Group Dynamics: The Lectures (Part Two)

Powerpoint slides for each topic can be downloaded by clicking the title of the chapter. Eventually, short narrated presentations will be added.

8  Power

People influence other people: this assumption is the cornerstone of group dynamics. But in some cases this influence can be extraordinarily strong. Rather than subtly influencing members’ opinions and choices, powerful people and groups can change members in dramatic ways. We will use the concept of power to explore obedience to authority, bases of power, and the metamorphic effects of power.

9  Leadership

What is leadership? Is it power over other people? Is it a special talent that the lucky possess and that the unlucky can never hope to gain? Why do some become leaders, and others followers? And can we distill leadership down to a set of maxims? This lecture examines these questions by defining leadership, by examining the process of leadership emergence, and by reviewing theories of leadership effectiveness.

10  Performance

People often answer the question “How can we get the job done?” with “Let’s form a group.” Here we examine the productivity of task-focused groups by reviewing four classic “social” literatures on the subject: social facilitation, social loafing (the Ringelmann effect), social combination (Steiner’s task theory), and social creativity (brainstorming).

11 Decision Making

When obstacles prevent people from achieving their goals, they engage in problem-solving to identify solutions. In many cases they perform these cognitive activities as isolated individuals, but when the information to be processed is considerable or the potential consequences monumental, they do this cognitive work in groups. Here we examine the processes that facilitate and undermine collective decision making, including groupthink.

12  Teams

An understanding of teams requires an understanding of groups, in general: How they form, their basic structures, their development over time, and the social influence processes that shape members’ behaviors. Teams do, however, possess some unique characteristics, given the high degree of coordination among members and their focus on goals. This chapter examines those characteristics, using the traditional input-process-output system model as a guide.

13   Conflict

Group members do not always get along well with one another. Even in the most serene group one member may irritate another; with little warning the group’s atmosphere may transform from one of tranquility to one of hostility. Here we examine conflict by considering inputs (roots of conflict), processes (conflict escalation), and outputs (ways of managing conflict).

14  Intergroup Relations

Hate, as Gordon Allport explained in The Nature of Prejudice, is usually a group-level emotion. People rarely hate specific people, yet they often hate entire groups. This lecture considers the factors that set the stage for conflict between groups, changes that conflict bring to groups, and ways to resolve conflicts.

15  Groups in Context

Groups exist in any number of distinct physical locations: from classrooms, museums, factories and boardrooms to coal mines, battlefields, and even space capsules. The physical qualities of these places—temperature, type of lighting, furniture arrangements, noise—substantially influence group dynamics, but so do the social features of the setting. This lecture reviews these processes, focusing on four contexts: environmental settings, behavior settings, interpersonal settings (small-group ecology), and territorial settings.

16  Groups and Change

The use of groups as agents of change dates back many years, but it was Lewin who stated the basic “law” of group therapy in its most simple form: “It is usually easier to change individuals formed into a group than to change any one of them separately” (1951, p. 228). This lecture reviews these applications, with a focus on therapeutic and support groups.

17  Crowds and Collectives

The science of group dynamics is based on one core assumption: People act collectively. Much of this collective action occurs in relatively small groups, but people sometimes join much larger collectives, including crowds, mobs, audiences, fads, crazes, demonstrations, strikes, and social movements. This lecture examines these larger groups, but first describes such groups before reviewing classic and contemporary accounts of their dynamics.

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