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Group Dynamics

A group is two or more persons who interact with one another so that each person influences and is influenced by each person(Shaw 1971)[1].

For a collection of people to be defined as a group, the members must:

  • interact with one another
  • be socially attracted to each other
  • share goals or objectives
  • have a shared identity which distinguishes them from other groups

The social mixing of a sports club is termed "Social Cohesion", and a group with formal shared goals which are generally successful as a group (e.g. the eight rowers in a boat race) is referred to as "Task Cohesion".

Group development

The development of a group goes typically through the following stages (Tuckman 1965)[3]:

  • Forming - the group gets together, and a level of formality is common
  • Storming- heightened tension associated with competition for status and influence
  • Norming - rules and standards of behaviour are agreed
  • Performing - group matures to a point where it can work together as a team

There are many different forms of interaction in a group. We have social interaction (formation of friends) and task interaction (the way the members co-operate to achieve goals)


This is the extent to which group members exhibit a desire to achieve common goals and group identity. Research (Townsend 1968)[5] supports the view that high interaction teams need high task cohesion to be consistently successful, whereas, for moderate or low interaction teams, cohesion is less critical to success. Again, we have social cohesion, the extent to which group members get on with one another, task cohesion, and the extent to which members co-operate to achieve the group's goals. The following factors affect cohesion:

  • Stability - Cohesion develops the longer a group is together with the same members
  • Similarity- Cohesion develops when the more similar the group members are in terms of age, sex, skills and attitudes
  • Size - Cohesion develops more quickly in small groups
  • Support - Cohesive teams tend to have managers and coaches who provide support to team members and encourage them to support one another
  • Satisfaction- Cohesion is associated with the extent to which team members are pleased with each other's performance, behaviour and conformity to the norms of the team

Carron (1980)[2] defined a cohesive group as having the following characteristics:

  • a collective identity
  • a sense of shared purpose
  • structured patterns of communication


Loafing is the tendency of individuals to lessen their effort when they are part of a group - also known as the Ringelmann effect (Kravitz 1986)[4]. Causes of loafing in a team have been attributed to individuals:

  • perceiving others to be working less hard than themselves, thereby giving them an excuse to put in less effort
  • believing that their efforts will have little effect on the outcome
  • disliking hard work and assuming that their lack of effort will not be noticed
  • feeling "off form" and believing teammates will cover for their lack of effort


For a group to perform at its highest level, methods and strategies need to be applied, which will improve group productivity and reduce loafing. The subsequent effect will be to enhance cohesion and develop positive group dynamics.


  1. SHAW, M.E. (1971) Group Dynamics: The Psychology of Small Group Behavior. London: McGraw Hill Publishing
  2. CARRON, A. (1980) Social Psychology of Sport. Movement Publications
  3. TUCKMAN, B.W. (1965) Developmental sequence in small groups. Psychological Bulletin, 63 (6), p. 384-399
  4. KRAVITZ, D.A. and MARTIN, B. (1986) Ringelmann rediscovered: The original article. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 50(5), p. 936-941
  5. TOWNSEND, A. et al. (1968) Virtual Teams: Technology and the workplace of the future. Academy of Management Executive, 12 (3), p. 17-29

Page Reference

If you quote information from this page in your work, then the reference for this page is:

  • MACKENZIE, B. (2004) Group Dynamics [WWW] Available from: [Accessed