Social Psychology - Chapter 11

How do group members influence each other and the group? - Chapter 11

Groups differ in the level of interaction and interdependence. Interdependence means that the thoughts, emotions and behaviors of each group member influence other group members.

Social facilitation

Sometimes the presence of others has a positive influence on your performance; sometimes a negative one. Zajonc (1965) introduced the term "social facilitation" to explain the contradictory effects of the presence of others. Social facilitation is the phenomenon whereby the presence of other people provides a greater probability of accessible (well-trained) actions, while less accessible (not well-trained) actions become less likely. The presence of others in this way ensures that easily learned tasks are better carried out (this is what you call the dominant response), but that complicated tasks are less easy (the so-called non-dominant response). It is stated that increased excitation ("arousal") is the cause of social facilitation.

For example, for the expert darter (for whom the proper throwing of a dart arrow is a very accessible response), the excitement due to the presence of others works favorably, while their presence and the paired excitement does not have a good effect on the novice skier, chess player, darter, or you name it. Even the imagined presence of others can cause this effect.

According to Zajonc (1965), humans and other animals have an innate tendency to experience excitement through the presence of others of their kind. How? The presence of others causes excitement through distraction or through evaluation apprehension (see Figure 11.2, page 402). Evaluation apprehension is the result of the realization that others can and will judge us and this can have a positive or negative influence on our performance. Distraction can also cause a difference in performance. The excitement has two consequences:

It increases the likelihood that people perform the most accessible actions (as described above).

It narrows the attention focus. If performance depends on picking up task-relevant cues (from a pool with many irrelevant cues as well), performance can improve.

If there are many people together this is called crowding. Crowding can cause excitement that can lead to increased aggression and blood pressure and lower satisfaction. This is explained by the same reasons mentioned in social facilitation (there is a lot of opportunity for evaluation and derivation). People who feel that they have a lot of control seem to experience less stress in such situations than people who have no control feeling.

Interaction and dependence

Task interdependence is the trust on other group members that the collective task is carried out properly through cooperation. Take for example a presentation. This appears to be especially important in secondary groups (e.g. fellow students). The trust that one has in other group members creates feelings of solidarity, respect, social and emotional rewards and a (positive) social identity. This is also called social interdependence. This is especially important for primary groups (such as family and friends). Regardless of the size of the group; all "face to face" groups are characterized by a combination of task interdependence and social interdependence.

How groups change: stages of group development

"Face to face" groups develop according to certain stages. Group socialization includes the cognitive, affective and behavioral changes that occur when individuals become part of a group and leave the group. Group socialization stands for the social change that a group is experiencing. In this socialization, the group members become committed to each other. Groups change the individuals from the groups, but the individuals also change the groups. Group socialization is a continuous process of reciprocal evaluation and dedication (from the individual to the group and vice versa) and involves the research phase, the socialization phase and the maintenance phase. In the research phase, members are sought for the group that fit in well. Subsequently, the members try to get to know each other in the socialization phase and achieve common goals. In the maintenance phase, an appropriate role is sought for each member.

In addition to the previous phases that the individual group members go through in relation to the group, they also pass through different phases as a group:

  • Forming. This is primarily a phase in which one tries to find out what the group is exactly for. Information is exchanged and tasks are analyzed. The members often focus on the leader.

  • Storming. In this phase, the group tries to define specific roles and procedures. Usually this is accompanied by conflicts / differences of opinion. Three possible causes for such conflicts are mentioned: relational conflicts through interpersonal incompatibilities, task conflicts and process conflicts.

  • Standardization. In this phase (which, incidentally, is not always achieved) a consensus is formed as well as group norms. One is satisfied and there is a large group commitment. In this phase, feelings of unity and security are accompanied by satisfaction with the group, the goals and their share in it.

  • Performing. Through communication and loyalty, members work together to solve problems, make decisions and implement them. Focuses on taking targeted steps.

  • Adjouring. When a group has achieved its goals, it often ceases to exist. Sometimes a group ceases because everyone gets out of it. In this last phase, the work is also often evaluated and criticized. Feelings are often expressed, which can be especially drastic if the group cohesion was high.

If there is a high time pressure, this often means that groups focus on task-oriented matters and the sharing of information. This often produces a lot of output, but the work is generally less creative and original.

Ostracism (Williams, 2007) refers to the phenomenon where a group member is ignored and removed from the group. This can have enormous consequences on the individual. One of the most commonly used methods to investigate ostracism is called the "cyberball" paradigm. In this experiment, the subject is convinced that he / she plays a virtual ball-throw game on the computer, for just a few minutes, with two others. In reality, the two others are not real people, but are controlled by a computer program. In the inclusion group, the ball is thrown at the test subject (about 1 / 3rd of the time). In the exclusion group (the ostracism version), the subject only receives the ball a few times at the beginning, but no longer afterwards. Even in such a virtual situation (with people you do not know), the subjects in the ostracism condition have a lower sense of "being heard", a lower self-esteem, a more somber mood, a lower sense of control and even less of the feeling that they lead a meaningful life!

People who are ignored or rejected in this way then have a strong urge to belong to the group again, so they are strongly focused on social cues in their environment that will assure them of safe, good social interactions. They especially have a good memory for social information, can quickly notice a smiling face in a group of faces, and can more accurately distinguish a "real" smile from a "fake" smile.

A subtle form of ostracism is called "out of the loop", in which a group member finds it difficult to participate in a group discussion because of his / her lack of relevant information. The consequences are equivalent to the consequences of the subjects in the ostracism condition of the Cyberball paradigm.

Group performance

According to Steiner (1972), three types of interdependences can be distinguished. Group tasks differ in the type of interdependence required. The following forms of group tasks are distinguished:

Conjunctive (merging) tasks: here the performance of the group is very important and failure of the cooperation can ensure that things do not advance.

Additive (additional) tasks: here it is important that everyone works individually well. Good cooperation is also very important.

Disjunctive (conflicting) tasks: here a good cooperation and a good selection of the members is of great importance. The performance of the group is as good as the performance of the best individual member. Little "social loafing" is required here: This is the decreasing contribution of performances of other group members as the group gets larger.

Most tasks are complex tasks: tasks that consist of various sub-tasks in which each of the above forms of interdependencies recur.

The pros and cons of groups

In general, several people can do more than someone alone. Groups complete many tasks better than an individual on his / her own could. Groups can increase individual effort, provide a variety of skills that the individual does not have, and work together to complete tasks in parallel (rather than in succession). The benefits of group achievements are also evident in many cognitive tasks. For example, groups solve puzzles faster than individuals and the collective memory is often (not always) better than the individual memory. Another reason that groups often perform better is that individuals can observe the safety level of others.

Two pairs of hands and heads can often be better than one, but are they twice as good? Usually the answer is no. Although brainstorming in groups often goes better than individual brainstorming, groups usually come up with fewer ideas and the ideas are qualitatively worse than individuals' ideas. The same applies to memory tasks: a group can remember more than an individual, but the group's performance is inferior to the combined information that can be summoned by an equal number of individuals working independently. Finally, groups sometimes have a larger bias in their judgment (also in tasks) than individuals.

Sometimes working in groups ensures that people put in less effort. Reduced motivation can lead to less effort in groups than he or she would do alone, this is called the "lost-in-the-crowd" feeling. This happens especially when the efforts of a member are indistinguishable from those of the total group. This is also called "social loafing" and is more common in the following situations:

  • When a task is not interesting (nature of the task).

  • When one has the idea that the group is perfectly capable of completing the task itself, without the help of the specific individual (observed characteristics of the group).

  • When there is minimal interdependence and the individual roles are unimportant, such as when singing the national anthem just before the start of a competition (the role of interdependence).

Social loafing occurs less often when the individual contribution is essential for success, or when group members know that their individual contribution can be monitored. Those who are strongly motivated to achieve something are also less inclined to social loafing. It can be partly caused by the illusion of group productivity: the tendency of people to believe that the performance of the group is better than that of the individual, even when it is not. All these data imply that whether or people "loaf" depends on their motivation. Social compensation refers to the phenomenon in which one group member works extra hard to compensate for the low input that another group member provides.

Even when the group members do their best, the group must be organized in order to be able to deliver optimal work. The roles must be clear, as well as the availability of resources. If one does not know exactly what needs to be done (i.e. when they lack coordination), people get confused and distract each other faster, reducing overall performance. Coordination is often achieved through explicit communication. Shared social knowledge is also important for coordination.

Communication within groups

If a group wants to increase its efficiency, it is important that communication is good. Also within communication there is a division between task-oriented and socio-emotionally oriented communication.

Communication is the strongest weapon of the group and a lot of open communication contributes to an improved overall group performance. In addition, the balance between task-oriented and socially-oriented communication is also an important part of an effective group.

Is communication using technology better than "face to face" communication? Sometimes, sometimes not. There are some advantages and disadvantages of technological communication:

Through electronic communication there seems to be an equal participation of the group members: in face-to-face meetings often the group members with a higher status dominate .

  • Brainstorming is better via the computer

  • The decision-making process is less vulnerable to problems such as early consensus, group thinking, and bias.

  • It is difficult to form an impression of the skills of group members (the group members are mainly assessed on task-relevant characteristics)

  • It takes longer to make a decision

  • The decisions made are often of less quality.

  • Group members are often less satisfied with the decision made.

  • Sharing emotions also helps to make a group perform better.

Communication and shared emotions are not always sufficient: reduced motivation and coordination can stop the group from reaching their goal and have a very frustrating influence on the group members. There are a number of strategies that can improve group performance:

Group training

This can be achieved by making groups feel responsible for the process.

One could also try to make group members feel that they are a positive part of social identity. This is often done by "selling" the corporate culture (the set of norms, values ​​and convictions). By means of a common goal the interdependence is increased and mutual cohesion promoted.

Attachment within (coherent) groups promotes collaboration, following standards, and contributes to retaining esteemed members (and attracting valued potential members).


Leaders are people from a group who have permission to influence the group. They provide motivation and promote the achievement of goals. If leaders can turn individual focus into group focus, this is called "empowerment". Transformational leaders are inspiring and motivating and can change positions of the group. Leaders are often appointed, but can also be appointed by the group process. In general, leadership consists of strengthening the group spirit and making decisions. On this basis, two types of leaders can be distinguished. Relationship-oriented leaders who focus on well-running relationships within the group, and task-oriented leaders who are mainly performance oriented.

The contingency theories of leadership assume that a leader's style must match the type of leadership that the situation requires. In this way, leadership is the most effective. For example, in complex tasks it is important that there is a combination of a task-oriented and relationship-oriented approach. Making a trade-off between the use of the task-oriented or relationship-oriented approach is an important task for a leader. In addition to making considerations, it is important for leaders to give people both positive and negative feedback.

Length, origin, sex and the amount someone speaks are often seen as good indicators of leadership. People also use non-verbal expressions of dominance and assertiveness to form judgments about leadership. This does not have to be the case at all, but these expectations can lead to a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Group members prefer leaders who match their stereotypes, meet group standards and pursue group goals. Common stereotypes related to gender, ethnicity, age or other social characteristics also influence the perception of leadership. As you would expect: male, long or older group members are treated as leaders. The effects of stereotypes on perceptions of leadership can partly explain the preference and overrepresentation of male leaders (men with a high status). Preference may also be given to a female leader, but this is especially true in situations where their task consists of many social interactions (such as in consensus-seeking tasks) or when there is a struggle within the group for sources (which puts the group cohesion at risk). Despite much research proving the opposite, many people doubt the leadership skills of women, possibly because women do not fall within the stereotype of a leader.

Especially charismatic / transformational leaders have a (too) big influence on the group. They let the group reach or adjust their goals and ensure that personal goals change in group goals. Charismatic leaders are often determined people and know how to inspire other people. They also often ensure that there is great cohesion between group members.

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