Understanding Groups

Man is a social animal. The early origin and development of social life among homo sapiens was within-the context of collectives where the sustained human group was a social invention of critical evolutionary importance.

The human group originated presumably through mutual interaction among factors such as partial care, the growth of larger brain, development of language, extended childhood, exchange behavior, and play. Once the sustainable group emerged, it became a valuable social form. First, it became a means to accomplish tasks and reach goals that were simply impossible for the individual alone, including the care of the young after the death of the mother, hunting large animals, the spanning of wide charms, building complex structures, conducting communal ceremonies, defending effectively against attack and so on. Second, groups became a source not only of physical sustenance but also of warmth and affection, of tenderness and support, and of a sense of identity and collective security.

Third, the group became both a creator and a transmitter of culture, language and technical know-how beliefs and art forms, games and ceremonies, and in general a set of meanings for interpreting existence including life in the group itself. Fourth, human groups each bound together by. mutual trust, became building blocks to be joined together to form larger social units, ranging from small outfit or band, to the clan, the tribe, the city, the society and eventually to the highly complex political and economic organizations which now span the globe. Quite naturally in the face of the new possibilities of, and demands on, these suprastructure, the forms and sustenance of the original groups gave way to radically new forms that have led to today's wide variety of primary and secondary groups.

Before proceeding further, let us understand what is meant by primary and secondary groups. According to Dunphy the primary group..is "a group which persists long enough to develop strong emotional attachment between members, at least a set of rudimentary, functionality differentiated roles, and a sub-culture of its own which includes an image of the group as an entity and informal normative system which controls group-relevant action as members".

To understand the distinctive processes of primary groups, we need to look not only within these groups but outside them. Consequently one may identify the roles these primary groups play in life. Whether life in such groups is easy going and pleasant or turbulent and disturbing, members tend to be attached one another, to be significant" to one another, as it would be indicated by sense of personal loss. When a member is separated from the group like in a family such primary groups are at one end of a scale. At the other, impersonal end of the scale

Group Dynamics

indicated by sense of personal loss. When a member is separated from the group like in a family such primary groups are at one end of a scale. At the other, impersonal end of the scale are secondary groups whose values is largely extrinsic. They are organized chiefly to get a job done, to produce object or services that have exchanged value, usually for outsiders. Performance according to standard Of effectiveness or excellence taken precedence over personal feelings and attachments. Often members are considered replaceable in the service of high quality group performance, as in surgical team. Beyond their variation in "primaryness" the billions of groups that exist vary in other respects including size, duration or existence, reward to members, usefulness to the community, and the degree to which their structure and activities are governed by custom or law.

WHY STUDY GROUPS?

Groups may be numerous and various, but why study them?. One reason is curiosity about the human condition. The billions of groups that exist are settings in which the men, women and children of the world pursue their daily activities of work and play. Whatever form they take, one can assume that their structure and internal dynamics make difference not only to the lives of their members but also to the character and history of the communities of which they are a part. As we all know, the new born infant cannot become human without "a mothering group" and reciprocally groups can neither maintain themselves nor accomplish collective goals without having gained commitment from individuals. This interdependence between group and individual is elemental, both in origin and development of group life among humans and individual lives - elemental enough to raise further questions, such as, how do these groups tend to shape personalities?

What part do they play throughout the life cycle of individuals? What do groups give to and require from individuals? What is actually require from individuals to live, work and play together? What are the dynamics of these small centers of human existence? On another level, how do networks of such groups contribute to the life of communities? What groups influence the course of history and in what ways'? How do these relations among persons and the group, among groups and the community - differ from one region to another, or from one culture to another?

Are there general laws that tend to govern such relations? One can see that the interest in human conditions can lead quite naturally to question about human groups whether one is a historian, psychologist, anthropologist, sociologist or scholar in related fields. One of the most important reasons for' studying groups, apart from its role in helping individuals in reaching difficult goals, is to better understand the psychology of the individuals. Cooley wrote, "human nature is developed and expressed in those simple face-to-face groups that some how are alike in all societies, groups of the family, the play ground and the neighbourhood, ... in these every where human nature comes into existence". The humanizing processes that occur between the new born and the" family are often so intricately interwoven that the boundaries between person and group are not clear.

Consequently those who are trying to advance our knowledge about personality development are finding it enormously helpful, if not essential, to comprehend the interpersonal dynamics in the formative groups. Another reason to study the groups is to better understand larger social units, such as organization, institutions, communities and societies. Ordinarily, these larger units are composed of overlapping smaller groups, connected through various types of obligations and responsibilities.

Because of the interdependencies in a given network, groups small in themselves may nonetheless have may have important even critical effects on the rest of the system. We are familiar with the general tendencies of decision making to migrate to the top of power network where often a small group of executives and advisors makes the final decisions. In so far as the internal relations (loyalties, jealousies, coalitions) of the small group a fact its decision, then its dynamics have an impact on the larger system both at the top and at the grass root level, the dynamics of small units can be a major source of variance in determining changes in the larger system. The more important they are at a source of variance, the more essential it becomes for those who want to understand change in the larger systems to study dynamics of the smaller groups. For example, if the top executives are not well coordinated interpersonally, the entire organization will suffer as most of the important decision will either be shelved due to internal bickering or will be watered down in the name of collective compromise.

Understanding Groups

THE DESCRIPTION AND NATURE OF GROUPS (Gahagan, 1975,

`a group should be conceived of as a system whose parts interrelate.' Much has been written about groups, especially over the last thirty years when all the pervading nature of `group' influence on human behavior has been increasingly recognized. The number of words in the English language that have arisen to number of describe form of collectivity, both in animals and men, is legion This is a fair indication of the need to distinguish these groupings and is also a clear mark of the acceptance of their universal nature. The very general nature of human groupings poses a problem for those who wish to examine group phenomena in more detail. Manifestly ubiquitous group pressures producing some form of conformity, and therefore acceptable behavior, are as little thought about as breathing. In turn this tends to relegate such group pressures to a level below conscious awareness unless, circumstances change and unfamiliarity break the habitual patterns.

This process allows individuals to assume that they make decisions about the trivia of everyday life in ways that are both personal to them and not subject to outside influence whereas the opposite is more nearly the reality. Whatever choices the individual makes, these are already circumscribed by group influences; the less awareness there is of these influences, the more circumscribed the choice and the greater the lack of awareness. In a very real sense, then, attempting to describe what actually happens when people are gathered together is an effort to delineate more aspects of human interaction, because even actions that are essentially private can, with little effort, be shown to be influenced by group behavior and, in particular, to be the expected responses of others. It is not too difficult to present an argument for the `learned' nature of most of human behavior, nor to argue that it was learned because it produced relatively satisfactory results somewhere in our past experience. In other words, it was behavior that found acceptance by those who were perceived as important, to us in some way and that thereby brought some degree of satisfaction to us as producers of such behavior.

Nothing seems more important in the understanding of group influence than the enormous effort that all human beings seem to make to offset any perception they may have of their essentially isolated state. However such human beings involve themselves with others, each is still basically a self-contained unit with no direct, unimpeded link with any other human being (unless he or she is one of a set of Siamese twins). An individual cannot communicate thoughts and feelings without translating them into some form of arbitrary and systematic code, nor can the feelings and thoughts of another be appreciated without the same translation process taking place at both transmitting and receiving ends.

Furthermore, it would seem that not only is the human being isolated, in this way but in other ways also. For example, there is the problem of identity, and the constant need for stimulation from other similar beings. Both these factors seem essential to. the maintenance of a mentally healthy individual. Our perception of the kind of people we are rests largely on our recognizing the responses we evoke in others. We cannot evoke such responses if our behavior is so unacceptable that we are excluded from the company of others. Similarly, unless we receive sufficient response from others, we cannot be socially competent individuals. While there are other factors involved, we ate concerned here, to make explicit only the functions of group influence in everyday life. The reasons for so doing are simple enough and reside in the concept of a human being as a thinking animal. By `thinking' I mean a process of conscious `assessment of the factors involved in any situation and also an assessment of the