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standards of research. Participants were placed in a highly stressful situation,
one they reacted negatively to. However, Milgram was concerned about the
welfare of his participants and took steps to protect them during and after the
experiment.
17. How does disobedience occur?
Historically, acts of disobedience have had profound consequences for the
direction society takes. When Rosa Parks refused to give up her bus seat, she
set a social movement on course. Disobedience has played an important role in
the development of social movements and social change. Civil disobedience, or
the conscious disobedience of the law, is most effective when it is nonviolent
and the individual using it is willing to suffer the consequences.
Disobedience may occur when role strain builds to a point where a
person will break the agentic state. If a person in an obedience situation begins
to question his or her obedience, role strain (tension and anxiety about the
obedience situation) may arise. If this is not dealt with by the individual, he or
she may break the agentic state. One way people handle role strain is through
cognitive narrowing. Disobedience is likely to occur if an individual is strong
enough to break with authority, has the resources to do so, and is willing to
accept the consequences. Finally, research on disobedience suggests that there
is strength in numbers. When several people challenge authority, disobedience
becomes likely.
Group
Processes
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful
committed people can change the world:
indeed itʼs the only thing that ever has!
”Margaret Mead




The mission was supposed to be the crown jewel of the American space Key Questions
program. The Challenger mission was supposed to show how safe space As you read this chapter,
travel had become by sending along Christa McAuliffe, a teacher from ¬nd the answers to the
Concord, New Hampshire, who would become the ¬rst civilian in space. following questions:
She was supposed to teach a 15-minute class from space. The Challenger
1. What is a group?
mission was supposed to be a success just like the 55 previous U.S. space
2. Why do people join groups?
¬‚ights. But, what wasn™t supposed to happen actually did: Fifty-eight seconds
into the ¬‚ight, the trouble started; a puff of smoke could be seen coming from 3. How do groups in¬‚uence their
members?
one of the solid rocket boosters. About 73 seconds into the ¬‚ight, Challenger
exploded in a huge ¬reball that spread debris over several miles. The crew 4. What effect does an audience
cockpit plummeted back to earth and hit the Atlantic Ocean, killing all seven have on performance?
astronauts. As millions of people watched, the two solid rocket boosters 5. What motivational decreases
spiraled off in different directions, making the image of the letter “y” in affect performance?
smoke. The pattern formed would foreshadow the main question that was 6. What motivational gains occur
on everyone™s mind in the days that followed the tragedy: Why? because of group interaction?
The answer to this question proved to be complex indeed. The actual What is the Kohler effect?
physical cause of the explosion was clear. Hot gasses burned through a 7. What are the potential
rubber O-ring that was supposed to seal two segments of the solid rocket negative aspects of groups?
booster. Because of the exceptionally cold temperatures on the morning of
8. With regard to solving
the launch, the O-rings became brittle and did not ¬t properly. Hot gasses problems: Are groups better
burned through and ignited the millions of gallons of liquid fuel on top of than individuals, or are
which Challenger sat. The underlying cause of the explosion, relating to individuals better than groups?
the decision-making structure and process at NASA and Morton Thiokol 9. What are hidden pro¬les, and
(the maker of the solid rocket booster), took months to disentangle. What what effects do they have on
emerged was a picture of a ¬‚awed decision-making structure that did not group decision making?
foster open communication and free exchange of data. This ¬‚awed decision-
making structure was the true cause for the Challenger explosion. At the
281
Social Psychology
282


top of the decision-making ladder was Jesse Moore, Associate Administrator for
10. What is the effect of Space Flight. It was Mr. Moore who made the ¬nal decision to launch or not
different leadership to launch. Also in a top decision-making position was Arnold Aldrich, Space
styles on group decision
Shuttle Manager at the Johnson Space Center. At the bottom of the ladder were
making?
the scientists and engineers at Morton Thiokol. These individuals did not have
11. How do groups reach direct access to Moore. Any information they wished to convey concerning the
decisions?
launch had to be passed along by executives at Morton Thiokol, who would then
12. What makes a leader communicate with NASA of¬cials at the Marshall Space Flight Center. Some
legitimate in the eyes of people had one set of facts, others had a different set, and sometimes they did
the group members?
not share. The Thiokol scientists and engineers had serious reservations about
13. What factors affect the launching Challenger. In fact, one of the engineers later said that he “knew” that
decision-making ability
the shuttle would explode and felt sick when it happened.
and effectiveness of a
In addition to the communication ¬‚aws, the group involved in making the
group?
decision suffered from other decision-making de¬ciencies, including a sense of
14. What is group
invulnerability (after all, all other shuttle launches went off safely), negative attitudes
polarization?
toward one another (characterizing the scientists and engineers as overly cautious),
15. What is groupthink? and an atmosphere that sti¬‚ed free expression of ideas (Thiokol engineer Alan
McDonald testi¬ed before congressional hearings that he felt pressured to give
the green light to the launch). What went wrong? Here we had a group of highly
intelligent, expert individuals who made a disastrous decision to launch Challenger
in the cold weather that existed at launch time.
In this chapter, we explore the effects of groups on individuals. We ask, What
special characteristics distinguish a group like the Challenger decision-making group
from a simple gathering of individuals? What forces arise within such groups that
change individual behavior? Do groups offer signi¬cant advantages over individuals
operating on their own? For example, would the launch director at NASA have
been better off making a decision by himself rather than assembling and relying on
an advisory group? And what are the group dynamics that can lead to such faulty,
disastrous decisions? These are some of the questions addressed in this chapter.



What Is a Group?
Groups are critical to our everyday existence. We are born into a group, we play in groups,
and we work and learn in groups. We have already learned that we gain much of our
self-identity and self-esteem from our group memberships. But what is a group? Is it
simply a collection of individuals who happen to be at the same place at the same time?
If this were the case, the people standing on a street corner waiting for a bus would be
a group. Your social psychology class has many people in it, some of whom may know
one another. Some people interact, some do not. Is it a group? Well, it is certainly an
aggregate, a gathering of people, but it probably does not feel to you like a group.
Groups have special social and psychological characteristics that set them apart
from collections or aggregates of individuals. Two major features distinguish groups:
In a group, members interact with each other, and group members in¬‚uence each other
through this social interaction. By this de¬nition, the collection of people at the bus
stop would not qualify as a group. Although they may in¬‚uence one another on a basic
group An aggregate of
level (if one person looked up to the sky, others probably would follow suit), they do
two or more individuals who
not truly interact. A true group has two or more individuals who mutually in¬‚uence
interact with and in¬‚uence one
another. one another through social interaction (Forsyth, 1990). That is, the in¬‚uence arises out
Chapter 8 Group Processes 283

of the information (verbal and nonverbal) that members exchange. The Challenger
decision-making group certainly ¬t this de¬nition. The group members interacted during
committee meetings, and they clearly in¬‚uenced one another.
This de¬nition of a group may seem broad and ambiguous, and in fact, it is often
dif¬cult to determine whether an aggregate of individuals quali¬es as a group. To re¬ne
our de¬nition and to get a closer look at groups, we turn now to a closer look at their
characteristics.

Characteristics of Groups
Interaction and mutual in¬‚uence among people in the group are only two of a number
of attributes that characterize a group. What are the others?
First of all, a group typically has a purpose, a reason for existing. Groups serve
many functions, but a general distinction can be made between instrumental groups
and af¬liative groups. Instrumental groups exist to perform some task or reach some
speci¬c goal. The Challenger group was an instrumental group, as are most decision-
making groups. A jury is also an instrumental group. Its sole purpose is to ¬nd the truth
of the claims presented in a courtroom and reach a verdict. Once this goal is reached,
the jury disperses.
Af¬liative groups exist for more general and, often, more social reasons. For
example, you might join a fraternity or a sorority simply because you want to be a part
of that group”to af¬liate with people with whom you would like to be. You may iden-
tify closely with the values and ideals of such a group. You derive pleasure, self-esteem,
and perhaps even prestige by af¬liating with the group.
A second characteristic of a group is that group members share perceptions of how
they are to behave. From these shared perceptions emerge group norms, or expecta- group norms Expectations
concerning the kinds of
tions about what is acceptable behavior. As pointed out in Chapter 7, norms can greatly
behaviors required of group
in¬‚uence individual behavior. For example, the parents of the children on a soccer team
members.
might develop into a group on the sidelines of the playing ¬elds. Over the course of
the season or several seasons, they learn what kinds of comments they can make to
the coach, how much and what kind of interaction is expected among the parents, how
to cheer and support the players, what they can call out during a game, what to wear,
what to bring for snacks, and so on. A parent who argued with a referee or coach or
who used abusive language would quickly be made to realize he or she was not con-
forming to group norms.
Third, within a true group, each member has a particular job or role to play in the
accomplishment of the groupʼs goals. Sometimes, these roles are formally de¬ned; for
example, a chairperson of a committee has speci¬c duties. However, roles may also be
informal (DeLamater, 1974). Even when no one has been of¬cially appointed leader,
for example, one or two people usually emerge to take command or gently guide the
group along. Among the soccer parents, one person might gradually take on additional
responsibilities, such as organizing carpools or distributing information from the coach,
and thus come to take on the role of leader.
Fourth, members of a group have affective (emotional) ties to others in the group.
These ties are in¬‚uenced by how well various members live up to group norms and
how much other group members like them (DeLamater, 1974).
Finally, group members are interdependent. That is, they need each other to meet
the groupʼs needs and goals. For example, a fraternity or a sorority will fall apart if
members do not follow the rules and adhere to the norms so that members can be com-
fortable with each other.
Social Psychology
284


What Holds a Group Together?
group cohesiveness Once a group is formed, what forces hold it together? Group cohesiveness”the strength
The strength of the relationships of the relationships that link the members of the group (Forsyth, 1990)”is essentially
that link members of a group. what keeps people in the group. Cohesiveness is in¬‚uenced by several factors:

1. Group membersʼ mutual attraction. Groups may be cohesive because the
members ¬nd one another attractive or friendly. Whatever causes people to like
one another increases group cohesiveness (Levine & Moreland, 1990).
2. Membersʼ propinquity (physical closeness, as when they live or work near each
other). Sometimes, simply being around people regularly is enough to make
people feel that they belong to a group. The various departments in an insurance
company”marketing, research, sales, and so on”may think of themselves as
groups.
3. Their adherence to group norms. When members live up to group norms without
resistance, the group is more cohesive than when one or two members deviate a
lot or when many members deviate a little.
4. The groupʼs success at moving toward its goals. Groups that succeed at reaching
their goals are obviously more satisfying for their members and, therefore, more
cohesive than those that fail. If groups do not achieve what the members wish for
the group, they cease to exist or at the very least are reorganized.
5. Membersʼ identi¬cation with the group: group loyalty: The success of a group
will often depend on the degree of loyalty its member have to that group. Van
Vugt and Hart (2004) investigated the role of social identity (how strongly the
members identi¬ed with the group) in developing group loyalty, de¬ned as
staying in the group when members can obtain better outcomes by leaving their
group. In one experiment, high (vs. low) group identi¬ers expressed a stronger
desire to stay in the group even in the presence of an attractive (vs. unattractive)
exit option. Other results revealed that high identi¬ersʼ group loyalty is explained
by an extremely positive impression of their group membership even if other
groups might offer more rewards. Social identity seems to act as social glue. It
provides stability in groups that might otherwise collapse.



How and Why Do Groups Form?
We know that humans have existed in groups since before the dawn of history. Clearly,
then, groups have survival value. Groups form because they meet needs that we cannot
satisfy on our own. Letʼs take a closer look at what these needs are.

Meeting Basic Needs
Groups help us meet a variety of needs. In many cases, these needs, whether biologi-
cal, psychological, or social, cannot be separated from one another. There are obvious
advantages to group membership. Psychology is developing an evolutionary perspective,
and evolutionary social psychologists view groups as selecting individual characteris-
tics that make it more probable that an individual can function and survive in groups
(Caporael, 1997; Pinker, 2002). Couched in terms of natural selection, evolution would
favor those who preferred groups to those who preferred to live in isolation.
Chapter 8 Group Processes 285

But groups meet more than biological needs. They also meet psychological needs.
Our ¬rst experiences occur within the context of the family group. Some people believe
that our adult reactions to groups stem from our feelings about our family. That is, we
react toward group leaders with much the same feelings we have toward our fathers or
mothers (Schultz, 1983). Many recruits to religious cults that demand extreme devotion
are searching for a surrogate family (McCauley & Segal, 1987).
Groups also satisfy a variety of social needs, such as social support”the comfort
and advice of others”and protection from loneliness. Groups make it easier for people
to deal with anxiety and stress. Human beings are social beings; we donʼt do very well
when we are isolated. In fact, research shows that social isolation”the absence of
meaningful social contact”is as strongly associated with death as is cigarette smoking
or lack of exercise (Brannon & Feist, 1992).
Groups also satisfy the human need for social comparison. We compare our feel-
ings, opinions, and behaviors with those of other people, particularly when we are
unsure about how to act or think (Festinger, 1954). We compare ourselves to others
who are similar to us to get accurate information about what to do. Those in the groups
with which we af¬liate often suggest to us the books we read, the movies we see, and
the clothes we wear.
Social comparison also helps us obtain comforting information (Taylor & Brown,
1988). Students, for example, may be better able to protect their self-esteem when they
know that others in the class also did poorly on an exam. B students compare them-
selves favorably with C students, and D students compare themselves with those who
failed. We are relieved to ¬nd out that some others did even worse than we did. This
is downward comparison, the process of comparing our standing with that of those less
fortunate.
As noted earlier, groups play a large role in in¬‚uencing individual self-esteem. In
fact, individuals craft their self-concept from all the groups with which they identify
and in which they hold membership, whether the group is a softball team, a sorority,
or a street gang.
Of course, groups are also a practical social invention. Group members can pool
their resources, draw on the experience of others, and solve problems that they may not
be able to solve on their own. Some groups, such as families, form an economic and
social whole that functions as a unit in the larger society.

Roles in Groups

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