GROUP DEFINITIONS (Lecture 1, week 1)

Hare, Blumberg, Davies, Kent (1995)

The distinctive characteristics of a group ... are that:

(a) group members have a set of shared values that help them to maintain an overall pattern of activity;

(b) they acquire or develop resources and skills to be used for their activity;

(c) they conform to a set of norms that define roles to be played in the activity and have a sufficient level of morale to provide "cohesiveness"; and

(d) they have a specific goal or set of goals that they wish to achieve and the leadership necessary to coordinate their resources and roles in the interest of the goal or goals.

Holly's note: This definition includes some elements that are clearly prescriptive: Some small groups have poor morale and low cohesiveness and do not have the leadership they need. Point (c) refers to the structure of the group.

Arrow, McGrath & Berdahl (in press):

A group is a complex, adaptive,


functionally coordinated and bounded set of

patterned relations among

members, tasks, and tools.

Holly's note: In this definition, the "patterned relations among members, tasks, and tools" is how we conceptualize group structure. Tools includes the resources and skills referred to as point (b) in the Hare et al. definition; tasks make up the activity referred to in Hare et al.'s points (a) & (b)


The following criteria [from Arrow et al.] can be used to determine how "groupy" a given system of relations is:

(1) the people in the system consider themselves to be members of the group;

(2) the people recognize one another as members (and can distinguish members from non-members);

(3) members feel connected to the other members and to the projects of the group;

(4) members coordinate their behavior in the service of collective projects;

(5) members coordinate their use of a shared set of tools, knowledge, and other resources; and

(6) members share collective outcomes (both rewards and costs) based on their interdependent activity in the group.

Holly's note: We discussed several issues concerning the "boundaries" of these definitions-- are dyads groups, for example?

The size boundaries for small groups are 2-3 at the low end (theorists differ on whether dyads are groups) and somewhere between 10-25 at the high end, depending on the group.

Low end: Some working dyads are considered "teams" --the pilot and co-pilot, for example. Romantic couples and pairs of friends, however, are not generally thought of as small groups. They are studied under interpersonal relations instead of group processes.

High end: Small groups start shading into "medium" or "large" groups when they stop exhibiting small group dynamics. Signs of this:

1. They break down into smaller subgroups, and people mainly interact with others in those subsets. Example: In the Gospel Ensemble, I interact with other altos (a group of about 12) but not with everyone in the whole group (about 40).

2. The relationships is one-to-many instead of all-to-all. Example: a classroom situation in which all the students have a relationship with the teacher, but not with most other students.