Summary – Group Communication theories

• A task group is confronted with two types of problems o Task Obstacles – difficulties encounted by the group, such as planning an event or approving a policy o Interpersonal Obstacles – difficulties encountered between people, making ideas clear to others, handling conflict and differences • In any group discussion, members deal simultaneous with both task and interpersonal obstacles

• Assembly effect is when task and interpersonal work is integrated effectively • Group rewards are positive (a successful event is a task reward, the fun involved in planning it the interpersonal reward) or negative (if rewards are negative the group may find it more difficult next time) • Synergy is the effort expended by the group in solving tasks (effective synergy) and dealing withinterpersonal obstacles (intrinsic synergy) Harold Guetzkow [Online]. Available

[pic]GENERAL FUNCTIONAL THEORYRandy Hirokawa (pg. 284)• Tries to identify the kinds of things groups must address to become more effective • (1) Groups begin by identifying and assessing a problem o what happened? why? who was involved?

• (2) Groups then gather and evaluate information about the problem • (3) Next, groups generate alternative proposals and discusses objectives to be accomplished • (4) Objectives and alternatives are evaluated in order to reach consensus (exploration of positive and negative outcomes) • Factors which lead to incorrect decisions

o improper assessment – failing to see the problem or identify its causes o inappropriate goals and objectiveso improper assessment of positive and negative qualities o inadequate information baseo faulty reasoning from the information base• Errors arise from the communication within the group[pic]GROUPTHINK THEORYIrving Janis (pg. 286)• Groupthink is a mode of thinking that people engage in when they are deeply involved in a cohesive in-group, when the members strivings for unanimity override their motivation to realistically appraise alternative courses of action • Groupthink occurs when cohesiveness is high

• Consensus-seeking tendency of close-knit groups can cause them to make inferior decisions • Groups often dont discuss all available options• the solutions are often not examined• groups often fail to seek expert opinion• groups are often highly selective in the way they handle information • Some examples of group think disasterso Bay of pigs invasion of Cuba by the Kennedy administrationo Roosevelt’s complacency before Pearl Harboro Truman’s invasion of North Koreao Johnson’s escalation of the Vietnam waro Watergateo Regan’s Iran-Contra arms dealso Trumans decision to bomb Hiroshima • Eight symptoms of groupthinko illusion of invulnerabilityo belief in inherent morality of the groupo collective rationalizationo out-group sterotypeso self-censorshipo illusion of unanimityo direct pressure on dissenterso self appointed mindguards• Janis recommends the following to counteract groupthink o appointment of critical evaluators for key members o breaking into subgroups that work on the same issues, reporting back and comparing notes o leader periodically leave the group



• Preventing Groupthink (1)

• Preventing Groupthink (2)

• Cartoon:

• Groupthink Summary.

The concurrence-seeking tendency of close-knit groups can cause them to suspend critical thinking and make inferior decisions. Griffin. pg. 478

[pic]INTERACTION PROCESS ANALYSISRobert Bale (pg. 288)• Aims to explain the pattern of responses in a small group • Bale proposes a number of categories for interaction, grouped into four broad sets o Positive and mixed actions – seems friendly, dramatizes, agrees o Attempted Answers – gives suggestions, opinions and information o Questions – asks for information, opinions and suggestions o Negative and mixed actions – disagrees, shows tension, unfriendly

• Note how the first two sets correspond to the last two sets, these pair together, giving information is paired to asking for information • One way for group to release tension is dramatize (tell stories), called fantasy themes, which helps build common identity • There are two classes of communication behavior

o socioemotional – represented by +ve and -ve actions like seeming friendly, showing tension o task behavior – represented by suggestions, opinions, and information • A group has two different kinds of leaders

o task leader – facilitates and coordinates task related comments, focuses energy on getting the task done o socioemotional leader – works to improve group relations • The perception of an individuals position within the group is a function of three dimensions o dominant vs submissive

o friendly vs unfriendlyo instrumental vs emotional[pic]INTERACTION ANALYSIS (Interact Model of Decision Emergence) Aubrey Fisher (pg. 291)• An Interact is the act of one person followed by the act of another

• Interacts are classified according to content (the message) and the relationship dimension (non-verbal manner of the message) • Groups are systems, bound by a definable context with which the members interact • Verbal interaction dictates the final outcome

• All groups go through similar phases or stages before consensus is reached

• Groups share a common life cycle• Theory based on observable behavior not inference or speculation

• Decision emergence is reached by a four stage process o orientation – clarification and agreemento conflict – decline of ambiguity and increase in strong reactions o emergence – unfavourable statements decrease, replaced by ambiguity (just wondering..) co-operation develops o reinforcement – brief, creates group solidarity, virtual disappearance of unfavorable reactions • B. Tuckman (Forming, Storming, Norming, Performing)

• Decision modification – cyclical, several proposals are introduced, discussed and reintroduced at a later time (in a modified form perhaps) Groups proceed through four phases in the process of reaching a consensus: (1) orientation, (2) conflict, (3) emergence, and (4) reinforcement. Griffin pg. 478

[pic]STRUCTURATION THEORYAnthony Giddens (pg. 294)• Human action is a process of producing and reproducing various social systems • Groups act according to rules to achieve goals and create structures that come back to affect future actions • Examples of structures

o relational expectations, group roles and normso communication networks• Structures have three dimensionso interpretation or understanding (how we should understand) o sense of morality or proper conduct (what should be done) o sense of power in action (how to do it)• Our actions reinforce these structures• Structures can mediate each other – the production of one structure is accomplished by creating another • Structures can contradict each other – the production of a structure requires another structure to be produced which undermines the first

[pic]STRUCTURATION THEORY OF GROUP DECISION MAKING (Contingency Theory) Scott Poole (pg. 295)• Group decision making is a process where members seek convergence (agreement) on a final decision • Use of Giddens three elements of action are used to achieve convergence o Interpretation – made possible through language

o Morality – established via group normso Power – achieved through interpersonal power structures which emerged in the group • Outside factors influence group actions (such as task type – what the group has been given to do) • In time, a group definition of each person and the whole group emerges (microstructuration) – a process which continually repeats • Groups can follow a wide variety of paths coming to a decision, based on contingencies

• How a group operates depends upon three sets of variables o objective task characteristics – kind of problem, how well defined, impacts o group task characteristics – previous group experience, urgency of decision o group structural characteristics – cohesiveness, group size, power distribution • Three general decision paths are taken

o standard unitary sequenceo complex cyclic sequenceo solution-orientated• Decision paths consist of three interwoven activity tracks o task-process track – dealing with the task, e.g. problem analysis, designing solutions o relational track – dealing with interpersonal relationships, e.g. disagreeing, compromises o topic-focus track – a series of issues or concerns the group have over time • Groups process down the tracks, switching between them, and breakpoints (transitions) occur • Breakpoints signal key points in the development of the groups decision making process • The types of breakpoints are

o Normal – adjournment, topic shiftso Delays – unexpected problems, rediscussiono Disruptions – major disagreement and group failures • (1994). A first look at communication theory. (2nd Ed.). McGraw Hill.