Concept of social group - Imran Ahmad Sajid
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The key book for this document is Forsyth's "Group Dynamics". These are lecture notes for BS students of Social Work and Sociology, 1st semester, University of Peshawar.

The key book for this document is Forsyth's "Group Dynamics". These are lecture notes for BS students of Social Work and Sociology, 1st semester, University of Peshawar.

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Concept of social group - Imran Ahmad Sajid Document Transcript

  • 1. Social GroupsCompiled by: Imran Ahmad Sajidimranahmad131@gmail.comKey Book. Group Dynamics by Forsyth.I am cast upon a horrible, desolate island; void of all hope of recovery. I am singled out andseparated, as it were, from allthe world, to be miserable. I am divided from mankind, asolitary; one banished from human society. I have no soul to speak to or to relieve me. Daniel Defoe, Robinson CrusoeWith these words Robinson Crusoe, the hero in Defoe’s classic novel, laments his fate. Theclimate of his island is comfortable, the food plentiful, and the animals peaceful. He has seedfor crops, tools for working, weapons to protect himself, and clothes to cover himself. Butdespite these comforts, he feels that fate has done him a great wrong, for he is no longer amember of any human group.Unlike unfortunate Crusoe most of us live out our lives in the midst of groups. Of the billionsof people populating the world, all but an occasional hermit, outcast, or recluse belong to agroup. In fact, since most of us belong to several groups, the number of groups in the worldprobably reaches well beyond 5 billion. Everywhere we turn, we encounter groups: airplanecrews, audiences, choirs, clubs, committees, communes, dance troupes, families, fraternities,gangs, juries, orchestras, sororities, support groups, teams, and on and on. The world isliterally teeming with groups.Groups are a fundamental component in our social lives, but in some respects theirpervasiveness prevents us from fully understanding them. In living most of our livessurrounded by groups, trying to get into groups, and trying to get out of groups, we canbecome so accustomed to theme that their influence on our behaviour goes unnoticed. Wetake our groups for granted, so much so that we must learn to look at them anew, from adifferent, more scientific perspective.The Nature of GroupsThe Impressionists. Art in 19th century France was dominated by the classicists, whofavored paintings depicting mythological, religious, or historical scenes. But not all artistsaccepted the standards established by the classical school. In 1860 Claude Monet met CamillePissaro, and the two spent long hours airing their radical views. Two years later EdourdManet and Edgar Degas, both sons of wealthy families, joined Monet and Pissarro in theirsearch for alternative forms of artistic expression. Later that year Monet met three otherdisillusioned young artists (Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Alfred Sisley, and Frederic Bazille) andpersuaded them to join the informal gathering. 1
  • 2. Over the next few years these young artists worked together in developing a new approach topainting, often journeying out into the country side to paint landscapes. They sometimespainted side by side and patiently critiqued one another’s work. They also met regularly, eachThursday and Sunday, in a café in Paris to discuss technique, subject matter, and artisticphilosophies. For years their art was rejected by critics and they scarcely earned enoughmoney to survive, but by relying on one another for social support they were able to continueto develop the ideas. In time their approach was recognized by the art community as newschool of paining and was labeled impressionism (Farrell, 1982).The Survivors. Piers Paul Read (1974) recounts the grim fate of the members of a rugbyteam who survived the crash of their chartered plane only to find themselves stranded insubzero temperatures high in the Andes Mountains. A lone individual would have certainlyperished in the harsh climate, but by pooling their scant resources and skills, the groupmanaged to survive. Each individual was responsible for performing certain tasks, includingcleaning their sleeping quarters, tending to the injured, and melting drinking water. Theseactivities were coordinated by the captain of the rugby team, but when he was killed in anavalanche much of the business of running the group’s activities fell on the shoulders of acoalition of three cousins.The group lived for weeks by eating the bodies of those who had dies in the crash andavalanche, but when starvation seemed imminent they sent two men down the mountain toseek help. After walking 14 days and sleeping in the open at night, the two “explorers”managed to reach a small farm on the edge of the great mountain range. Their suddenappearance after 70 days was followed by an air-rescue operation that lifted the remaining 14from the crash-site. Those who had managed to stay alive later pointed out that “it was theircombined efforts which saved their lives” (Read, 1974).The People’s Temple. Jim Jones was a dynamic speaker who could hold an audience inrapt attention. In 1963 he formed his own church, the People’s Temple Full Gospel Church.His persuasiveness influenced many, and his message reached out to the rich and poor, youngand old, and educated and uneducated. The membership soon swelled to 8000, united in theiracceptance of Jones’s political religious, and social teachings. Rumors of improprieties begancirculating, however. Former members reported that at some meetings those who haddispleased Jones were severely beaten before the whole congregation, with microphones usedto amplify their screams. Jones, some said, insisted on being called Father and he demandedabsolute dedication and obedience from his followers. Many member donated all theirproperty to the church, and one couple even turned over their 6-year-old son on demand.Jones eventually moved the group to Guyana, in South America, where he establishedJonestwon. Press releases described the settlement as a utopian community, but rumors stillcirculated; was Jonestown more like a prison than a utopia? Relatives in the United Statesbecame concerned, and they convinced a member of Congress, Representative Leo Ryan, tovisit Jonestown. Jones’s followers attacked the group, and five people were killed, including 2
  • 3. Ryan. When the assassins returned to tell Jones of their attack, he ordered his followers totake their own lives. Armed guards prevented all but a few from escaping, and Jonesrepeatedly told the members to accepttheir deaths with dignity. When authorities reached thesettlement the next day, they were met by a scene of unbelievable ghastliness. On Jones’sorders more than 900 men, women, and children had killed themselves. Jones’s body wasfound near the “throne” from which he had directed mass suicide. Over the chair remainedthe motto “Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it” (Krause, 1978).The Rattlers and the Eagles. The 22 11-year-olds, all white and all boys, were campingnear Robbers Cave State Park in Oklahoma. The boys were separated into two groups—theRattlers and the Eagles—before spending several days hiking, swimming, and playing sports.During that time friendship bonds, rules, and rituals blossomed within each group, along withan undercurrent of animosity toward the other group. When the two groups met in a series ofcompetitive games, in almost no time tempers flared and full-fledged hostility broke out. TheEagles stole and burned the Rattlers’ makeshift team pennant. The Rattlers counterattackedthat night by breaking into the Eagles’ cabin, and the following day fistfights and smallbrawls broke out between members of the two groups.Unbeknownst to the boys, the camp was part of a field study of relationships between groups,and the boys’ behaviours were recorded continually by the camp counselors. When hostilitiesreached a physical level, the observers intervened and separated the two groups. They thenstaged a series of problems that could be solved only if the groups cooperated with eachother. One problem required locating a leak in the camp’s water supply. Another requiredthem to move a truck that apparently had broken down. During and after the pursuit of thesegoals, animosity between the two groups diminished. When camp was over, the boys wentback home on the same bus (Sherif, Harvey, White, hood, & Sherif, 1961).The Therapy Group. The seven members of the group were outpatients at a universityclinic. All seven reported problems in relating to other people, to the extent that they couldnot establish meaningful interpersonal relationships. Dr. R. and Dr. M., two experiencedgroup psychotherapists, met with the group weekly. During these meetings the groupmembers shared problems from their daily lives and received support from one another. Moreimportantly, they learned to disclose information about themselves to others and receivedfeedback that helped them acquire useful social skills.Despite the fact that the group was composed entirely of people who had never been able tomaintain friendships or intimate relationships, it became remarkably unified. The membersrarely missed a session, and they grew more confident whenever they disclosed somepreviously unmentioned aspect of themselves. The therapists felt that the group seemed toplod at times, but the clients themselves were excited by their ability to interact successfully.The group lasted for 30 months, after which clinical testing indicated that the members “didextraordinarily well and underwent substantial characterologica changes as well as completesymptomatic remission” (Yalom, 1985). 3
  • 4. What is a Group?The group in these examples differed from one another in many ways. Some were small,consisting of fewer than ten members (the therapy group), but others were large (People’sTemple). Nearly all the groups had leaders, but the power and duties of the leaders variedgreatly. The artists, for example, seemed to take turns at leading. Similarly, some of thegroups formed spontaneously, whereas others were established deliberately for the purpose ofachieving certain goals. Given these differences, can we accurately call all these collection ofpeople groups?Kurt Lewin, offered an answer. He felt that despite their difference in size, structure, andactivities, virtually all groups were based on interdependence among their members (Lewin,1948). We understand intuitively that three persons seated in separate rooms working onunrelated tasks can hardly be considered a social group, for they cannot influence one anotherin any way. If, however, we create the potential for interdependence by letting at least oneperson influence or be influenced by others, these three individuals can be considered arudimentary group. The impressionists, for example, lived and worked together, influencingone another’s ideas and techniques. Stranded in the Andes, the group of survivors helped oneanother overcome the many hardships they faced. The members of the therapy groupprovided one another with the encouragement and support. Each Rattler’s contributionbrought the group closer to triumph over the Eagles. In all these examples, and in most othergroups, members “have relationships to one another that make them interdependent to somesignificant degree” (Cartwright & Zander, 1968).By emphasizing the importance of mutual influence among members we can define a groupas two or more interdependent individuals who influence one another through socialinteraction. This definition, however, is fairly arbitrary. It implies that collections of peoplecan be easily classified into two categories—group and nongroup—when in actuality suchclassifications are rarely so clear-cut. Forsyth provided a list of definitions which are givenbelow.Defining a GroupA group is two or more interdependent individuals who influence one another through socialinteraction. Forsyth.p.7A group exists when two or more people define themselves as members of it and when itsexistence is recognized by at least one other. Brown, 1988.pp.2-3A group is a collection of individuals who have relations to one another that make theminterdependent to some significant degree. Cartwright and Zender, 1968, p.46. 4
  • 5. For a collection of individuals to be considered a group there must be some interaction. Hare,1976, p.4We mean by a group a number of persons who communicate with one another, often over aspan of time, and who are few enough so that each person is able to communicate with allothers, not at second hand, through other people, but face to face. Homans, 195-, p.1.A group is an aggregation of two or more people who are to some degree in dynamicinterrelation with one another. McGrath, 1984, p.8.Two or more persons who are interacting with one another in such a manner that each personinfluences and is influenced by each other person. Shaw, 1981, p.454.A Group is a social unit which consists of a number of individuals who stand in (more or less)definite status and role relationships to one another and which possesses a set of values ornorms of its own regulating the behaviour of individual members, at least in matters ofconsequences to the group. Sherif and Sherif, 1956, p.144.Characteristics of GroupsThe dictionary defines a cow as “a large female animal kept on farms to produce milk”, butdairy farmers are likely to be more interested in a cow’s characteristics (four legs, tail, udder)rather than this definition (Webster, 1976). Similarly, if you wanted to understand one of thegroups we discussed earlier, you would need to be able to say more than “Yes, this aggregateis a group.” You would need, for example, to describe how much members interact with oneanother and how each person is related to other members. You might also need to estimate thesize of the group, catalog the goals that the group members pursued, index the group’s unity,and chart the way the group changed over time. Interdependence among members is thehallmark of a group, but we should not overlook other crucial characteristics of groups.Forsyth identified the following characteristics of social groups: 1. There is interaction among members of the group. 2. The group has a structure based upon role, status, and attraction relations. 3. Groups vary in size. 4. Group usually exists for a reason (goal). 5. There is some degree of cohesiveness in group. 6. The group changes over time. 5