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group dynamics

Sarah Ronson and Randall S. Peterson


Group dynamics is the study of the nature and development of small groups. Small groups are collectives of individuals who are contained by some boundary that enables them to identify themselves as a member of the group, who interact with and influence one another, and who jointly interact with and influence their environment. The term “group dynamics” was originated and popularized by Kurt Lewin, and his work, along with several other key projects in the 1930s, set the stage for development of the field (see Cartwright and Zander, 1953 ). In 1936 Sherif demonstrated in a laboratory setting that individuals use others as a reference point in making judgments where no objective information exists, and that the group norms that develop for this purpose influence the individual's behavior both in and outside of the group. From 1935–9 Newcomb similarly demonstrated in a naturalistic setting that membership at a liberal university impacted conservative students' political attitudes. Whyte, in 1939, used an ethnographic study to show the importance of social groups in members' lives in the slums of Boston. Finally, Lewin, Lippit, and White, from 1937–40, studied differences between groups of boys under the influence of democratic, autocratic, and laissez‐faire leadership styles. The study of group dynamics since this time has been dominated by an input–process–output model, which holds ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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