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 with interpersonal obstacles (intrinsic synergy) Harold Guetzkow [Online]. Available

[pic]GENERAL FUNCTIONAL THEORY Randy 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 objectives o improper assessment of positive and negative qualities o inadequate information base o faulty reasoning from the information base • Errors arise from the communication within the group [pic]GROUPTHINK THEORY Irving 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 disasters o Bay of pigs invasion of Cuba by the Kennedy administration o Roosevelt's complacency before Pearl Harbor o Truman's invasion of North Korea o Johnson's escalation of the Vietnam war o Watergate o Regan's Iran-Contra arms deals o Trumans decision to bomb Hiroshima

• Eight symptoms of groupthink o illusion of invulnerability o belief in inherent morality of the group o collective rationalization o out-group sterotypes o self-censorship o illusion of unanimity o direct pressure on dissenters o 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 ANALYSIS Robert 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 unfriendly o 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 agreement o 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 THEORY Anthony 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 norms o communication networks • Structures have three dimensions o 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 norms o 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 sequence o complex cyclic sequence o 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 shifts o Delays - unexpected problems, rediscussion o Disruptions - major disagreement and group failures • [pic] Griffin. (1994). A first look at communication theory. (2nd Ed.). McGraw Hill.