Groups are essential to human experience
We spend our lives in groups – family groups, peer groups, work groups.
Evolution has designed our biology and psychology to be social. We are
dependent on groups for protection against a range of dangers. In the
ancestral environment, people needed social co-operation to provide
food, security from marauders and safely bring up children. In modern
society roles are much more dispersed, but few of us would survive
completely on our own. The Psychology of Groups^1
Group membership satisfies many basic psychological needs :
affiliation, power, and expression of inclusion, control, and affection.
Interacting with people is a buffer against stress and loneliness.
Discussion in groups allows us to evaluate the accuracy of our personal
beliefs and attitudes – social comparison^2. We seek additional
information if we feel ambiguous about something, and we bolster our
self-esteem by comparing ourselves with others.
Problem solving can be more effective in groups.
We are drawn to some groups because of the mechanisms of
interpersonal attraction: similarity, complementarity, reciprocity, and
basking in reflected glory. We measure and define ourselves by the
groups we avoid, the ones we belong to, and the ones we aspire to.
Socialisation refers to the lifelong process of inheriting and
disseminating social and cultural norms, customs, and ideologies.
People are socialised into school, work, communities, companies,
organisations. Society rewards this behaviour as it helps to maintain
Groups, large and small, are part of the taken for granted in our lives.
Since they are so prevalent, it’s especially rewarding to have insights
into how they work.
(^1) The Psychology of Groups
(^2) Social Comparison Theory