Specification: OxfordAQA International AS and A-level Psychology (9685).


group processes

a system of behaviours and psychological processes occurring within a social group (intragroup dynamics) or between social groups (intergroup dynamics).

group processes can impact behaviour, attitudes and opinions.

when you are a member of a group, there is interdependence, which results in each member being influenced by other members. the dynamics depend on how boundaries are defined.

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group processes: social facilitation

the tendency for people to perform differently when in the presence of others than when alone.

the presence of others increases individuals' performances in other, non-competitive situations as well. triplett linked this to increased arousal.

audience effect: change in behaviour due to the presence of a passive audience.

performance is improved on simple, well-rehearsed tasks, but worsened on complex, new tasks.

co-action effect: change in behaviour due to the presence of others doing the same task.

factors that influence social facilitation:

  • personality factors that make people more aware of evaluation and its consequences for performance
  • extraverts, high self-esteem - improve
  • high neuroticism, low self-esteem - worsen.
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social facilitation: research

triplett's first study

  • compared a cyclist's performance when alone with their performance when racing against another cyclist.
  • slowest when alone, fastest against another cyclist.
  • the presence of others made individuals more competitive.

triplett's second study

  • child was given a fishing line and asked to wind it up as quickly as possible.
  • children performed better when they were paired up.

allport - participants performed better when in a group setting than when alone.

chapman -more laughter when two children listened to funny material together than when one child listened alone.

de castro - higher food intake when eating with family and friends than with mere companions. could be due to people having fewer inhibitions and less restraint when eating with familiar people.

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group processes: social loafing

the tendency for individuals to expend less effort when working collectively than when working individually. it stems from a member feeling that their efforts will not matter to the group.

ringelmann - members of a group exerted less effort in pulling a rope than individuals did alone. more people in a group = less measured force used by some individuals. did not extinguish whether this was due to individuals putting in less effort or poor coordination.

ingham - had pseudogroups where confederates pretended to pull the rope. there was a decrease in participants' performance, worst with real groups. pseudogroups did not experience coordination effects. he proved that this was due to motivational losses rather than poor coordination.

latanè - blindfolded students wore headphones and were asked to shout. they shouted less intensely when they believed more people were shouting. increasing the number of people in a group diminished the relative social pressure on each person.

karau and williams - lurkers follow the discussions and content of online communities, but choose not to expand on posts or add to the knowledge of the community.

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social loafing: contributing factors

culture - less social loafing in collectivist cultures that focus more on the achievement of the group rather than the individual.

diffusion of responsibility - more people = greater diffusion of responsibility = less personal accountability. the individual puts in less effort because they feel they will not be justifiably rewarded.

motivation - more motivated = social facilitation\less motivated = social loafing. expectations about the achievability of the goals and its perceived value impact motivation.

dispensability of effort - members can feel dispensable if they perceive that others have better abilities and skills. other group members engage in social compensation for dispensable members.

aversion - if members think coworkers are exerting less effort, then they also exert less effort to avoid carrying free-riders. there is an aversion for people feeling like their efforts are being taken for granted.

attribution and equity - if someone attributes that others are slacking, their effort will lower to match. this was seen in latane's study.

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group polarisation

occurs when the group decision is more extreme than the original attitudes and preferences of the members of the group.

myers - a group of women who hold moderately feminist views tend to demonstrate heightened pro-feminist beliefs following group discussion. 

isenberg - after deliberating together, mock jury members often decided on punishments that were larger/smaller than those any individual juror had favoured prior to deliberation. when jurors favoured a relatively low punishment, discussion led to more lenient results, while if the jury was inclined to a stiff penalty, discussion made it harsher.

social media demonstrates that group polarisation can occur even when a group is not physically together. if a group begins with the same fundamental opinion on a topic and a consistent dialogue is kept going, group polarisation can occur.

group polarisation is strongest in newly-formed groups with new tasks and less pronounced in well-established groups discussing well-known problems.

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group polarisation: explanations

social comparison theory - occurs due to an individual's desire to gain acceptance and be liked by the group. after comparing their own ideas with those held by the rest of the group, an individual takes a position similar to the others or slightly more extreme if presenting themselves as leader potential.

persuasive arguments theory - individuals become more convinced of their own views when they hear novel arguments in support of them. they enter groups knowing there are alternative positions and weigh up which way to go based on the quality and weight of evidence for the argument. as more novel and persuasive information is added, the group shifts in that direction.

isenberg - both theories generally operate simultaneously but it is possible for each to lead to polarisation on their own.

sia - group discussions conducted in distributed (can't see each other) and anonymous environments like online, can lead to higher levels of group polarisation. this is due to the greater number of novel arguments generated and higher incidences of one-upmanship behaviour.

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risky shift

a phenomenon that as a result of group decision-making, both the group and individual support a more risky decision.

stoner - gave management students choice dilemmas (difficult choice has to be made). group decisions were riskier than the average of the individual members. this was criticised as management students perceive risk as an attribute, and don't want to appear cautious in front of peers.

stoner's supervisors replicated this study with participants for whom risk was not important. they found similar results.

stoner later found that individual decisions were riskier after group discussion, suggesting covert acceptance of the group's decision.


  • diffusion of responsibility for the outcome.
  • people more inclined to take risks are more influential.
  • risk-taking is desirable in some cultures.
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when the desire for cohesiveness in the group results in irrational or dysfunctional decision-making outcomes. group members try to minimise conflict and reach a consensus without critical evaluation of alternatives and by isolating themselves from outside influences. this is more common in long-standing groups where members share similar experiences and frames of reference. 

symptoms indicative of groupthink

  • overestimations of the group
    • illusions of invulnerability creating excessive optimism
    • unquestioned belief in the group's morality, causing members to ignore consequences
  • closed-mindedness
    • rationalising warnings that challenge the group's assumptions
    • stereotyping those who are opposed as evil or stupid.
  • pressures towards uniformity
    • self-censorship of ideas that deviate from the consensus
    • illusions of unanimity (silence = agreement)
    • pressure to conform on questioning members
    • mindguards - members who shield the group from dissenting information.
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groupthink: explanations

high group cohesiveness - members avoid argument and want to maintain unity at all costs.

structural faults - closed leadership (announced view before discussion), group insulation (not exposed to outside perspectives), over-homogeneity of social backgrounds/ideology.

situational context - stressful external threats, time pressures leading to quick decision-making.

difficult to test empirically as it is subjective, and based on real and very specific groups.

very few studies have been carried out, and they provide little to no support for the concept.

evidence for it was provided in research cited by park on business decision-making groups and manz and sims with autonomous work groups.

fodor and smith: group leaders with high power motivation create atmospheres more susceptible to groupthink.

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group membership: deindividuation

the loss of individual identity in a group so that individuals fail to see the consequences of their actions.

le bon - there is a loss of personal responsibility and accountability. these combine with elements of anonymity due to crowd membership. individuals behave very differently than they would alone.

festinger - the more extreme actions of individuals while in a large group are caused by looser restraints against behaviours that would otherwise be inhibited.

diener - lack of self-awareness due to group membership. self-awareness usually regulates behaviour.

social identity model of individuation effect (SIDE): see self-identity as shaped by personal identity (uniquely identify a person) and social identity (formed by emotional effects of group membership). when a person joins a group, they shift from personal to social identity. behaviour is guided by what group behaviour entails. more immersion in a group = greater shift to social identity.

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deindividuation: research

zimbardo (anonymity)

  • the anonymous group wore lab coats and hoods, were not referred to by name.
  • the other group wore their own clothes, had name tags, were referred to by name, and could be seen.
  • the anonymous group delivered shocks for twice as long as the other group.

silke - 206/500 violent attacks during the northern ireland troubles were carried out by people in disguise, thus hiding their identity.

zimbardo (prison)

  • the group and individual behaviour of both the guards and prisoners became extreme.
  • participants became anonymous members of their groups and their identity lost to the roles they were in.
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in-group/out-group effect

in-group: a social group of which a person psychologically identifies as being a member of.

out-group: a social group with which an individual does not identify.

in-group bias - favouring your own group as they are a source of resources and reward.

realistic conflict theory: when two groups with different interests compete for the same goal, which can lead to prejudice. if they have the same interests, they may cooperate without prejudice.


  • divided boys into two groups. they became cohesive, having their own norms and jokes.
  • competitive conditions - overt group hostility (name-calling, aggression, prejudice).
  • cooperative conditions - groups worked positively together, remained strongly allied to own groups.
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in-group/out-group effect: research

diehl - boys in virtual groups (were actually alone) showed in-group favouritism despite no real conflict of interest or history of involvement between groups.

wetherell - white children behaved with the same in-group bias as americans, but maori children did not. instead, they chose to benefit both groups, reflecting their cultural influence where generosity is considered a mark of high status.

social identity theory: stages of becoming a member of an in-group.

  • social categorisation - categorise ourselves.
  • social identification - take up the identity in our own and others' eyes in a way that has emotional or value significance.
  • social comparison - compare our groups with others. we define our group in positive terms; out-groups may be seen negatively.
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communication: non-verbal

the process of sending and receiving messages without using words, either spoken or written. nvc is complementary to verbal behaviour. participants are not fully aware of nvc as some are unconsciously done. there is a mixture of explicit and implicit cues to be interpreted. each person influences the other and there may be postural echoing (mirroring actions).

  • kinesics: body movements
  • posture
  • oculesics: eye contact
  • vocalics: para-language (aspects of the voice apart from words like pitch and tone)
  • proxemics: personal space
  • facial expressions
  • chronemics: using time, pauses and silence
  • artefacts: clothes, cosmetics
  • physiological changes: sweating, blushing.

the meanings attached to these are deeply rooted in culture and socialisation due to which there are significant differences in the way these are perceived and interpreted. this can lead to faulty communications and errors in impression management (the way we consciously present ourselves to others).

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nvc: cultural universals in facial expression

gestures have different usage and meanings across cultures. asynchronous: a perceived gap between the verbal content and the supporting nvc. (eg smiling when relaying bad news).

reading someone's face to gauge their mood is a key life skill developed early. studies show that babies seek out their caregivers' face and show a prolonged interest in it as measured by eye contact. parents wait for a baby's smile as part of the bonding process and a sign of emotional contentment.

ekman et al: observers can reliably detect 6 emotions from faces (happiness, surprise, anger, sadness, fear, disgust). he found very similar findings across all cultures, proving that these 6 emotions are a cultural universal. limitations:

  • every emotion does not have an equivalent facial expression. love and jealousy are common emotions but there are no unique facial expressions for either.
  • uses lab-produced stimulus (photographs where models were asked to produce a facial expression) that does not depict the true nature of emotion, which has autonomic changes and feeling states.
  • facial feedback hypothesis: facial expressions affect our emotions/mood (eg smiling makes you happy).
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nvc: cultural differences in personal space

  • intimate space - close encounters (embracing, whispering).
  • personal space - friends and family. haptics (touching) may be permissible.
  • social space - acquaintances. mostly used in professional settings.
  • public space - strangers/public speaking.

entering someone's personal space indicates familiarity and intimacy. if it is difficult to maintain personal space (eg in crowded areas), eye contact is avoided as it reinforces intimacy and space invasion. in crowds, people use artefacts like bags and phones to define boundaries of privacy.

the amygdala is responsible for processing our emotional reactions to personal space invasion. patients with amygdala damage lack a sense of personal space and boundaries. monkey studies show that those with bilateral amygdala lesions stay in closer proximity to other monkeys.

vertical space is used to convey dominance/power in a relationship. eg: teacher standing in front of seated students. this does not vary cross-culturally.

the acceptable physical distance is a noticeable difference in nvc between cultures.

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job motivation and satisfaction

hawthorne (relay assembly room)

  • participants were a small group of female workers.
  • they were fully briefed and were consulted at each phase.
  • a participant-observer would be with them at all times, speaking to them.
  • changes were made (eg rest pauses, early work finish times).
    • output mostly increased.
  • then all improvements in working conditions were removed.
    • had the highest output recorded.

hawthorne effect: a change in workers' behaviour brought about by being observed.

common characteristics of motivation theories

  • individual phenomenon - we are all unique.
  • intentional - under our control, like the effort we put into it.
  • multifaceted - two factors are arousal and choice of behaviour.
  • should predict behaviour - look at what factors influence action and choice.
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need theory: maslow

intrinsic: psychological, social factors (interaction, learning).

extrinsic: tangible rewards (pay, security).

maslow's hierarchy: self-actualisation > esteem > love and belonging > safety > physiological.

getting paid = physiological (buying food), safety.

being part of an organisation = social.

opportunities for intrinsic satisfaction = esteem.

feeling fully satisfied with all aspects of work and achievement = self-actualisation.

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maslow: evaluation

+ real-life application: helps managers create more positive work environments, leading to better productivity and happier employees. managers can help their employees build up to self-actualisation. this benefits both the employers and employees.f

- low population validity: maslow formulated the characteristics of self-actualised individuals by analysing the biographies of people he identified as being self-actualised. he developed a list of qualities he deemed characteristic of this group of people. his sample was biased, consisting of mostly highly educated white males. cannot be generalised to females and individuals from other cultures or social classes.

- assumes lower needs must be satisfied before a person can achieve higher needs: people living in poverty are still capable of higher-order needs such as love and belonging despite difficulty achieving basic physiological needs. however, maslow says that these people are not capable of meeting higher growth needs. lacks external validity as his theory cannot be generalised to everyone.

- too simplistic: doesn't account for societal needs at particular times like during financial recessions and war. lacks temporal validity as it does not apply during certain times.

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mcclelland's achievement motivation theory

need for achievement (n-ach): an individual's desire for significant accomplishment, skill-mastery control, or high standards.

characteristics of people scoring high in n-ach

  • preference for moderate task difficulty and goals
    • provides the best opportunity for achievement and improvement.
    • too difficult = causes low self-esteem
    • too easy = no challenge or sense of achievement.
  • preference for personal responsibility for task performance - people focus on their own control, abilities and efforts rather than rely on others and chance.
  • need for clear and unambiguous feedback on performances.
  • innovative.

these individuals are theorised to be the most effective employees and leaders in the workplace. they tend to be dedicated to their work and strive to meet their goals and succeed.

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expectancy theory

an individual will behave or act in a certain way because they are motivated to select a specific behaviour over others due to the result it will produce. employees try to balance input (amount of work) and outcomes (payment, opportunity). they compare their situation to others working in the same situation. if they feel there is some inequity, they will adjust their inputs to bring things back into balance.

vroom - an employee will work harder if they believe their additional efforts will lead to valued rewards. 

motivational force: effort employee will expend to achieve the desired performance.

expectancy: belief that effort will result in the desired level of performance.

instrumentality: belief that the desired level of performance will result in the desired outcome.

valence: the value of the outcome to the employee.

has greater validity in repeated measures than independent designs = useful in predicting how an employee might choose among choices for their time and energy rather than predicting the choices two different employees might make.

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expectancy theory: evaluation

+ real-life application: helps managers understand how individual team members make decisions about behavioural alternatives in the workplace. helps create motivated employees.

+ good predictive validity: gives a simple mechanism to improve performance by changing rewards. it is useful in predicting how an employee might choose to place their time and energy. it is useful and easily impregnated into the workplace.

- too simplistic: does not explain why humans sometimes act against our best interests. it also ignores external factors like emotions that may impact decision-making. this cannot be used to improve motivation in all individuals.

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goal-setting theory

people's goals/intentions play an important role in determining behaviour. values give rise to the emotions and desires. to satisfy these desires, people strive to reach goals. goals guide and direct work behaviour, performance, and lead to consequences or feedback.

types of goalsmastery (gain knowledge) and performance (maximise behaviour and appear competent).

components of the theory

  • difficulty - the extent of challenge and effort required.
  • specificity - clarity and precision.
  • acceptance
  • commitment - personal interest of the individual in reaching the goal.

goals should be:

  • challenging, but realistic enough to achieve.
  • set collaboratively.
  • given clear and accurate feedback.
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goal-setting theory: evaluation

+ latham and baldes - truck drivers only carried 60% of the legal limit. they were encouraged to carry 94%. they increased their efficiency and met this goal and maintained it. performance improved immediately with the assignment of a specific, challenging goal.

+ real-life application: goal-setting can result in better planning, increased commitment to the group, and more accurate monitoring of the quality of the group's work. the development of the "smart" technique management tool for establishing the basis of goal-setting in various contexts.

- could be negative: very difficult and complex goals stimulate risky behaviour. if the employee lacks skills to perform actions essential to complete the goal, goal-setting can fail and lead to demotivation instead.

- tunnel vision: this could lead to employees abandoning more mundane, necessary tasks as they focus on the bigger goal instead.

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herzberg's two-factor theory of motivation

well-being: the psychological state of being healthy and content.

motivators: lead to satisfaction and contribute very little to job dissatisfaction.

(achievement, job interest, responsibility)

  • symbolise the psychological needs in maslow's hierarchy.
  • inherent to the job and are intrinsically rewarding.
  • motivate employees to perform better.
  • 'satisfiers'.

hygiene factors: lead to dissatisfaction but contribute very little to job satisfaction.

(company policies, pay, interpersonal relationships, working conditions)

  • symbolise the physiological needs in maslow's hierarchy.
  • extrinsic to the job.
  • essential for the existence of motivation.
  • 'dissatisfiers'.
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herzberg's theory: evaluation

practical implications: guaranteeing adequacy of hygiene factors reduces dissatisfaction; ensuring work is stimulating and rewarding motivates employees.

made organisational management more democratic: job enlargement (greater variety of tasks = more interesting), enrichment (wider range of more complex and challenging tasks = greater sense of achievement), empowerment (more power to employees to make their own decisions).

- limited sample: mostly male, american engineers and accountants.

- subjective methodology (interview - describe a time when you were un/happy with your job): risk of self-attributional bias - crediting self for good times and blaming others for the bad.

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hackman and oldham's job characteristics

looks at how particular job characteristics affect motivational outcomes and eventually job satisfaction.

[identity - contributing to a clearly identifiable larger outcome; feedback - timely, specific, actionable]

job diagnostic survey: self-report on the main aspects of an individual's work.

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