Groups - Definition


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  • Created by: ellie
  • Created on: 08-05-09 11:35

Definition of Groups

  • How Many? 2 or more people who share a common definition / evaluation of themselves and behave in accordance with it.
  • Interact: The people interact over a sustained period of time
  • Perception: The members perceive themselves as a group and themselves as members.
  • Norms/Roles: The group develops it's own norms, roles and expectations and places Sanctions on non - conformers.
  • Goals: Sense of shared goal / purpose.
  • Relationships: Develop between group members


  • Some definitions do not account for some groups i.e. internet and crowds - Johnson et al
  • Some are too vague, Lickel et al "collection"
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Group Typologies - Stangor (2004)

Reference Group:

  • Identify through admiration: friends, work, celebs and bands.

Working Group:

  • Working towards a specific goal: a jury, seminar group.

Social Category:

  • Large / permanent group: Women, the elderley, European.


  • Geographic proximity, beliefs, i.e. western/eastern.


  • large temporary group, common place and purppose.
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Festinger et al, Group Cohesiveness

Field of Forces


  • Group Attractivness.
  • Member Attractiveness.

Mediation of Goals

  • Social interactions
  • Individual Goals - Interdependence


  • Behaviour: Membership continuity and adherence.
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The extent to which a group is perceived as being a group (Groupiness) CAMPBELL (1958). Psychological process that transforms a collection of individuals into a group which is influenced by:

  • Fate
  • Similarity
  • Proximity
  • Evidence

Lickel et al found that groups were higher rated as being groups when they scored high on.

  • Interaction
  • groups importance to its members
  • extent of shared goals
  • similarity between members.

Groups are groups to the extent that they have ENTITATIVITY.

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  • Shared beliefs about appropriate conduct of members of a group
  • can be descriptive or prescriptive
  • norms describe the uniformities of behaviour that define a group
  • discontinuities describe the differences in behaviour between groups.
  • Norms can be explicit rules enforced by sanctions
  • Norms can be impliciit - account for instinct behaviour
  • Norms provide a frame of reference to guide behaviour.
  • Sherif, (1936) - in a group individuals use the groups range of judgements to coverge a group mean
  • An extreme norm of confederates can influence the participants estimates on the group mean.
  • Norms can co-ordinate the actions of members to achievement, Coch et al (factory)
  • Norms are resistant to change
  • Norms arise to deal with specific circumstances once the circumstances change the norms can too.
  • Lattitude of acceptable behaviour - higher in leadership
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  • Patterns of behaviour that distinguish between different activities in the group
  • Roles are behavioural prescriptions assigned to members

Roles can emerge for the following reasons:

  • Division of Labour
  • Clear social expectations
  • Self definition / place in the group
  • Facilitate group functioning

Inflexible roles can detriment the group, Gersick et al - pre flight checks.

  • fundamental attribution error - make inferences on role not personality, TYPECAST.
  • Zimbardo (1971) - role prescription rather than behaviour governs role behaviour.
  • Roles have the power to modify behaviour - Stanford Prison Experiment
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  • Evaluation of the prestige of a role in a group
  • Evaluation of the prestige of a group as a whole
  • The highest status role is the role of Leader.

Higher status roles tend to have 2 distinct properties:

  • Consensual Prestige
  • Tendency to initiate actions and idead adopted by the group

Defined status Hierachy makes a group seem more group like - Stangor (2004).

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Social Identity - 2 or more individuals

"how much a part of the group the individual feels that he / she is and how important group membership is to him / her" Branscombe et al, (1999).

Social Identity reasons to join a group:

  • To obtain a social indentity - Hogg et al.
  • The basic human need to belong - Baumeister, (1995).
  • Reduced subjective uncertainty - helps define who we are.


  • Personal Indentity: Perception of self through unique experiences and personal characteristics.
  • Social Identity: Self concept is derrived from perceived membership of social groups.
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