Groupwork resource

For centuries, sages and scholars have been fascinated by groups–by the way they form, change over time, dissipate unexpectedly, achieve great goals, and sometimes commit great wrongs. The tendency to join with others in groups is perhaps the most important single characteristic of humans, and these groups leave an indelible imprint on their members and on society.

To understand people, we must understand their groups, and the best way to do this is be self-conscious within groups about how they work and achieve goals, how they reach consensus, and how they learn.


This page provides links to some of the products of those studies. If you know which topic interests you, then find it in the index box below and click the link. You can also scroll down the page, to browse the topics. Special resources, such as links to online books pertaining to groups and resources for teaching, are located at the end of this page.

Groups: An Introduction Research Methods Individuals and Groups Formation
Cohesion, Development, & Teams Structure Influence Power
Productivity Decision-making Leadership Conflict
Intergroup Conflict Groups in Context Groups and Change Crowds and Collective Behavior
Online Resources Teaching Resources Group Groups (Labs, Professional Associations, Centers, etc.) References to

Groups: An Introduction and Overview

People easily form clubs, fraternal societies, and the like,
based on congeniality, which may give rise to real intimacy….Where there
is a little common interest and activity, kindness grows like weeds by the roadside.
–Charles Horton Cooley, 1909, p. 26

Research Methods in Groups

When the test of the truth of a relationship lies finally in the data
themselves, and the data are not wholly manufactured–
when nature, however stretched out on the rack,
still has a chance to say ‘No!’–then the subject is a science
George Caspar Homans, 1967, p. 4

The Individual and the Group

The conditions of a solitary bird are five:
The first, that it flies to the highest point;
The second, that it does not suffer for company, not even of its own kind;
The third, that it aims its beak to the skies;
The fourth, that it does not have a definite color;
The fifth, that it sings very softly.
San Juan de la Cruz in his “Sayings of Light and Love”
and quoted in “Journey to Ixtlan” by Carlos Castaneda

  • Chapter Case Study – Individualism and Commitment in American Life by Robert N. Bellah offers a brief summary of the book Habits of the Heart, which explores individualism and collectivism in America ( See, also, Individualism and the Crisis of Civic MembershipC. P. Ellis: 
  • Patriotism and group pride can be noted by examining pages groups maintain on the web. These pages often show evidence of such social identity processes as ingroup bias, outgroup bias, and collectivism. Examples of such pages are US Patriotism and Build or Buy‘s patriotism page
  • Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer is the web page developed by Warren St. John, where he provides supporting material, including a delightful blog, pertaining to his continuing study of fanship, particularly the devoted group of fans who root for the University of Alabama football team


We are often told that the dullness of the country drives the people to the towns.
But that statement inverts the truth. It is the crowd in the towns,
the vast human herd, that exerts a baneful attraction on those outside it.

William McDougall’s An Introduction to Social Psychology, 1908

  • Chapter Case – The Impressionists: The Web Museum, of Paris provides an overview of the artists who joined the impressionists art circle in the 1800s.
  • provides a good overview of the famous FIRO-B inventory.
  • The President’s Challenge describes ways to create groups and maintain them. It focuses on building physical fitness, but its ideas are relevant to a variety of groups
  • Joining groups: various groups offer information about their groups as an encourage to solicit new members, and their methods are often fine examples of applied group processes. Examples include:
  • This American Life, from WBEZ in Chicago, offers a number of online programs that are relevant to groups. For example, recently a group of improv performers attended a rock show and pretended to be enthusiastic, die-hard fans. Others episodes include:
    • Episode 61 deals with fiascos, many of which are perpetrated by groups (from 1998).
    • Episode 74 examines how individuals act at conventions, when they join with hundreds or thousands of other people who are similar in terms of their avocations or employment.
    • Episode 109 deals with the motivation and excitement of joining with others at summer camp (1998 and 2003)
    • Eposide 158 examines how people act when they are emersed in a large crowd (2000). Their archives can be accessed at

Cohesion and Development

Intimate attachments to other human beings are the hub around which a person’s
life revolves, not only when he is an infant or a toddler or a schoolchild but throughout
his adolescence and his years of maturity as well, and on into old age. From these intimate
attachments a person draws his strength and enjoyment of life and, through
what he contributes, he gives strength and enjoyment to others.”
John Bowlby (1980)


The heavens themselves, the planets, and this centre,
Observe degree, priority, and place,
Insisture, course, proportion, season, form,
Office, and custom, in all line of order;
Shakespeare, Troilus and Cressida

  • Chapter Case Study – The Group Stranded in the Andes El Milagro De Los Andes is devoted to the post-rescue lives of the rugby team that struggled to survive in the Andes and is described in the book Alive. This site is in Spanish, but you can translate it using Altavista’s Babelfish.
  • National Social Norms Resource Center describes a method of dealing with negative, unhealthy behaviors (such as drinking excessive amounts of alcohol) by helping people calibrate their perceptions of the norms pertaining to these behaviors.
  • Roles in Teams, developed by Dr Meredith Belbin describes three categories of roles that exist in performing groups: action roles, people roles, and cerebral roles.


We are discreet sheep; we wait to see how
the drove is going, and then go with the drove.

Mark Twain

  • Chapter Case Study – Twelve Angry Men is reviewed online, and the IMBD site provides link to other sources of information about this film. 
  • The Solomon Asch Center provides detailed information about a variety of Asch’s studies.
  • Changing Minds provides links and information on a number of ways that individuals influence other individuals. Its theory page includes links to social impact theory, conformity theory, and other relevant conceptual models.
  • Mindchangers provides online access to a British Broadcasting Company’s radio show dealing with Asch’s seminal studies, with commentary by a number of prominent researchers.
  • Jury Decision Making, developed by the National Center for State Courts provides links to a number of key issues pertaining to juries as groups, including size, unanimity requirements, and tendencies to hang
  • Serial Killer/Most Notorious, part of Court TV’s Crime Library, provides detailed images, accounts, and details about the crimes attributed to Juan Corona, as well as his two trials


The danger is not that a particular class is unfit to to govern. Every class is unfit to govern…
Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
Lord Acton (1834-1902)

  • Chapter Case Study – The Peoples Temple: Jonestown Massacre, based on an investigation conducted by Cable News Network (CNN ), provides a substantial amount of background information on the group lead by Jim Jones that suicided en masse.
  • National Public Radio’s broadcast of the story “Father Cares” is based on actual tape recordings made at Jonestown and recovered by the FBI after the suicides. Airing in 1981, the documentary was written by James Reston, Jr and Noah Adams, and produced by Deborah Amos; see . Other pages pertaining to cults include Cult Controversy by the Washington Post
  • Obedience in Retrospect,by Alan Elms, provides a first-hand account of the Milgram experiments and considers a number of issues that related to that work
  • Milgram Replicated, by ABC news, reports a recent replication by Professor Jerry Burger of the Milgram study.
  • UnderstandingPower, by Maire Dugan, provides a basic overview of power dynamics
  • The Religious Movements Page, by Jeffrey K. Hadden at the University of Virginia, provides a great deal of information about religious movements and the power to influence (“brainwash”) their members (this page is not always available)
  • The Prison Experiment, developed by Phillip Zimbardo, offers a detailed slide show examining the methods and results of this analysis of the power of social roles
  • Abu Ghraib, the prison in Iraq where American soldiers humiliated and tortured prisoners, illustrates a variety of obedience processes. See


The many, no one of whom taken singly is a good man, may yet taken
all together be better than the few, not individually but collectively, in the same way that a
feast to which all contribute is better than one given at one man’s expense

  • Chapter Case Study – Saturday Night Live cast, by Geoffrey Hammil, at the website for the Museum of Broadcast Communication, provides basic background on the early history of the program and its cast.
  • The Dynamogenic Factors In Pacemaking And Competition, Norman Triplett’s original paper on what would eventually be known as social facilitation
  • Organizing Genius: The Secrets Of Creative Collaboration, By Warren Bennis And Patricia Ward Biederman, Chapter 1
  • Groups versus Individuals: Which Are Better? by Charles Pavitt, is a chapter from his online book Small Group Communication
  • The Hawthorne Works, by Austin Weber, provides a brief overview of the studies of work performance conducted at the Western Electric factories. The women’s relay room was only one of several groups studied in this series, and the full studies are described in more detail at this site.
  • Brainstorming provides a range of ideas and suggestions for making use of active group methods for generating creative solutions to problems.
  • Inside the Kaisha: Demystifying Japanese Business Behavior: Chapter 1, by Noboru Yoshimura and Philip Anderson, describes the use of groups in corporate Japan

Decision Making

Wise men plead cases, but fools decide them.

  • Chapter Case Study – President John F. Kennedy’s Advisors: The Bay of Pigs, a dictionary entry at provides an detailed analysis of the events leading up to the invasion.
  • Group Works: Thinking Together is a comprehensive set of suggestions and ideas posted at the University of Maine.
  • The Use and Misuse of Focus Groups, by Jakob Nielsen, describes the use of focus groups for gathering information and making decisions
  • Seven Sins of Deadly Meetings, by Eric Matson, offers some sound ideas for improving meetings
  • Improvising and Muddling Through, by Victor H. Vroom is a personal review of the career spent studying organizational behavior and leadership.
  • The Law of Group Polarization, by Cass Sunstein, is a wide-ranging application of the concept of polarization to a variety of legal and political decisions
  • Groupthink is examined in a useful article at SourceWatch, a project of the Center for Media & Democracy


The leaders who work most effectively, it seems to me, never say “I.”
And that’s not because they have trained themselves not to say “I.”
They don’t think “I.” They think “we”; they think “team.”
They understand their job to be to make the team function.
They accept responsibility and don’t sidestep it, but “we” gets the credit.
This is what creates trust, what enables you to get the task done.
Peter Drucker


While you are alone you are entirely your own master and
if you have one companion you are but half your own and the less
so in proportion to the indiscretion of his behavior.

Leonardo da Vinci, c. 1500

  • Chapter Case Study – Jobs vs. Sculley: . One of the most famous corporate conflicts unfolded at the Apple Corp. between the founder Steve Jobs and new CEO John Sculley. Sculley eventually “won” the day, and Jobs was forced to leave the company he founded. Consider these interesting sites:
  • The Prisoner’s Dilemma Game can be played at various locations on the web
  • Principled Negotiation is based on Fisher & Ury’s approach to dealing with conflicts
  • The Negotiation Resource Center is a commercial website that offers a variety of information about how to deal constructively with differences of opinion in the workplace (site by Eric C. Gould)

Intergroup Relations

The French will only be united under the threat of danger.
Nobody can simply bring together a country that has 265 kinds of cheese.

Charles de Gaulle, 1951

  • Chapter Case Study – The Robbers Cave Experiment: Intergroup Conflict and Cooperation: The Robbers Cave Experiment by Muzafer Sherif, O. J. Harvey, B. Jack White, William R. Hood, Carolyn W. Sherif (1954/1961)
  • Intergroup conflict in prisons. The State of California, in an effort to reduce intergroup conflict in its prisons, prefers to segregate prisoners by race. The U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling on the California Department of Corrections’ practice, questioning whether or not the state’s “asserted rationale for this practice is that it is necessary to prevent violence caused by racial gangs” is valid.
  • Beyond Intractability provides a wealth of information about a variety of topics related to conflict between groups and in society, including prejudice, discrimination, and conflict resolution. See, too, the Dealing Constructively with Intractable Conflicts (DCIC)
  • The Jigsaw Classroom provides a history of this conflict reduction method, as well as suggestions for its implementation.

Groups in Context

The community stagnates without the impulse of the individual.
The impulse dies away without the sympathy of the community.
Williams James, Harvard University

Groups and Change

It is usually easier to change individuals formed into a group
than to change any one of them separately
Kurt Lewin

Crowds and Collective Behavior

The mob has no judgment, no discretion,
no direction, no discrimination, no consistency

Online Resources

Online Books about Groups

Online Readings

Lectures (powerpoint files)
An Introduction to Group Dynamics

The tendency to join with others in groups is perhaps the single most important characteristic of humans, and the processes that unfold within these groups leave an indelible imprint on their members and on society. Group dynamics are the influential processes that take place in groups as well as the discipline devoted to the scientific analysis of those dynamics.

Studying Groups

How do researchers test their theories and hypotheses about groups and their dynamics?  This lecture divides the scientific enterprise into three components:  a) measuring group and individual-level processes; b) testing hypotheses in case studies, experimental, and nonexperimental designs; and c) developing theories that explain group processes.

Inclusion and Identity.Philosophers and social scientists have long pondered “the master problem” of social life:  What is the connection between the individual and society, including groups, organizations, and communities? This chapter suggests humans have a strong need to be part of social groups, and that their identities are grounded in their individual qualities and in their group memberships



Groups spring from many sources and serve many purposes, but this lecture examines three sets of factors that can create a group where none existed before: the personal qualities of the people who are seeking membership, the nature of the situation that prompts people to affiliate with one another, and the feelings of liking that draw members to each other.

Cohesion and Development


Groups, like all living things, develop over time.  The group may begin as a collection of strangers, but uncertainty gives way to cohesion as members become bound to their group by strong social forces.  Cohesion, though, is not just a sense of group unity, but a multifaceted process that influences a wide range of interpersonal and group processes.   This chapter reviews both the causes and consequences of group cohesion and the development of cohesion over time. 


      Personality cannot be seen, but it nonetheless shapes individual’s actions and reactions. Similarly, group processes are shaped by unobservable, but influential group structures. Just as the structure of personality can be described in a variety of ways, so have different theorists stressed diverse structural qualities in their analyses of groups. This lecture emphasizes norms, roles, and intermember relations (status, attraction, and communication).


      An interpersonal undercurrent flows beneath the surface of most groups that pushes group members together, toward greater consensus, uniformity, homogeneity, or conformity. But other forces push members in divergent directions; they promote dissension, uniqueness, heterogeneity, and independence. Here we examine both processes—conformity and nonconformity—and uses these concepts to explore how people act when they are members of juries.


      People influence other people: this assumption is the cornerstone of group dynamics. But in some cases this influence can be extraordinarily strong. Rather than subtly influencing members’ opinions and choices, powerful people and groups can change members in dramatic ways. We will use the concept of power to explore obedience to authority, bases of power, and the metamorphic effects of power.


Leadership .

What is leadership? Is it power over other people? Is it a special talent that the lucky possess and that the unlucky can never hope to gain? Why do some become leaders, and others followers? And can we distill leadership down to a set of maxims? This lecture examines these questions by defining leadership, by examining the process of leadership emergence, and by reviewing theories of leadership effectiveness.


      People often answer the question “How can we get the job done?” with “Let’s form a group.” Here we examine the productivity of task-focused groups by reviewing four classic “social” literatures on the subject: social facilitation, social loafing (the Ringelmann effect), social combination (Steiner’s task theory), and social creativity (brainstorming).

Decision Making

      When obstacles prevent people from achieving their goals, they engage in problem-solving to identify solutions. In many cases they perform these cognitive activities as isolated individuals, but when the information to be processed is considerable or the potential consequences monumental, they do this cognitive work in groups. Here we examine the processes that facilitate and undermine collective decision making, including groupthink.

An understanding of teams requires an understanding of groups, in general: How they form, their basic structures, their development over time, and the social influence processes that shape members’ behaviors. Teams do, however, possess some unique characteristics, given the high degree of coordination among members and their focus on goals. This chapter examines those characteristics, using the traditional input-process-output system model as a guide.


      Group members do not always get along well with one another. Even in the most serene group one member may irritate another; with little warning the group’s atmosphere may transform from one of tranquility to one of hostility. Here we examine conflict by considering inputs (roots of conflict), processes (conflict escalation), and outputs (ways of managing conflict).

Intergroup Relations

      Hate, as Gordon Allport explained in The Nature of Prejudice, is usually a group-level emotion. People rarely hate specific people, yet they often hate entire groups. This lecture considers the factors that set the stage for conflict between groups, changes that conflict bring to groups, and ways to resolve conflicts.

Groups in Context

      Groups exist in any number of distinct physical locations: from classrooms, museums, factories and boardrooms to coal mines, battlefields, and even space capsules. The physical qualities of these places—temperature, type of lighting, furniture arrangements, noise—substantially influence group dynamics, but so do the social features of the setting. This lecture reviews these processes, focusing on four contexts: environmental settings, behavior settings, interpersonal settings (small-group ecology), and territorial settings.

Groups and Change

      The use of groups as agents of change dates back many years, but it was Lewin who stated the basic “law” of group therapy in its most simple form: “It is usually easier to change individuals formed into a group than to change any one of them separately” (1951, p. 228). This lecture reviews these applications, with a focus on therapeutic and support groups.

Crowds and Collectives

    The science of group dynamics is based on one core assumption: People act collectively. Much of this collective action occurs in relatively small groups, but people sometimes join much larger collectives, including crowds, mobs, audiences, fads, crazes, demonstrations, strikes, and social movements. This lecture examines these larger groups, but first describes such groups before reviewing classic and contemporary accounts of their dynamics.


Group Groups (Labs, Professional Associations, Centers)

Centers for the Study of Groups


Conferences, Meetings, Symposia

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