To effectively appreciate the dynamics of the group meetings it is important to first understand the categorization of the group. According to Hogg and Tindale (2008), there are two types of small groups: aggregate groups and psychological groups. Aggregate groups is a term that refers to groups of people who congregate in a given location by chance; members of the groups are unrelated and are only in close proximity for a short period of time (Hogg & Tindale, 2008). Psychological groups, on the other hand, refer to individuals who congregate on a regular basis to discuss a given issue (Hogg & Tindale, 2008). In psychological groups, the group members are psychologically aware of the presence of other members and know that they are part of the group (Hogg & Tindale, 2008).
Our group during the group analysis exercise was an example of a psychological group. We met on a regular basis and group members were psychologically aware of their presence in the group and the presence of other members. Whenever one or two members of the group were missing, it was easy to notice that the group had fewer members.
Psychological groups are divided into two: work groups and self-help groups (Hogg & Tindale, 2008). Work groups are groups that are constituted for the purpose of solving a specific issue or problem and they are dissolved once the issue has been resolved (Pennington, 2002). Self-help groups, on the other hand, are groups that are formed without a specific goal and members are free to decide from time to time the agenda that will be pursued by the group (Pennington, 2002). Our group was an example of a work group; it was formed for the purpose of solving the group assignment and once that assignment was solved, the group was dissolved. Because of the fact that the group was a work group, becoming a member depended on a predetermined criterion. It was the duty of the course instructor to provide details on the membership of every group and the period under which the group was to operate.
Once the general criteria of the operation of the group had been set out, the task of determining the leader and outlining the rules of the group was left to members of the group. In terms of the roles of group members, I noticed there were people gravitating towards different roles in the group. During the first meeting one member took a prominent role and started giving direction to other group members; when the time for electing the leader came, he was the automatic candidate and was chosen. Once the leader was chosen, members of the group determined the rules that would be applicable to all members. One of the rules that were emphasized was the importance of keeping time. Apart from time, all members were also required to take an active role in the group deliberations.
Within the group, there was also a member who took up the role of adversary. In other words, he was always opposed to the views of the other group members (Witte, 2001). There was also one member who played the role of harmonizer; he ensured that the meetings were always going on as planned. Whenever the group members lingered on an irrelevant topic for a long time, he would interject and remind group members about the need to meet group objectives. The harmonizer played an important role in the group because he quelled all the tensions and always went out of his way to ensure that all the objectives of the meeting were achieved before the meeting was concluded. Within the group, there were also members who took up the role of an outlier. According to Witte (2001), outliers are members of a group who take up a peripheral role during discussions and will only contribute whenever they are required to. There were members of the group who were attentive but extremely quiet. It was difficult to know whether they were present and they tried as much as possible to avoid situations where they would be picked to contribute discussion.
During the first meeting of group members, I learnt that there were differences between how people behave when they are thrust together in a group and how they behave when they are at home or with a family member. During the first meeting, members of the group were guarded about their opinion; I often experienced difficulty in expressing my views. Although I had interacted with most members of the group, I experienced immense difficulty in relating to them during the group meetings. Some of my colleagues who are often talkative in class were also quiet during the group work and that confirmed the fact that people’s behavior changes whenever they are thrust in a group setting. This view has also been backed up by a number of studies on the psychology of group behavior and group dynamics (Schultz, 2011; Cameron, 2005; Witte, 2001). Schultz (2011) argues that groups are often fraught with problems of honesty and openness especially in situations where people from different backgrounds are mixed together. The fact that members of the group came from different social, economic, and ethnic background impeded openness and honesty.
I also learnt that there was a strong correlation between a member’s status and conformity. There was a time in the group when I experienced difficulty in trying to conform to the views of other group members. I did not express my opinion and I willingly accepted the views of other members even when I felt like their views were wrong. This finding is consistent with Solomon Asch; Asch conducted an experiment in 1951 to determine whether it was difficult for an individual to stick to his opinion when the rest of the group held a different opinion (Witte, 2001). The findings of that experiment revealed that an individual’s status within a group played an important role in determining whether or not he or she will conform to the views of other members or will stick to his contrary opinion (Witte, 2001). In the present case, my ability to stick to my opinion was affected by the fact that there were many people in the group with a strong personality. Once they agreed on an issue, I was left with no option but to conform to their opinion.
GROUP CHALLENGES AND CONFLICT
The greatest challenge during the group work was determining the most appropriate time to meet. There were members who were full-time employees and they felt like other members had to accommodate their busy schedules. In terms of conflict, there was very little conflict between group members; the only conflict arose when members were deciding the time to meet. However, the harmonizer took over the whole issue and stated that we had to meet at a time that was convenient to all members of the group.
The group process helped me to have a clear appreciation of the dynamics of group behavior. Through the group discussions, I was able to learn that people behave differently when they are in a group setting. I was also able to learn that human beings acquire different roles whenever they were in a group setting. There are people who will gravitate towards the leadership role and others will gravitate towards the role of an outlier, harmonizer, or adversary.