Formation, Coordination, Development, and Adaptation.

Holly Arrow, Joseph E. McGrath, & Jennifer L. Berdahl (2000). Sage Publications. Thousand Oaks CA.

Hardcover $69.95, ISBN 0-8039-7229-6
Paperback $31.95, ISBN 0-8039-7230-X

"The emphasis on change at many levels of organization is critically important as is the first attempt to integrate sophisticated theory and research in organization psychology (e.g., Gersick, Hackman) with social psychological models of development such as Moreland and Levine."

--Reuben M. Baron, Emeritus, University of Connecticut

"The book is excellent, one of those very rare works that will have substantial impact on the field. I would use the book without hesitation in any advanced graduate seminar dealing with groups. Arrow, McGrath, and Berdahl's 'Small Groups as Complex Systems' will change the way you think about groups, the way you think about research, and even the way you think about science."

--Donelson R. Forsyth, Psychology, Virginia Commonwealth U

"Theirs is an ambitious book. …they have profound ramifications for experimental social psychology."

--Yoshihisa Kashima, American Journal of Psychology


In this book we present a new theory of groups that draws on concepts from dynamical systems and complexity theories. We view groups as complex systems that emerge as members, tools, and tasks are coordinated into acting systems. These systems change over time, both at micro and meso levels, in response to experience, feedback, and the changing constraints and opportunities of the group's embedding systems. We integrate ideas from streams of small groups research that have used a variety of metaphors for understanding groups, including, for example, groups as information processors, groups as systems for influencing members, and groups as task performance systems. In contrast to the traditional emphasis in psychology on mechanical cause-effect relations, we emphasize the role of formative and final cause in constraining and directing the unfolding and evolving structures of small groups. In constrast to the traditional conceptions of independent and dependent variables, we emphasize simultaneous shaping across levels of analysis. In our view, local events in the group affect global structures, which in turn constrain the micro-level organization and activity of the group, while external parameters also shape the unfolding dynamics at the group level. The book discusses some research strategies that may help to deal with the key conceptual and methodological issues raised by the use of a complex dynamical systems approach.