Chapter Study Outline

What Is a Group?

  • A group is a collection of people who share some attribute, identify with one another, and interact with each other. A crowd is different because it is simply a temporary gathering of people in a public place, where members may interact but do not identify with each other and will not remain in contact. A crowd is one example of an aggregate, a collection of people who share a physical location but do not have lasting social relations.
  • Groups in which we are closely associated with the other members, such as family and friends, are called primary groups. Larger, less personal groups are known as secondary groups. Secondary groups, such as a high school football team, are usually organized around a specific activity or the accomplishment of a task.
  • A social network is the web of direct and indirect ties connecting an individual to other people who influence his or her behavior. Research on social networks has shown that indirect ties can as important as direct ties—so it’s not just who you know, but who they know as well.

Separate from Groups: Anomie or Virtual Membership?

  • Sociologists such as Émile Durkheim and Robert Putnam have worried that the modern world has led to people being increasingly disconnected from their groups and leading to feelings of anomie, or normlessness. Others argue that these worries are overstated and that new technologies like the Internet allow us to connect with others in virtual communities.

Group Dynamics

  • Group dynamics are the patterns of interaction between groups and individuals and include things such as the ways groups form and fall apart and the ways they influence their members.
  • A dyad consists of only two members and is fundamentally unstable because of the small size—if one person leaves the group, the group ceases to exist. A triad, a three-person social group, is more stable than a dyad because the addition of a third member means that conflicts between two members can be mediated by the third. As groups grow, they become more stable at the cost of intimacy.
  • An in-group is a group that one identifies with and feels loyalty toward. An out-group is any group that an individual feels opposition, rivalry, or hostility toward. A reference group is a group that provides a standard of comparison against which we evaluate ourselves.

Group Cohesion

  • A basic concept in the study of group dynamics is group cohesion, the sense of solidarity or loyalty that individuals feel toward a group to which they belong. Whereas a high degree of cohesion might seem desirable, it can also lead to the kind of poor decision making often seen in groupthink (the tendency of very cohesive groups to enforce a high degree of conformity among members, creating a demand for unanimous agreement).

Social Influence (Peer Pressure)

  • Social influence (peer pressure) is the influence of one’s fellow group members on individual attitudes and behaviors. Generally, we conform to group norms because we want to gain acceptance and approval (positive sanctions) and avoid rejection and disapproval (negative sanctions).
  • Compliance is the mildest form of conformity and is done to gain reward or avoid punishment. Identification is a type of conformity (stronger than compliance and weaker than internalization) caused by a desire to establish or maintain a relationship with a person or group. Internalization, the strongest type of conformity, occurs when an individual adopts the beliefs or actions of a group and makes them his or her own.
  • The Asch Experiment, the Milgram Experiment, and the Stanford Prison Experiment are three classic experiments that illustrate key principles in group conformity, obedience to authority, and social influence.


  • A group almost always outperforms an individual, but rarely performs as well as it could in theory. A group’s efficiency usually declines as its size increases, because organizing takes time and social loafing increases with group size. Group leaders can increase efficiency by recognizing individual effort or by increasing members’ social identity (the degree to which they identify with the group).

Qualities of Leadership: Power, Authority, and Style

  • Power (the ability to control the actions of others) can be characterized as either coercive power (backed by the threat of force) or influential power (supported by persuasion). Max Weber identified three types of authority found in social organizations.
  • Traditional authority is authority based in custom, birthright, or divine right, and usually associated with monarchies and dynasties. Legal-rational authority is authority based in laws, rules, and procedures, not in the lineage of any individual leader. Charismatic authority is based in the perception of remarkable personal qualities in a leader.
  • Instrumental leadership is leadership that is task- or goal-oriented. An instrumental leader is less concerned with people’s feelings than with getting the job done. An expressive leader is concerned with maintaining emotional and relational harmony within the group. An expressive leader demonstrates interest in group members’ emotions as well as their achievements.


  • A bureaucracy is a type of secondary group designed to perform tasks efficiently. Although bureaucracies often seem heartless and undemocratic, they are extremely efficient and are responsible for providing many basic necessities. George Ritzer coined the term McDonaldization to describe the spread of bureaucratic rationalization and the accompanying increases in efficiency and dehumanization.