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SOCIAL INFLUENCE AND GROUP PROCESSES
Think about your day-to-day life an\ d the various social interactions you have. In the morning, before going to school, you interact with your family members; in school, you discuss topics and issues with your teachers and classmates; and after school you phone up, visit or play with your friends. In each of these instances, you are part of a group which not only provides you the needed support and comfort but also facilitates your growth and development as an individual. Have you ever been away to a place where you were without your family, school, and friends? How did you feel? Did you feel there was something vital missing in your life?
Our lives are influenced by the nature of group membership we have. It is, therefore, important to be part of groups which would influence us positively and help us in becoming good citizens. In this chapter, we shall try to understand what groups are and how they influence our behaviour. At this point, it is also important to acknowledge that not only do others influence us, but we, as individuals, are also capable of changing others and the society. The benefits of cooperation and competition and how they influence our personal and social lives will also be examined. We will also see how identity develops — how we come to know ourselves. Similarly, we would try to understand why sometimes group conflicts arise; examine the perils of group conflict and apprise ourselves of various conflict resolution strategies so that we are able to contribute towards making a harmonious and cohesive society.
NATURE AND FORMATION OF GROUPS
The preceding introduction illustrates the importance of groups in our lives. One question that comes to mind is: “How are groups (e.g., your family, class, and the group with which you play) different from other collections of people?” For example, people who have assembled to watch a cricket match or your school function are at one place, but are not interdependent on each other. They do not have defined roles, status and expectations from each other. In the case of your family, class, and the group with which you play, you will realise that there is mutual interdependence, each member has roles, there are status differentials, and there are expectations from each other. Thus, you family, class and playgroup are examples of groups and are different from other collections of people.
A group may be defined as an organised system of two or more individuals, who are interacting and interdependent, who have common motives, have a set of role relationships among its members, and have norms that regulate the behaviour of its members. Groups have the following salient characteristics :
• A social unit consisting of two or more individuals who perceive themselves as belonging to the group. This characteristic of the group helps in distinguishing one group from the other and gives the group its unique identity.
• A collection of individuals who have common motives and goals. Groups function either working towards a given goal, or away from certain threats facing the group.
• A collection of individuals who are interdependent, i.e. what one is doing may have consequences for others. Suppose one of the fielders in a cricket team drops an important catch during a match — this will have consequence for the entire team.
• Individuals who are trying to satisfy a need through their joint associationalso influence each other.
• A gathering of individuals who interact with one another either directly or indirectly.
1. Compare and contrast formal and informal groups, and ingroups and outgroups.
2. Are you a member of a certain group? Discuss what motivated you to join that group.
3. How does Tuckman’s stage model help you to understand the formation of groups?
4. How do groups influence our behaviour?
5. How can you reduce social loafing in groups? Think of any two incidents of social loafing in school. How did you overcome it?
6. How often do you show conformity in your behaviour? What are the determinants of conformity?
7. Why do people obey even when they know that their behaviour may be harming others? Explain.
8. What are the benefits of cooperation?
9. How is one’s identity formed?
10. What are some of the causes of intergroup conflict? Think of any international conflict. Reflect on the human price of this conflict.
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