GROUP DEFINITIONS (Lecture 1, week 1)
Hare, Blumberg, Davies, Kent (1995)
The distinctive characteristics of a group ... are
(a) group members have a set of shared values that
help them to maintain an overall pattern of
(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
(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.