider when engaged in conflict. First, we want to achieve our goal and reach an acceptable agreement. Second, we want to maintain an appropriate relationship wit the person we are in conflict with. Many theorists have elaborated on these two concerns. Some call it concern for self and concern for other. In light of these two concerns, there are five main strategies (named after animals) intended to manage conflict.
The first is the owl strategy. In this strategy, you initiate problem-solving negotiations. This is risky because you may need to reveal your motivations and interests while expecting the other person to reveal his or her motivations and interests. This is necessary when both the goal and the relationship are very important to you. The second strategy is the teddy bear strategy. In this strategy you smooth and assist the other person to help them achieve their goals. This is necessary when the person is very important to you but the goal has little importance for you. The third strategy is the shark strategy. In this strategy, threats and aggression are used to intimidate or force others to give in. This strategy is used when the goal is highly important but the relationship is of little importance. This is a situation with a winner and a loser. The fourth strategy is the fox strategy. This strategy centers on compromise. When both the person and the goal are moderately important and you realize that both of you cannot get what you want, you compromise. This may mean giving up part of the goal and part of the relationship. Examples of compromise include each person meeting half way, or flipping a coin. The fifth strategy is the turtle strategy. This strategy is a form of withdrawal to avoid conflict. In this situation, you do not value the goal or the person. You may do this to avoid a hostile stranger or to allow you and the other person to calm down.
All five strategies should be practiced since each one is appropriate under a different set of circumstances. Note that some strategies you can do alone (teddy bear and turtle) while others force another person to participate. These strategies are not compatible. Once you choose one, it is difficult to switch back and forth. However, some strategies may turn into others. For example, you may try to withdraw but be pursued and you may try to use force (shark strategy). When there is time pressure, a negotiating strategy may turn into compromise.
Durability and frequency of future interactions is a key factor to choosing a problem-solving strategy. Durability means that individuals will remember how they have treated others and have been treated by others. Frequent interactions led to more stability because there are clear consequences for the current action. When relationships or interactions will be for the long-term, the quality of the relationship outweighs what may be gained by the immediate interaction.
To effectively control conflicts, it is important to be aware of what led to the conflict. These circumstances include barriers to negotiations and triggering events. Barriers can be internal or external. Examples of internal barriers include negative attitudes, fear, anxiety, and habits. Examples of external barriers include task requirements, group norms, pressure to appear united and desire to appear likable. External barriers can be physical. Members may avoid being in the same room with other members. A triggering event varies in complexity. It could be two members being in close proximity or competition. Examples of what triggers conflict include sarcasm, criticism, or feeling neglected. When group members are aware of the barriers and triggers of conflict they can choose an appropriate time and location to address the conflict. If such an appropriate time and location is not available, members can avoid the conflict by increasing barriers and decreasing triggers. If the time and place to address the conflict is readily available, the conflict can be recognized through decreasing barriers and increasing triggers. The entry state of members in the dispute also affects if a conflict occurs or not. A person’s entry state is their ability to deal with the conflict in a constructive manner. This ability includes a person’s level of self-awareness, self-control, communication skills, and other interpersonal skills. Sometimes a person may be too defensive, or unmotivated to address a conflict. Other times, there may not be a solution to the conflict. Not all problems can be resolved; there are times where it is best to avoid conflict.
How negotiations work
Negotiation is the process where two people with both shared and different interests try to agree on what each person will give and receive. Negotiations can have distributive and integrative issues. Distributive issues are when one member benefits only if the other member gives up something. Integrative issues are when two people work together to find a solution that will be mutually beneficial. Negotiation occurs in many aspects of everyday life. Negotiation involves three types of interdependence. The first type of interdependence is participation interdependence because for a negotiation to occur at least two individuals (or groups) must be involved. The second type of interdependence is outcome interdependence because an agreement can only be reached if both parties accept the decision. The third type of interdependence is information interdependence because the negotiators rely on each other for information. This information can be attained in two ways. First, negotiators can openly express their intentions. Second, negotiators can induce each disputant’s intentions through behavior. The second method of attaining information can be tricky because negotiators may not know exactly what they hope to gain from the negotiation unless they have some understanding of what the other negotiator is expecting in return.
There are two dilemmas in information interdependence. The dilemma of trust is a choice between believing and not believing the other negotiator while the dilemma of honesty and openness is the concern of disclosing too much or too little information. If you do not believe the other negotiator, it will be difficult to arrive at an agreement. However, if you believe too much of what the other negotiator says, you risk being exploited. If you disclose too little information, you may appear distrusting. However, if you disclose too much information, you also risk being exploited.
Negotiations involve cooperation and competition because negotiators want to reach an agreement while wanting to maximize the most favorable results to themselves. The effectiveness of the negotiation depends on a balance of both cooperative and competitive elements. Both primary and secondary gains need to be addressed in the negotiation. The primary gain is the main benefit each negotiator gets from arriving at an agreement. The secondary gain is the how the agreement affects the future well-being of the negotiators and the groups involved (as well as relevant third parties). Contractual norms develop during negotiations. One common norm is the norm of reciprocity. This means that a negotiator should return the same level of gains or the same level of losses given by the other negotiator. A second common norm is the norm of equity. This means that negotiators should feel that the gains and losses of negotiating are equal. Time is structured in negotiations. There is a beginning, middle, and end where negotiations are initiated, information is exchanged, and an agreement is reached. Negotiations involve a goal dilemma. This is the question of how to reach an agreement that is favorable to oneself but is favorable enough to the other party so they will accept the agreement.
Distributive negotiations and integrative negotiations
There are two main types of negotiations: distributive and integrative. Distributive negotiations are the same as win-lose negotiations. The goal of distributive negotiations is to maximize your outcomes and minimize the other person's outcomes. Negotiating with a car salesman is an example of a distributive negotiation since you will not need to cooperate with the car salesman in the future. Distributive negotiations follow a sequence of behavior where one individual presents a proposal; the other individual considers the proposal and presents a counteroffer. The first person responds to the counteroffer by either accepting it or presenting another counteroffer and so on and so forth until both parties reach an agreement. A common strategy is for initial proposals to reflect high goals with negotiators expecting to have to compromise to reach an agreement. In this sort of negotiation, an individual's aim is to find out as much as possible about what the other party is willing to accept while disclosing as little information as possible regarding one's own preferences.
There are several helpful hints to effectively negotiate in a distributive negotiation. The first tip is to be aware of the triggering events and barriers to negotiations. You can then trigger the conflict when it is to your advantage.
Another tip is to make an opening offer that is extreme. For example if you are negotiating over the price of an item, offer much lower than you are actually willing to pay. This serves to establish a price range that is in your favor and mislead the other party about what you are willing to pay. This also influences the other party's beliefs about their own minimum terms as well as helps you appear "tough". After your initial proposal, compromise slowly. This adds to an image of toughness that causes the other party to reconsider their expectations. You should try to convince the other party that their expectations are unreasonable. Negotiators may also resort to threats, making promises, or preemptive actions (for example building on disputed land). A negotiator can try to point out why his or her stance is correct and the opponent's stance is incorrect. This is called persuasive argument.
Finally, a negotiator needs to be prepared to walk away with no agreement. During the negotiation process, a negotiator needs to decide if he or she wants to accept the terms, try to improve the terms, or stop negotiating even without an agreement. If you cannot walk away without some sort of agreement, you must be prepared to accept the opponent's final offer. This type of strategy tends to yield more favorable primary gains. However, the secondary gains are reduced because a win-lose strategy can damage future cooperative efforts. Win-lose strategies rely on power inequalities that often lead to distrust. Even if an agreement is reached, those in the losing position may be unmotivated to carry out the agreement. This leads to hostility that damages interpersonal relationships. Distributive negotiations are carried out because a person assumes that they will never interact with the other party again. Often this is not the case.
In most situations, you need to resolve the conflict in a way that maximizes joint outcomes. This is the goal of integrative negotiations. In this type of negotiation it is more important to maintain a positive interpersonal relationship than to maximize the outcomes to your immediate interests. On-going relationships often use a one-step negotiation procedure. Each negotiator assesses the strength of his or her interests as well as the strength of the other negotiator's interests. The negotiation favors the person with the greatest need. This procedure only works if both parties get their way half the time. For a relationship to be ongoing there needs to be a norm of mutual responsiveness. This means that you will help someone else reach his or her goals, and that person helps you reach your goals. The one-step procedure is not appropriate if you must achieve your goal. In that case, you can follow the steps of integrative negotiation.
Six-Steps of Integrative Negotiation
It is important in these first three steps to use descriptive language and not evaluate the other person's actions. During negotiation, it is important to not overstate your position. This can lead to psychological reactance in the other person. When a person feels that they are being coerced or that you are biased, they try to assert their freedom. In the case of negotiations, this may cause them to adhere to their original position even more strongly. It is important to ask questions to try to understand your opponent’s position. Do not use a sarcastic tone of voice. When negotiating, two factors are in play: how important your goals are to you and how important your opponent's goals are to him or her. In the first step, each person explains what he or she wants. It is important to be assertive and state your wants, needs, and goals in a direct way. Do not be aggressive (forcing or dominating) and non-assertive. Use pronouns like I, me, my, or mine so that your statements are personal. Be specific in your statements. Try to focus on how you can cooperate for the long-term and make relationships statements. These are statements that describe how you interact with each other. Negotiators should state that they intend to cooperate. It is helpful to state a commitment to continuing joint cooperative efforts into the future. This leads to higher quality negotiations being agreed to in a shorter amount of time because the other person will be less defensive, more willing to compromise, and more focused on understanding rather than who is right and who is wrong.
On the contrary, issuing threats or punishment escalates conflict. Deutsch and Krauss demonstrated this in a trucking game experiment. In one condition there was no gate between the start point and the destination point. In this condition participants worked together to each earn $1. In a second condition, one person controlled the gate. In this condition, participants lost $2.03 per person on average. In a third condition, both participants had a gate. In this condition there were losses of $4.38 per person.
Second, each person explains how he or she feels. To share your feelings, you must be aware of how you feel, accept how you feel, and be able to express your feelings. This is important for several reasons. If people hide their feelings, anger, or frustration, they may still feel hostility toward the other person even after reaching an agreement. The conflict may happen again as a result of pent up hostility. Another reason that it is important to share your feelings is that such an action builds and helps to maintain close relationships. Additionally, feelings that go unshared can lead to insecurity and make it more difficult to control your behavior and manage conflicts well. Finally, the only way someone else can know how you feel is if you state how you feel. You can learn to express your feelings more skillfully through practice.
Third, each person explains the reason for his or her wants and his or her feelings. While presenting their reasons and listening to the other person's reasons, a person should focus on wants and interests instead of positions. An example is if two people both take the position of "I want the lemon." One person could want the lemon for the peel, while the other person wants the lemon for the juice. While their positions are opposed, their interests are not. Successful negotiations depend on figuring out what the other person wants and finding a way that both parties can get an acceptable part of what they want.
The two parties should clarify the differences in interests and try to empower each other. When clarifying differences try to answer a few questions. First what are the differences between what you want and what the other person wants. Second, what are the similarities between what you want and what the other person wants. Third, what behaviors of the other person do you find unacceptable. Fourth, what behaviors do you engage in that the other person finds unacceptable. It is important to empower each other because sharing power leads to effective negotiations. Try to be open and flexible in negotiating. Try to provide many options and the opportunity to choose. Both negotiators need to be motivated to find an acceptable compromise. When trying to figure out motivations, it is important to ask what do you and the other person gain if you continue in the conflict and what do you both lose when continuing in conflict. Motivations change when costs or losses are increased. In negotiations, people are faced with the problem of if they should trust what opponents say their motives are. People are also faced with the problem of if they should be honest about their own motives.
Deutsch studied this in the form of the Prisoner's Dilemma game. The name of the game comes from a hypothetical situation that mathematicians Luce & Raiffa studied. In this hypothetical situation two bank robbers are arrested. The police are sure of their guilt but have no evidence. They place both bank robbers in different rooms and tell them that if they both deny their guilt they will be tried on a minor charge. If they are convicted of the minor charge, they will each be sentenced to prison for one year. If both people confess, each will spend five years in prison. If prisoner A confesses and prisoner B does not, then prisoner A will be freed while Prisoner B goes to prison for ten years. The reverse is true if Prisoner B confesses. The dilemma is if each individual prisoner can trust the other. In Deutsch's experiment, prison time was translated to cash payments. The study showed that when group members acted with their own interests in mind, the group suffered. There are three potential concerns when sharing underlying interests. First, if a person does not understand their own reasons or interests, it is difficult for them to communicate their motives to others. Second, a person may be reluctant to be open and honest out of fear that this information will be misused. Third, people have many levels of interests. What is discussed may be what is in the highest hierarchy. Other interests may only be addressed through prolonged discussion.
In the fourth step to integrative negotiation each person summarizes what the other person described. It is important to listen carefully and try to understand what each person is saying. Paraphrasing is the restating of what someone else said in your own words. This is helpful for giving feedback without judging the other person. You can follow the paraphrasing rule that says that before you can respond to a statement, you must first restate it in your own words. A pattern of "you said.... I say...." develops. Sometimes you may need to describe behavior that another person engaged in that was hurtful to you. Conflicts escalate when individuals behave destructively. While constructive acts may not be obviously helpful to relationships, destructive acts are very detrimental. There are two main forms of destructive acts in conflicts:
The first is hurting another person directly.
The second is making inferences that another person's behavior is a result of their disposition.
It is important to keep in mind the fundamental attribution error. This occurs because people tend to attribute an opponent's behavior to psychological states while attributing their own behavior to environmental factors. Attribution theory states that people continually hypothesize causes so they can predict future events. When attributions are correct, they can help group members understand each other. When they are incorrect they can make conflicts more difficult to resolve and group members less inclined to negotiate. To reach a wise agreement, you need to be able to see the conflict from the perspective of the other person. You also need to be able to consider their perspective and your own perspective simultaneously. In order to understand someone else's perspective it is important to remember that each person has a unique perspective because everyone has had different experiences. People also tend to see what they want to see. They will see the merits of their argument and the faults of the other person's argument while ignoring their own faults and the other person's merits. Additionally, perspectives change as people's roles, assumptions, experiences, and values change.
A person's perspective also affects how they will interpret a message or situation. It is important to remember that the same message can mean different things to different people. For effective communication to occur, perspective taking is necessary. If you are more aware of how someone else is likely to interpret a message, you can fine-tune the message to be more easily understood by that person. You will be more liked and respected if others can see that you are able to see things from their perspective. This awareness is a necessary component to functioning in a moral community. When one fails to see someone else's perspective, it is more likely that conflict will be destructive. When a person only considers his or her own perspective, the focus is more on immediate self-interest. However, if a person considers another's perspective, the focus shifts to the long-term joint outcome and the relationship. This also leads to more positive emotion and cognition. To ensure that you are accurate in your assumptions about someone else's perspective, it is necessary to ask for clarification. This is also known as perception checking. You need to paraphrase the other's wants and goals. Then you should present the other position from the perspective of the other person. This is called role-playing. Studies show that this type of perspective reversal helps to increase cooperation and clear up misunderstanding.
In step five, negotiators work together to come up with three good potential agreements that maximizes joint outcomes. People often agree on the first acceptable solution without considering other and potentially more advantageous solutions. To come up with possible solutions a few obstacles should be avoided. Do not judge prematurely. Do not look for only one solution. Do not think of the situation as a percentage of a whole (the more I have, the less there is for you). This is not conducive to flexible problem solving. Do not forget to think into the future by focusing too much on your immediate interests. Do not be afraid of the unknown and adhere to the status quo. Try to come up with creative solutions by thinking of as many solutions as possible and gathering as much information as possible about the problem at hand. Keep the tasks of coming up with solutions and judging them separate. Think of solutions first and evaluate them later. Reformulate problems and see them from new perspectives. Try to find what will benefit both parties. Try to come up with ways to make decisions easily. Finally, evaluate the ideas and consider the strengths and weakness as well as the losses and gains to each person.
There are many types of agreements that can help to increase mutual benefits. The first type is to try to increase the available resources. Conflicts often come from a perceived shortage in resources. Another type of agreement is called a package deal where several related issues are encompassed into one agreement. A third type is called a tradeoff where different things of about the same value are exchanged. A fourth type of agreement is called a tie-in where an agreement is reached on the condition of an extraneous issue being settled in a satisfactory way. A fifth type of agreement is the opposite of a tie-in. It is called a carve-out. This is where an issue is carved out of a larger discussion but related issues are still unsettled. Another type of agreement is called logrolling where each side concedes what is low on their priority list but high priority for the other party.
Another type of agreement is called cost-cutting. Here, one person gets what they want while the losses to the other party are reduced. The eighth type of agreement is called bridging the initial positions. Here, both parties create a new option that is satisfactory to both of them.
Finally, both negotiators choose the best option to arrive at a wise agreement. A wise agreement is fair to all participants, is based on principles, increases cooperation, and helps participants resolve conflicts in the future. All participants should view the agreement as fair without feeling like there is a winner and a loser. The agreement should also clearly state the rights and responsibilities of all people involved in the implementation. It should state how people will behave differently in the future, how the agreement will be reviewed (and negotiated if necessary). When choosing the best option, it is important to remember the importance of a long-term cooperative relationship. Both parties should be committed to their relationship. This leads people to inhibit destructive patterns of thinking and acting. Examples of principles that a wise agreement should be based on include everyone having a fair chance to benefit, scientific merit, or community values.
There are a few other key tips to keep in mind. If both parties fail to come to an agreement they should start over and try again. You must be persistent and continue the discussion. You should aim to build a reputation as a person who keeps their promises. You should be honest and trustworthy in following through with your end of the agreement. If you failed to do so in the past, make amends by fulfilling past promises. You can offer collateral. It should be something that is significant but also believable. You can also have a cosigner to guarantee that you will keep your promise. This should be a person that trusts you and that the other party also trusts. Remember that some issues cannot be negotiated. It is important to be aware of these issues. They may involve illegal behavior or behavior that could hurt someone. Do not waste time and energy negotiating on topics that you know are non-negotiable.
Conflicts between groups
In addition to being able to effectively manage conflicts between individual group members, it is just as important to effectively manage conflicts between groups. These are intergroup conflicts. Intergroup conflicts are based on the differences between "them" and "us." Muzafer Sherif and Robert Black conducted the most notable studies on intergroup conflicts. While Sherif was teaching at the University of Oklahoma, he conducted his studies on intergroup conflict and superordinate goals for which he is now famous. In the early 1950's, Sherif (with his colleagues) ran a summer camp for twelve-year old boys. These boys were well adjusted, of above-average intelligence, performed average to above average in school and came from similar backgrounds (white, Protestant, middle-class, two parents families). The camp was isolated and boys were divided into two teams. The two groups took part in typical camp activities and developed leaders and norms. The researchers than set up a competitive scenario with a four-day tournament. The winning team would be given a desirable prize of camping knives. Hostility and rivalry developed between the two teams. Sherif then tested several methods to reduce the conflict.
In the first method, members from rival teams where placed in pleasant situations together such as eating together, watching a movie, or shooting off firecrackers. This did nothing to lessen the conflict. Rival team members used the time as an opportunity to engage in further conflict like name-calling. Sherif's second method was to join the rival groups together to compete in a softball match against a third group of boys from a nearby town. This did reduce some hostility but the conflict was transferred to the third group. Sherif felt that bringing some groups together to compete with a common enemy may lead to bigger conflicts in the long term. Sherif's third strategy was to create situations where group members from both teams would have to work together cooperatively because the common goal was more important than the rivalry. He called these superordinate goals. Group members of rivaling groups cannot ignore Superordinante goals very easily. The attainment of superordinate goals requires the combined efforts of antagonist groups because each group cannot accomplish the goal alone. The experimenters sabotaged the water supply system and a truck filled with food for the camp. Members from both groups needed to work together to solve these problems. This did in fact lessen conflict and tension. Members of previously opposing teams even developed friendships. The superordinate goals that the experimenters introduced shared a few key characteristics. The goals were introduced by a more powerful outside party (in this case, the experimenters). The group members saw these subordinate goals as natural events. They did not think a third party (the experimenters) caused these events. Additionally, group members did not feel that these goals were introduced for the purpose of ending the conflict. Finally, these subordinate goals were more important than the conflict, so members chose to behave cooperatively rather than competitively. In real life conflict situations superordinate goals like the ones introduced by Sherif and his colleagues are not realistic alternatives. As mentioned, the campers felt that the introduction of the superordinate goals was a natural event. When a group introduces superordinate goals for the purpose of resolving the conflict, the members of other groups reject the goal. They see it as a competitive strategy. For cooperative goals to effectively help resolve conflict, they need to be introduced by a third party or be seen as an act of nature.
Robert Blake and Jane Mouton conducted follow-up studies on Sherif's work. Instead of working with children, they worked with adult businessmen. Within a group, conflicts with other groups increase group cohesion. Group members become more loyal and band together to defend the group. Militant leaders take control, and group members are more willing to be led autocratically. There is more pressure to conform to group norms in order to appear united. The group becomes more organized and structured. When a group has a conflict with another group they belittle and devalue the opposing group. Each group sees their attributes and the faults of the opposing group. Groups in conflict interact and communicate less effectively. Win-lose approaches are adopted during negotiations. Rather than see similarities in group positions, differences in positions are emphasized. If a third party determines which group is right and which group is wrong, they are seen as impartial by the winning group and biased by the losing group.
Win-lose negotiations often lead to deadlock. If a group does win, the group becomes more cohesive but is not motivated to be more effective. The group that loses may reorganize, work even harder, and look for someone to blame. This often leads them to change leadership. If the losing group does not believe future wins are possible, members may become apathetic and defeatist. Once loss has been accepted realistically, the losing group is more likely to reorganize and become more cohesive and effective.
Even when placed in random situations, people in groups will compete. Social dominance orientation provides one possible explanation. Social dominance orientation is the extent that a person wants the group he or she is a part of to be superior to other groups and to dominate. Through belonging to a dominant group (even if only temporary assigned), a person starts to think group members deserve more than members of less dominant or not as well-off groups. This leads to increased prejudice. Intergroup competition and social dominance orientation are affected by the state of the economy. When the economy is weak and times are hard, intergroup competition and social dominance increases. People direct hostility towards their competitors. Intergroup competition can be more self-fulfilling than individual competition. Groups will compete more intensely for resources.
Ingroup-outgroup bias is the tendency to view groups to which we belong more favorably than groups to which we do not belong. People tend to reward members of their own group (often at the expense of members of other groups). Outgroup homogeneity bias is the belief that members of outgroups have less diverse personalities than members of the ingroup (one’s own group). At the same time, people feel that members of their own group have more positive personality traits. The more obvious the differences between the ingroup and the outgroup, the more strong the bias. Ingroup bias may be created by antipathy for outgroups and affinity for the ingroup. However, love (or affinity) for one’s own ingroup does not necessarily lead to bias. It is possible that bias occurs when groups compete for resources.
Theories of social identity and categorization
Social identity is an individual’s awareness that she or she is a part of social groups that are meaningful to the individual. Henri Tajfel and John Turners’s social identity theory states that individuals seek to distinguish the groups to which they belong in a positive way from other groups in order to achieve a positive social identity. People seek to enhance their self-esteem. Self-esteem includes a personal identity and social identities derived from the groups to which a person belongs. People are inclined to exaggerate the positive attributes of ingroups to heighten their self-esteem.
Ingroups and outgroups are differentiated based on social categorization. Humans use social categories as cognitive devices to save time and effort when organizing people into meaningful categories. While there are many categories used for classifying people (for example: female, friend, doctor), ingroup and outgroup (a member of my group and a member of another group) are two very basic categories. Social categorization theory states that personal and social identities are self-categorizations. This is enough reason to create discriminatory intergroup behavior.
Both social identity and social categorization theories are based on the notion that people make categorical distinctions through minimizing differences within a category and accentuating differences between categories. This leads to three principles. The first principle is the intergroup accentuation principle. This principle states that there is assimilation within categories and contrast between categories. This means that members of the ingroup are seen as more similar to oneself than members of the outgroup. The second principle is ingroup favoritism. This principle states that positive attributes like trust and liking are selectively generalized to members of one’s own ingroup but not to members of outgroups. The third principle is the social competition principle. This principle states that ingroups compare themselves to other outgroups based on perceived competition. There is some evidence that if a person wants to see himself or herself as fair, this can lessen his or her bias towards outgroup members. Note that as situations change, the ways people categorize themselves and others also change. For example, a person in the state of Maryland may say they are from Baltimore. However, when they are abroad, they may say they are from the United States. Another point to note of social identity and social categorization theories is since people belong to some social categories and not others, there is an inherent ingroup versus outgroup distinction. This leads to intergroup competition, ingroup members being given preferential treatment, and depersonalization of outgroup members. For these effects to be overcome, a process of decategorization and recategorization is necessary.
In order to decategorize and reduce ingroup bias and the depersonalization of outgroup members, there must be more intergroup interaction. Contact between members of different groups should be structured to reduce category distinctions and encourage members of the ingroup and members of the outgroup getting to know each other as individuals. Additionally, contact should be highly personalized instead of category based. Once ingroup members are aware of the individual differences in outgroup members, they are less inclined to stereotype outgroup members as homogenous.
In order to recategorize and build a common ingroup identity, the structure of ingroup/outgroup interaction should focus on a new group identity that encompasses the identities of the ingroup and the outgroup. For example, instead of the identities of Hispanic American and Asian American, the larger identity is American. As a result, people pay less attention to their differences and more attention to the new inclusive group identity.
Contact theory is the broadest approach for resolving intergroup conflict. Intergroup conflicts between white Americans and black Americans have been heavily studied. Social scientists believed that conflict arose from a lack of knowledge about black Americans, which lead to incorrect and overly simple racial stereotypes. These social scientists felt that conflict could be lessened through contact. In the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s, many studies were conducted to this effect. The effects of contact between blacks and whites were studied in the form of black lecturers in classrooms, meetings with black professionals, school and summer camp integration, contact in combat platoons, and sea voyages with both white and black merchant sailors. It seemed that favorable intergroup attitudes resulted from the nature of contact between different ethnic groups rather than the frequency of contact. Many early studies used questionnaires to find out how the respondent perceived another ethnic group and asked the respondent to describe the nature and frequency of his or her contact with a member of another ethnic group. Later studies focused on occupational, educational, and residential desegregation. These studies showed that increased cooperation resulting from involuntary proximity between whites and blacks led to more friendly ethnic relationships.
However, intergroup conflicts between ethnic groups are not so simple. National surveys show that having more friends from another group or more contact can be associated with less prejudice. However, contact can also lead to more prejudice. Whites who have a lot of contact with illegal immigrants and whites living in the South (where there is the largest concentration of African Americans) have the most prejudiced views. Goodwin Watson reviewed previous research and concluded that contact between different ethnic groups would be more likely to change behavior and attitudes than if an individual is only told correct information or exposed to persuasive arguments. Watson stated four conditions that the contact would have to meet in order to be effective.
The first condition is that individuals of different groups need to cooperate to achieve a mutual goal. Instead of competing to achieve individual goals, people must work together to achieve mutual goals since cooperative experiences promote more positive, caring, and trusting relationships. The second condition is that individuals of different groups also need to have personal interactions. This will lessen the bias that assumes that all outgroup members are alike. The third condition is that social norms and authority figures should encourage equality between the different ethnic groups. The fourth condition is equal status contact. Situations of desegregation where people of different ethnic groups (public housing projects and the army for example) that give equal status contact have been successful at reducing prejudice. In the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, around forty studies were conducted on cross-ethnic contact. These studies did not provide conclusive evidence that such contact led to more positive attitudes and relationships. The key factor that influenced whether the contact resulted in a more positive attitude was cooperative interaction between members of different ethnic groups.
Other additional conditions are necessary for intergroup contact to be constructive rather than destructive. One condition is the reduction of salience (prominence or conspicuousness) of social categories. This can be done in three ways. The first is to make shared categories salient. Studies show that ingroup bias is higher when people are different on two real social categories such as gender and ethnicity. However, if people are different on one real social category and the same on the other there is less ingroup bias. The second way to reduce the salience of social categories is to have equal representation in cooperative groups. Members in the numerical minority are more conscious of their social category than members in the numerical majority. As a result, numerical minority members have more ingroup bias and are less accepting of outgroup members. The third way to reduce the salience of social categories is to create a common identity. When majority and minority members are given the same role, they feel they share a common identity.
A second condition is intergroup friendship. A 1988 survey of 3,806 respondents found that the existence of intergroup friendship predicts reduced prejudice. Reduced prejudice in people with diverse friends led them to have more positive feelings towards a wide range of outgroup members. Similar effects were not found through contact with a neighbor or coworker; the existence of friendship was necessary.
While most research inspired by contact theory has confirmed the theory, there are problems. The first problem is that contact theory requires many conditions, to the point that the theory can become meaningless. Facilitating and essential conditions become difficult to distinguish. In 1997, Pettigrew listed four broad processes. The first process is learning about the outgroup. The second process is empathizing with the outgroup. The third process is identifying with the outgroup, and the fourth process is reappraising the ingroup. A second problem is that the variables that mediate contact effects lack specificity. Social judgment theory, which will be discussed in the next chapter, attempts to address this problem. A third problem is that contact theory focuses on contact between individuals of different groups rather than the groups themselves. Since groups have a different identity than individual members do, and groups can cause a stronger reaction, it is necessary to do more research on how groups interact with other groups.
Deutsch suggests awakening a sense of injustice as a way to reduce discrimination. When majority members feel that treatment of minority members is unfair or unjust, stereotyping and prejudice can be reduced. There are six necessary steps to awaken a sense of injustice.
The first step is to educate and inform the majority about the injustices experienced by the minority. Insulated ignorance shields the majority from the consequences of their treatment of the minority. Situations of contact avoidance and segregation must be removed.
The second step is to delegitimize the status quo. Majority members must be aware of and question their ideologies that have been sanctioned to justify injustices.
The third step is to expose the majority to new just ideologies. Majority and minority group members must interact to form a new reference group that cooperates to affect change.
The fourth step is to give hope that injustice can be reduced.
The fifth step is to increase the majority’s belief that reducing justice also benefits them. This means that the majority’s fear of negative consequences must be reduced while their prospect of positive consequences is increased.
The sixth step is to increase the majority’s perception that the status quo cannot continue to benefit the majority. Instead, maintaining the status quo may have negative consequences. This method of reducing prejudice rests on the conflicting tendencies individuals have. Many people are highly prejudiced yet feel conflicted about it. Awakening a sense of injustice can help them value every person’s right to equality over their own prejudices.
Third party mediation is another way to reduce intergroup conflicts. A mediator is a neutral person who helps those in conflict agree on a solution that is fair and workable. The mediator cannot tell those in conflict what to do, who is right or wrong, or what he or she would do. Mediation is more likely to be effective when those in conflict are highly motivated to negotiate. If the relationship between the parties in conflict is bad, or when there are very limited resources, mediation is less likely to be effective. Mediation gives people the opportunity to express their feelings. It offers other solutions through presenting issues in different or more acceptable ways. It provides a chance for those in dispute to save face. It makes communication between parties more constructive. It controls the formality, frequency, and location of intergroup contact. Mediators must be seen as trustworthy and legitimate. When mediation fails, arbitration is another option where a third party determines a binding settlement to the conflict.
The existence of diversity contributes to both positive and negative outcomes in groups. The likelihood that positive versus negative outcomes will occur depends on member abilities and how willing members are to appreciate and accept diversity. Specific group member abilities are necessary for positive outcomes. An individual should have the ability to recognize diversity and view it as valuable. An individual should have the ability to build a personal identity that accepts one’s own cultural heritage, individualism, and respects differences between people. An individual should have the ability to grasp barriers like stereotyping and prejudice and try to reduce these barriers. An individual should have the ability to understand conflict between groups. An individual should have the ability to understand the social judgment process. An individual should have the ability to cooperate rather than compete or work alone. An individual should have the ability to manage conflicts constructively, and the ability to learn pluralistic and democratic values.
Diversity comes from three main sources. The first source is demographic diversity. This diversity includes culture, ethnicity, language, age, gender, social class, religion, differences based on where one lives, and if one has any handicaps. The second source is personal characteristics. These characteristics include aspects of personality such as introvert versus extrovert and communication style. It can also include factors like age group, gender, and education level since all these factors affect a person’s point of view. A third source is a person’s set of skills and abilities. People are experts in different fields and have different technical skills.
It is important to effectively manage diversity for several reasons. We live in an increasingly global world. As a result, membership in a group is increasingly diverse. Diverse individuals are dependent on each other and need to cooperate effectively. Second, diversity in all areas of life is inevitable. Acquaintances, colleagues, neighbors, classmates, and friends are becoming more diverse. Third, businesses need employees that are skilled in cooperating with diverse people since companies are now more global.
Diversity and value
The majority of research focused on the value of diversity has been on group performance on tasks. The three types of tasks studied are performance on clearly defined production tasks, performance on cognitive tasks, and creative idea generation and decision making in ambiguous tasks of judgment. Production tasks are tasks that have standards of perceptual and motor skills that can be measured objectively. Studies had mixed results but suggest that groups with members with diverse technical abilities do better on production tasks than groups with members without diverse technical abilities. Examples of this include engineers and scientists who were in frequent contact with colleagues of other training, the performance of B-29 bomber crews who could be assigned different tasks based on their individual abilities, and athletic teams with diverse skills. Intellective tasks are problem-solving tasks that have correct answers. Woods studied how gender difference affected group performance. His study did not conclusively show that mixed-sex groups outperformed same-sex groups. However, later studies suggest that heterogeneity increases the likelihood that group members will be able to provide the correct answer. Studies show that groups with members with varying levels of ability do better than individuals on intellective tasks. Decision-making tasks are tasks that involve consensus in finding a solution to a problem that does not have a clear answer. Research shows that diverse groups tend to come up with more creative and higher quality decisions than groups that are not diverse. Diverse groups had better performance in studies on personality, leadership ability, types of training, and attitudes than non-diverse groups. Ziller, Behringer, and Goodchilds conducted a study on open groups and closed groups. Participants were given the decision-making task of writing captions for cartoons. The study showed that the open group with fluid membership came up with more original captions. Plez and Andrews found that groups with fluid membership are more creative even when the groups are interdisciplinary. Laughlin and Bitz conducted a study using a word-association task. They compared the performance of a group (made up of members of various ability) with the performance of an individual whose ability was at the same level as the group member of the highest ability. The group out performed the individual. This suggests that members with high-ability benefit from interacting with other members of less ability. There are several possible explanations for this. The high-ability member may have taken on a role of teacher which led to more sharpened thinking. The members with less ability may have posed questions that caused the high ability member to rethink and or reconsider their position. Research shows that diverse groups are more effective than individuals when it comes to problems that require creative solutions.
Besides problem-solving ability, three things are equally important to group performance: absenteeism, turnover, and satisfaction. They are determined based on how cohesive a group is and if members are in conflict. A group that does not manage diversity well can have high absenteeism and high turnover and low member satisfaction. Research has resulted in various conclusions. Haythorn suggested a number of factors (personality, task, and extent of interpersonal contact) affected cohesion. Bantel and Jackson found no relationship between group diversity and cohesiveness in their study on decision-making tasks in banks. Another study found that demographically homogeneous teams were more cohesive. Some studies show that diversity in age, years of organizational tenure, college alma mater, industry experiences, and curriculum lead to higher turnover. Other studies show that attitude similarity relates slightly to cohesion. A study showed that people are more attracted to other people with similar attitudes. Another study assigned attitudes to participants in student groups. Researchers assessed cohesiveness six times over a long period of time. Each point of assessment showed that cohesiveness increased when members had similar attitudes.
However, the shift was not statistically significant until the last three assessments. Diversity in groups tends to lead to more conflict. These conflicts can be helpful when complex problem solving is needed. While homogeneous groups may be more cohesive, there are many disadvantages.
Homogenous groups lack the controversy that is necessary for high-quality decisions to be made. Homogeneous groups take fewer risks than heterogeneous groups. They are also more likely to engage in groupthink. Homogenous groups are less flexible and have difficulty adapting to changing situations.
Just because a group is diverse does not mean it will be effective. Proximity is needed for diversity to have a positive outcome. One problem is that interaction strain occurs when people interact for the first time. Interaction strain is the discomfort individuals feel regarding how they should behave. This lessens interaction, increases ambivalence, and increases atypical behavior. For example, a person may be too friendly during the initial contact. Diversity can lead to lower achievement when communication and coordination prove challenging in competitive or individualist conditions.
There are several problems with the research conducted on how diversity affects group interaction and outcomes. The research has focused on personal attributes because they can be measured. However, it is unclear if these attributes affect group performance. Another problem is that any one attribute is unlikely to affect overall performance. For this reason multi-attribute research is necessary. Most people must perform a wide range of tasks involving problem solving, creativity, and judgmental decision-making. It is difficult to predict what sorts of tasks groups will need to perform in the future. Another challenge is that diversity is difficult to determine because the perception of diversity is based on the self-categorization of group members. It is also not possible to make suggestions on the procedures groups should use for diversity to be positive. Researchers do not understand how group composition and tasks interact, so they cannot give advice on how to affect performance. A final problem is that members of a group are both heterogeneous and homogenous in different attributes. Group composition cannot be controlled completely. We can only try to maximize positive outcomes of diversity while minimizing the negative outcomes.
Barriers to managing diversity effectively
A stereotype is a belief that assigns certain traits to a whole group of people. They are cognitive and a product of related beliefs rather than isolated information. They generalize personalities and attributes to compare and differentiate groups. Individuals within a group and the group share stereotypes. Stereotypes simplify and organize social information to make complex society more manageable. Stereotypes can lead to unfair assumptions. People form a stereotype through categorizing other people into groups rather than thinking of each person as unique. Additionally, people form stereotypes by categorizing others as members of an ingroup or an outgroup. As mentioned in the previous chapter, people see members of the outgroup as homogenous while they see their own ingroup as diverse.
Stereotyping is useful to people because it simplifies cognition. For example, if you perceive all members of a group to be the same, you do not feel the need to pay attention to what differentiates each individual from other members. Additionally, people use stereotypes to make inferences about a person rather than pay attention to his or her behavior. In these ways, stereotypes help people be more efficient in gaining information about others while not spending much effort. Stereotypes are harmful when they interfere with interaction which leads to false generalizations that do not allow for individuality. When a person attributes negative behavior of a minority-group member to the member’s disposition, and positive behavior of a minority-group member to specific situations, he or she is prone to fundamental attribution error. When the person judges his or her own behavior, the opposite is true. Negative behavior is seen as a result of situational factors while positive behavior is a result of dispositional characteristics.
Stereotypes affect what we see and remember about how outgroup members behave. People more readily notice negative behavior that confirms their prejudice. Additionally, they remember negative behavior more clearly and in greater detail. On the other hand, people are likely to forget instances where outgroup members disconfirmed their prejudice. Stereotypes offer an overly simple view of outgroup members. When stereotyping others, people have an exaggerated sense of the similarities between members within the group and the differences between different groups. Furthermore, people generalize the actions of one outgroup member to the entire group. Stereotypes can also lead to scapegoating where an innocent group serves as an outlet for another group’s anger. Groups may scapegoat a different group who is not responsible because they feel powerless against the group that actual harmed them.
When a person is stereotyped, they are not only more likely to be unfairly treated, they may accept the stereotype as true and change their behavior to fit the stereotype. In a study on stereotype threat conducted by Steele and Aronson, they found that negative stereotypes that African Americans have poor intellectual ability created pressure which caused African Americans to become distracted and perform poorly academically. The University of Michigan’s Twenty-First Century Program randomly recruited white and black students. These students lived, studied, and discussed social issues together. This program eliminated the stereotype threat. This suggests that stereotypes can be changed if members of different groups interact with each for a long period of time and can get to know each other.
Another barrier to accepting the value of diversity is prejudice. Prejudice is an unjustified negative view toward someone based on their belonging to an outgroup. Prejudice is an extreme form of stereotyping where a superior versus inferior belief system is established. Ethnocentrism is a person’s tendency to view his or her own ethnic group, country, or religion as better than that of others. Ethnocentric individuals use their ingroup values as a standard for judging outgroups. Cultural conditioning can cause ethnocentrism. As children, people learn to fit into their culture. Thus they may react negatively when meeting someone outside the culture they are familiar with.
Racism is prejudice based on a person’s race or ethnicity. People who are racist assume differences in physical appearance result in biological differences. People in a minority ethnic group may feel they have less power than those in the majority. Sexism (prejudice based on gender) and ageism (prejudice based on age) are other common forms of prejudice. Much progress has been made since the civil rights movement to combat prejudice or discrimination based on race. However, racism still exists. People are able to view themselves as fair and humanitarian while still viewing members of other groups negatively. Discrimination occurs when prejudice is acted out. Discrimination aims to deny rights, equal treatment, and opportunities to members of a minority group.
Several steps can help you to reduce the use of stereotypes and prejudice. The first step is to admit that everyone has prejudices and commit to reduce your prejudices. The second step is to identify the stereotypes that result from your prejudices and change them. The third step is to change behavior that reflects prejudice. The fourth step is to ask for feedback from friends from diverse groups on if you are communicating respect for diversity.
Another barrier to valuing diversity and combating prejudice is that people often assume that people get what they deserve. They blame the victim and feel that no injustice has occurred. The person suffering from discrimination is blamed (due to personality or their action) for the discrimination. This allows people to continue to believe in a just world where they can predict and control the future since “people get what they deserve.” Blaming the victim is a strategy to explain the causes of events. This type of process is a causal attribution. Often these attributions are self-serving in that people want to take credit for positive outcomes and blame negative outcomes on situational factors.
A culture clash is a conflict over basic values held by individuals of different cultures. This is another barrier to effective intergroup interaction. The most common form of culture class happens when members of the minority group question the values of members of the majority group. The majority reacts in different ways: by feeling threatened, feeling confused, or feeling enhanced. When a person feels threatened, they may be in denial, in avoidance, or become defensive. When a person is confused, they will try to find more information to redefine the problem. When a person is enhanced, they are more aware and will try to solve the problem.
Diversity for positive outcomes
Member diversity can increase group creativity and productivity. For this to occur group members need to have high positive interdependence. A superordinate group identity should be created to unite diverse members that are based on pluralistic values. This means that group members need to develop a united identity that can encompass that of all individual members. To do this, four steps should be followed. Members must first appreciate their own background (cultural, ethnic, religious etc) and how this contributes to their personal identity. An individual’s personal identity defines who they are helps and helps them deal with stress.
A personal identity gives a sense of stability, and affects what information is noticed and organized. A personal identity is made up of sub-identities such as gender identity, cultural identity, ethnic identity, and a religious identity. In the second step, members should appreciate the backgrounds of other members. A person’s personal identity should not include rejecting the identity of another person. Instead, people need to value and respect diverse backgrounds. The third step is to find a superordinate identity that encompasses and transcends the personal identities of individual members. The fourth and final step is to develop a set of values regarding democracy, equality, rights, and responsibilities where all members have a voice.
Personal relationships need to develop so that members gain sophistication about member differences. Sophistication is the ability to behave appropriately and be courteous in different cultures. To be sophisticated, a person needs to try to see the situation from another person’s perspective. Through interacting with outgroup members, people can learn to value diversity and work towards gaining positive outcomes. To gain sophistication several things need to occur. Actual interaction should take place. This means one should seek diverse peers for interaction. Trust needs to be built. People should speak openly and candidly about their feelings and reactions to another person’s offensive behavior. When people lack sophistication in interacting with diverse peers, collusion may occur. This is the reinforcement of stereotypes. To avoid collusion, it is necessary to build friendships with diverse peers.
Members should clarify miscommunications. To do this, people must become aware of several things. Language sensitivity should be increased and words and expressions that ignore, devalue, and offend others should be avoided. One should also be aware of the style of communication. This includes nuances and innuendoes. Consider the message from the receiver’s perspective. While this is dependent on individual people and the situation, a few guidelines can be followed. Negotiate for meaning if a misunderstanding has occurred. Use inclusive words that are not gender specific. Do not use adjectives that suggest an exception such as black doctor or female pilot. Use more diverse references, not just from western sources. Be aware of the connotations of certain words. For example, “lady” may imply a lack of equality and offend women. “Girl” can also suggest a lack of respect.