8.2 General Psychology: Do you understand the nature of groups? Why do people join groups?

Explain the nature of groups. Why do people join groups

Nature of Groups

Definition: A group can be described as two or more people who interact with and influence each other


The group is held together by the common interests or goals of its members, who recognize some degree of affiliation or connection with each other because of these interests or goals.


Group behaviour refers to group members’ responses to the social structure of the group and to the norms it adopts while collective behaviour refers to actions of people who simply because they are in the same place at the same time, behave in a similar manner.


Why People Join Groups

There are two general types of reasons:

  • A person may join a group in order to reach goals not achievable by working alone – tasks such as preserving national defence
  • Groups may represent ways of satisfying human needs and obtaining social rewards, such as approval, belonging, prestige, praise or friendship



Group Behaviour

The size of a group can affect the type of interactions that occur and the decisions that a group makes.


Group cohesion also plays a role. Group cohesiveness is the degree to which group members like each other, have similar goals, and want to remain in one another’s presence. Cohesiveness usually leads to higher productivity as members who like one another and want to remain together are likely to work harder toward a group goal. Cohesiveness however does not always have positive results because members are especially likely to feel pressure to conform to the group norms. In some situations cohesiveness can have a negative impact as people conform to support a poor decision.


Group problem solving has been found to be superior to individual’s abilities to solve problems. This has led to the popularity of “group brainstorming”. Group performance is superior qualitatively and quantitatively to the average individual’s performance. Interactions in the group may produce new ideas or solutions. The group has the advantage of a wider range of knowledge and the greater probability that someone in the group will have the specific knowledge relevant to the question at hand. However, a group’s performance is often inferior to the performance of the best individual, especially when the group contains many low-ability members and is faced with a complex problem.




In this chapter, we have looked at the determinants of social behaviour. We have also described how other people can influence and individual’s behaviour. In addition, we have given reasons as to why people join groups and discussed group behaviour.


Self Assessment Questions

  1.  Describe the determinants of social behaviour
  2.  Explain how others can influence an individuals’ behaviour
  3.  Give two reasons why people join groups


Further Reading

Brigham, J. C.  (1986). Social Psychology.  USA: Brown and Company.

Hilgard, E. R.  (1977). Introduction to Psychology.  New York: Harcourt, Brace and World

Lamberth, J.  (1996). Foundations of Psychology.  New York: Harper and Row Publishers.

Morris, C.  (1980). Psychology and Introduction.  New Jersey: Prentice Hall.

Myers, D. G.  (1990). Exploring Psychology.  New York: Worth Publishers Inc.

Silverman, R. E.  (1982). Psychology.  Englewood, New Jersey Cliffs: Prentice Hall Inc.1


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