Social Groups & Group Behaviour

* Social Groups &
Group Behaviour
*Characteristics of a Social Group
Social Scientists define a social group as a group
of two or more people who have four
*They interact regularly and influence each
*They believe they have something in common
(a shared identity).
*They have an informal or formal social
structure with leaders and followers.
*They have a group consensus on certain
values, behaviours, and goals.
*Characteristics of a Social Group
*Social groups can have an informal (eg., friends) or
formal (eg., political affiliations) structure
*Several people gathered together at the same time
(eg. Class, bus stop…) do not form a social group. This
collection of people is called an aggregate.
*3 Viewpoints on Social Groups
*Anthropological View
*Primates work in groups to
protect and find scarce food
*Humans -
traced back to
hunter-gather societies
*As humans progressed,
groups extended to include
various classes based on
*Modern society - extended
further – b/c technology
*3 Viewpoints on Social Groups
*Sociological View
*Focus on types of groups
today and how they affect
*2 groups:
*Primary – small group with
personal relationship (eg.,
family, peers)
*Secondary – impersonal,
formal, temporary. Judged for
what member can do more
than who they are (eg., sport
*Sociological Aspects of a Social
*Social groups have a powerful impact on our
thinking and behaviour
*Within a social group there are:
*Roles – beh. that individuals w/in a group are
expected to perform
*Norms – guidelines for our beh. for our various roles
*Sanctions – how the group rewards or punishes
members in order to control their behaviour (eg.,
paycheque, grades)
*On the Sidewalk Bleeding
*Show Video
*On the Sidewalk Bleeding
*What social groups existed in the story?
*What role does Andy play in his social group?
*What attitudes and behaviours did Andy’s as well as the other
group present?
*What sanctions are placed on these groups that guide their
*What were the attitudes of the passers by towards Andy’s social
*Why does Andy take off his jacket?
*Why would Andy, or anyone else, want to join a social group such
as a gang?
*3 Viewpoints on Social Groups
*Psychological View
*Focus on how an individual’s
thoughts, feelings and actions
are affected by groups
*Examine willingness to conform
Is conformity the same as obedience? No!
1. Conformity occurs in the absence of a direct,
observable command.
2. 2. Conformity is likely to be denied rather than
used as an excuse for behaviour.
3. Conformity requires no authority figure.
*Psychological Factors Affecting
*Four common factors that influence conformity:
*Group Attractiveness – more attractive = more to
conform. Less status w/in group = more likely to follow
*Group Unanimity – likely to conform when total
agreement exists
*Public vs. Private Response -
people are more likely to
conform than express unique opinions
*Nature of the Task – vague questions/tasks are easy to
conform to – less likely to conform if a task/question is
specific and factual
*Psychological Groupthink
*Groupthink occurs when group members have
such a strong desire to reach a consensus or
agreement that the group loses its ability to
critically examine alternatives
*Group members become so focused on the
consensus answer, they no longer think of possible
alternatives and defend the position they have
taken when criticised by outsiders
Eight symptoms of groupthink:
Illusion of invulnerability – promotes risk taking
Collective rationalization – don’t listen to warnings
Belief in inherent morality – ignore ethical consequences because of
perceived righteousness
Stereotyped views of out-groups – stereotyping enemy as bad
Direct pressure on dissenters – pressure to NOT question
Self-censorship – do not express doubt
Illusion of unanimity – judgments are assumed to be unanimous.
Self-appointed ‘mindguards’ – Members protect the group

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