PSY_C18.qxd 1/2/05 3:50 pm Page 384
Being in the presence of other people
The in?uence of authority
Af?liation, attraction and close relationships
Taking our place in the group
How groups in?uence their members
How groups get things done
Deindividuation, collective behaviour and the crowd
Cooperation and competition between groups
Social categories and social identity
Prejudice and discrimination
Building social harmony
PSY_C18.qxd 1/2/05 3:50 pm Page 385
By the end of this chapter you should appreciate that:
the presence of other people can have signi?cant effects on our behaviour;
under certain conditions people obey the orders of an authority ?gure to the extent of harming innocent others;
social support and close interpersonal relationships bene?t our health and happiness;
membership of groups can have both positive and negative consequences on people’s behaviour and judgement,
depending on the context;
membership of groups can help us to withstand authoritarian in?uences, but it can also inhibit our tendency to
help others and can increase prejudice and con?ict;
knowledge of the interpersonal processes and mechanisms involved can help to reduce the negative aspects of
I N T R O D U C T I O N
One of the most distinctive aspects of human
how we are affected by simply being in the presence
beings is that we are social. We are each affected
of other people. We then look at ways in which
by the presence of other people, we form relation-
people interact with one another – particularly how
ships with other people, we join groups with other
people form close relationships with one another.
people, and we behave in certain ways towards
Next, we look at how people in groups, and how
members of our own and other groups.
groups as a whole, behave. How does being in a
The previous chapter focused on various aspects
group affect what we think and do? How do groups
of social evaluation and how we process social
perform typical group tasks and activities?
information – intra-personal processes. In this
Finally, we consider how groups interact with and
chapter, we look more broadly at the ways in which
perceive one another; how people as group mem-
our behaviour is genuinely social. How are we in?u-
bers relate to people who are not in their group;
enced by, and how do we in?uence, other people?
and how both cooperative and competitive forms of
First, we here ask the elementary question of
intergroup behaviour arise and can be changed.
PSY_C18.qxd 1/2/05 3:50 pm Page 386
Interpersonal Relations and Group Processes
BEING IN THE PRESENCE OF OTHER PEOPLE
Intuitively, most of us probably think the term ‘social’ means
doing things with (or being in the presence of ) other people, and
that social psychology is therefore about the causes and effects of
Zajonc’s (1965) explanation of social facilitation/inhibition.
this ‘social presence’. Although social psychologists use the term
Source: Hewstone and Stroebe (2001).
‘social’ in a much broader way than this, the effect of the physical
presence of other people on our behaviour remains an important
research question (Guerin, 1993).
incorrect behaviour (e.g. trying to write notes in a lecture before
In fact, in 1898 Triplett designed one of the earliest social
we have understood properly what is being said), then social pres-
psychology experiments to address this very question. He dis-
ence can impair performance (social inhibition) (see ?gure 18.1
covered from analysis of published records that cyclists go faster
and Markus, 1978).
when paced by another cyclist, and he decided to investigate
Zajonc believed that drive was an innate reaction to the mere
this phenomenon under more controlled conditions. Triplett had
presence of others. Other views are that drive results from an
40 children reel in ?shing lines, either alone or in pairs, and he
acquired apprehension about being evaluated by others (Cottrell,
discovered that the children tended to perform the task more
1972) or from con?ict between paying attention to a task and to
quickly when in the presence of someone else doing the same
an audience (e.g. Sanders, 1981). Still other researchers discard
task. Triplett attributed this ‘quickening effect’ to the arousal of
the notion of drive entirely. They suggest that social facilitation
a competitive instinct.
may occur because of distraction and subsequent narrowing of
Some years later, F. Allport
attention, which hinders performance of poorly learned or dif?cult
(1920) coined the term social
social facilitation an increase in
tasks but leaves unaffected or improves performance of well
facilitation to refer to a more
dominant responses in the presence of
learned or easy tasks (Baron, 1986; Manstead & Semin, 1980).
clearly de?ned effect in which
others of the same species, leading
Alternatively, social presence might motivate concern with
the mere presence of con-
to improved performance on well-
self-presentation – i.e. how we appear to others (rather than con-
speci?cs (i.e. members of the
learned/easy tasks and deterioration
cern speci?cally about being evaluated by them) (Bond, 1982) or
same species) would improve
in performance on poorly learned/
make us more self-aware (Wicklund, 1975). This might then
individual task performance.
increase cognitive effort, which is considered to improve perform-
These conspeci?cs might be
ance on easy tasks but not on dif?cult tasks (where failure and
co-actors (i.e. doing the same
social embarrassment might be anticipated).
task but not interacting) or simply a passive audience (i.e. observ-
Overall, then, the empirical ?nding from this body of research
ing the task performance).
is that the presence of others improves performance on easy
Research (much of it with an exotic array of different species)
tasks, but impairs performance on dif?cult tasks (see Bond &
seemed to con?rm this. We now know that cockroaches run
Titus, 1983). But no single explanation seems to account for social
faster, chickens, ?sh and rats eat more, and pairs of rats copulate
facilitation and social inhibition effects (Guerin, 1993). Instead,
more when being ‘watched’ by members of their own species (see
several concepts – including arousal, evaluation apprehension,
Zajonc, Heingartner & Herman, 1969). However, later research
and distraction con?ict – are involved.
found that the presence of conspeci?cs sometimes impairs per-
formance, although it was often unclear what degree of social
presence produced impairment (i.e. coaction or a passive audience).
Bystander apathy and intervention
Zajonc (1965) put forward a drive theory to explain social facil-
itation effects. He argued that, because people are unpredictable,
One type of behaviour that might be affected by the presence of
the mere presence of a passive audience instinctively and auto-
other people is our inclination to offer help to someone who
matically produces increased arousal and motivation. This was
needs it. This question can be studied from many perspectives.
proposed to act as a drive that produces dominant responses for
One of these is evolutionary psychology – do people help others
that situation (i.e. well learned, instinctive or habitual behaviours
simply as members of their own species, or only those with whom
that take precedence over alternative responses under conditions
they shares genes? (see Batson, 1983; and Dawkins’, 1976, notion
of heightened arousal or motivation). But do dominant responses
of the ‘sel?sh gene’). Another perspective is that of socialization –
improve task performance? Zajonc argued that if the dominant
do we learn to help others as a result of direct instructions, rein-
response is the correct behaviour for that situation (e.g. pedalling
forcement, social learning and modelling (see Bandura, 1973)?
when we get on a bicycle), then social presence improves per-
Two of the most important lines of research on helping by
formance (social facilitation). But if the dominant response is an
social psychologists have focused on situational factors that
PSY_C18.qxd 1/2/05 3:50 pm Page 387
encourage or discourage helping, and on what motives may
of?ce next door had climbed onto a chair, fallen on the ?oor and
underlie helping others.
lay moaning in pain. This incident lasted 130 seconds. In one con-
A critical feature of the
dition, the student who overheard the information was alone. In
immediate situation that deter-
a second condition, another student (a confederate of the experi-
bystander intervention occurs when
mines whether by standers
menter, who had been instructed to be passive) was also present.
an individual breaks out of the role as a
help someone who is in need
In a third condition, the student participant was with a stranger at
bystander and helps another person in
of help (bystander intervention)
the time of the accident, and in a fourth condition the student
is the number of potential
participant was with a friend.
helpers who are present. This
Although two people could have intervened in the third and
approach was stimulated by the widely reported murder of Kitty
fourth conditions, in only 40 per cent of stranger dyads and 70 per
Genovese in New York in 1964: although 38 people admitted
cent of friend dyads did at least one student intervene. The indi-
witnessing the murder, not a single person ran to her aid. To
vidual likelihood of intervention has to be calculated according to
explain bystander intervention (or its opposite – apathy), Darley,
a special formula that corrects for the fact that two people are free
Latané and others carried out a series of classic experiments (Darley
to act in two conditions (with stranger; with friend), but only one
& Batson, 1973; Darley & Latané, 1968; Latané & Rodin, 1969).
person is free to act in the remaining two conditions (with passive
Numerous studies indicate that the willingness to intervene in
confederate; alone). The individual likelihood of intervention was
emergencies is higher when a bystander is alone (Latané & Nida,
in fact twice as high when students were with a friend (i.e. fourth
1981). In one of the ?rst experiments showing this effect (Latané
condition) compared with a stranger (i.e. third condition). Both
& Rodin, 1969), students overheard that a woman working in the
of these corrected intervention rates for the third and fourth con-
ditions were lower than in the condition where the participant
was alone (?rst condition), but higher than in the second condition,
where there was a passive confederate present at the time of the
accident (see ?gure 18.3).
Subsequent research indicated that three types of social process
seem to cause the social inhibition of helping in such situations:
1. diffusion of responsibility (when others are present, our
own perceived responsibility is lowered);
2. ignorance about how others interpret the event; and
3. feelings of unease about how our own behaviour will be
evaluated by others present.
So, witnesses to the Kitty Genovese murder may have failed to
1. they saw other people present, and so did not feel
Observed per cent
Corrected per cent
Percentage of persons who intervened
With passive Two strangers
Number and nature of persons present
The effect of the presence and identity of others on bystander
When there are several bystanders, it is less likely that a victim
intervention in an emergency. Source: Hewstone and Stroebe
will receive help.
(2001), based on Latané & Rodin (1969).
PSY_C18.qxd 1/2/05 3:50 pm Page 388
Interpersonal Relations and Group Processes
2. they were unsure about how the others present interpreted
the situation; and
3. they were embarrassed about how they might look if they
rushed in to help when, for some reason, this might be
On the basis of studies such as this, Latané and Darley (1970)
proposed a cognitive model of bystander intervention. Helping
(or not) was considered to depend on a series of decisions:
1. noticing that something is wrong;
2. de?ning it as an emergency;
3. deciding whether to take personal responsibility;
Per cent participants helping
4. deciding what type of help to give; and
5. implementing the decision.
Bystanders also seem to weigh up costs and bene?ts of inter-
Similarity of attitudes between victim and helper
vention vs. apathy before deciding what to do. Piliavin, Dovidio,
Gaertner and Clark (1981) proposed a bystander calculus model
that assigns a key role to arousal. They proposed that emergen-
cies make us aroused, situational factors determine how that
Percentage of participants who helped Elaine, depending on
arousal is labelled and what emotion is felt (see chapter 6), and
similarity/empathy and dif?culty of escape. Source: Hewstone
then we assess the costs and bene?ts of helping or not helping
and Stroebe (2001), based on Batson et al. (1981).
before deciding what to do.
To summarize ?ndings from this area of research, the presence
As ?gure 18.4 shows, participants only took up the option
of multiple bystanders seems the strongest inhibitor of bystander
offered by the ‘easy escape’ condition and failed to help when the
intervention due to diffusion of personal responsibility, fear of
victim had dissimilar attitudes. These results were interpreted as
social blunders and social reinforcement for inaction. In addition,
being consistent with the hypothesis that high attitude similarity
the costs of not helping are apparently reduced by the presence of
increases altruistic motivation, whereas low attitude similarity
other potential helpers. People tend to help more if they are alone
encourages egoistic motivation.
or among friends, if situational norms or others’ behaviour pre-
Batson’s altruism theory was opposed by the view that people
scribe helping, if they feel they have the skills to offer effective
were, in fact, helping for sel?sh, rather than altruistic, motives.
help, or if the personal costs of not helping are high.
So helping could sometimes be motivated by an egoistic desire to
gain relief from a negative state (such as distress, guilt or unhappi-
Motives for helping
ness) when faced with another person in need of help. Although
a meta-analysis by Carlson and Miller (1987) did not support this
A rather different line of research has concentrated on the
idea, there is continued controversy between the ‘altruists’ and
motives underlying helping (or, more generally, prosocial
‘egoists’ as to why we help others (see Batson et al., 1997; Cialdini
behaviour) – in particular, whether people help for altruistic or
et al., 1997; Schaller & Cialdini, 1988). Batson (e.g., 1991) continues
egoistic motives. A discussion of the genetic argument is beyond
to maintain that helping under the conditions investigated by him
this chapter (see Dawkins, 1976; Bierhoff, 2002).
is motivated positively by the feeling of ‘situational empathy’,
Batson and colleagues (1981) had female students observe
rather than by an egoistic desire to relieve the ‘situational distress’
‘Elaine’, an experimental confederate, who was apparently
of watching another person suffer.
receiving electric shocks. In the second trial of the experiment,
Helping is also increased by prosocial societal or group norms.
Elaine appeared to be suffering greatly from the shocks, at which
These can be general norms of reciprocity (‘help those who help
point the experimenter asked the female observer whether she
you’; Gouldner, 1960) or social responsibility (‘help those in
would be willing to continue with the experiment by taking
need;’ Berkowitz, 1972), or more speci?c helping norms tied to
the nature of a social group (e.g. ‘we should help older people’).
In one condition, participants believed that Elaine shared many
Other factors that increase helping include being in a good mood
attitudes with them. In another condition, they were led to think
(Isen, 1987) and assuming a leadership role in the situation
that she held dissimilar attitudes. The experiment also manipu-
(Baumeister, Chesner, Senders & Tice, 1988). Research has also
lated dif?culty of escape. In the ‘easy escape’ condition, particip-
shown that, relative to situational variables, personality and gen-
ants knew that they could leave the observation room after the
der are poor predictors of helping (Huston & Korte, 1976; Latané
second trial, which meant that they would not be forced to con-
& Darley, 1970).
tinue observing Elaine’s plight if the experiment continued with
Note that many of these studies on helping are ‘high impact’
her. In the ‘dif?cult escape’ condition, they were instructed to
experiments – fascinating to read about but potentially distressing
observe the victim through to the end of the study.
to participate in. Because of the greater sensitivity to ethical issues
PSY_C18.qxd 1/2/05 3:50 pm Page 389
in research today (see chapter 2), it would be dif?cult now to con-
duct some of these studies, as well as other studies described in
THE INFLUENCE OF AUTHORITY
The research on both social facilitation and helping shows that
the mere presence of other people can have a clear effect on
behaviour. But this effect can be tremendously ampli?ed if those
others actively try to in?uence us – for example, from a position
Legitimate authority ?gures can be particularly in?uential; they
can give orders that people blindly obey without really thinking
about the consequences. This has been the focus of one of social
Percentage maximally obedient participants
psychology’s most signi?cant and socially meaningful pieces of
research (Blass, 2000; Miller, 1986; Miller, Collins & Brief, 1995).
Milgram (1963; and see chapter 1) discovered that quite ordinary
people taking part in a laboratory experiment were prepared to
administer electric shocks (450V), which they believed would
harm another participant, simply because an authoritative experi-
menter told them to do so. This study showed that apparently
‘pathological’ behaviour may not be due to individual pathology
Obedience as a function of peer behaviour. Source: Hewstone
(the participants were ‘normal’) but to particular social circum-
and Stroebe (2001), data from Milgram (1974).
stances. The situation encouraged extreme obedience.
Milgram (1965, 1974) subsequently conducted a whole series of
studies using this paradigm. One of his most signi?cant ?ndings
was that social support is the single strongest moderator of the
AFFILIATION, ATTRACTION AND CLOSE
effect. So, obedience is strengthened if others are obedient, and
massively reduced if others are disobedient.
Milgram investigated the role of peer pressure by creating a
situation with three ‘co-teachers’, the participant and two con-
Seeking the company of others
federates. The ?rst confederate presented the task, the second
registered the learner’s responses, and the participant actually
Human beings have a strong need to af?liate with other people,
administered the shocks. At 150V, the ?rst confederate refused to
through belonging to groups and developing close interpersonal
continue and took a seat away from the shock generator. At
relationships. The consequences of social deprivation are
210V, the second confederate refused to continue. The effect of
severely maladaptive (ranging from loneliness to psychosis), and
their behaviour on the participants was dramatic: only 10 per cent
social isolation is a potent punishment that can take many forms
of the participants were now maximally obedient (see ?gure
(solitary con?nement, shunning, ostracism, the ‘silent treatment’).
18.5). In contrast, if the teacher administering the learning task
Most of us choose to spend
was accompanied by a co-teacher, who gave the shocks, 92 per
a great deal of time with
social comparison the act of com-
cent of the participants continued to be obedient to the end of the
others, especially when we
paring oneself, usually with similar
study. The powerful role of interpersonal factors (i.e. peers who
experience threat (Schachter,
others, to assess one’s attitudes, abilit-
had the temerity to disobey) was evident from this investigation
1959) or feel anxious (Buunk,
ies, behaviours and emotions; these
(see Blass, 2000).
1995). Our motives for af?lia-
comparisons are most likely to occur
One unanticipated consequence of Milgram’s research was a
tion include social comparison
when people are uncertain about
?erce debate about the ethics of social psychological research
(we learn about ourselves,
(Baumrind, 1985; Miller, 1986). Although no electric shocks were
our skills, abilities, percep-
actually given in Milgram’s study, participants genuinely believed
tions and attitudes; Festinger,
that they were administering shocks and showed great distress.
1954), anxiety reduction (Stroebe & Stroebe, 1997) and informa-
Was it right to conduct this study?
tion seeking (Shaver & Klinnert, 1982). Hospitals now routinely
This debate led to strict guidelines for psychological research.
encourage surgical patients who have undergone the same med-
Three of the main components of this code are (i) that particip-
ical procedure to talk to others to help reduce anxiety (Gump &
ants must give their fully informed consent to take part, (ii) that
they can withdraw at any point without penalty, and (iii) that
People usually seek out and maintain the company of people
after participation they must be fully debriefed (see discussion of
they like. We tend to like others whom we consider physically
research ethics in chapter 2).
attractive, and who are nearby, familiar and available, and with
PSY_C18.qxd 1/2/05 3:50 pm Page 390
Research close-up 1
Milgram’s study of obedience
The research issue
There were two signi?cant triggers for this research. First, Milgram wanted to understand how individual acts of obedience
could have taken place that led to the systematic annihilation of the Jews during the Holocaust. Second, he was fascinated
with the trial in Jerusalem of the arch-architect of the ‘Final Solution’, Adolf Eichmann.
Milgram wondered whether most people would show destructive obedience and, prior to this research, he doubted it.
Indeed, this study represents what was intended to be the ‘baseline’, a situation in which few people were expected to
obey. The original idea was that later research would then manipulate key variables, and investigate their impact on rates
of obedience (see Milgram, 1965, 1974).
This study is one of the most widely known in psychology – because of what it found, as well as the ethical issues it
raised about social-psychological research.
Design and procedure
The work was conducted at Yale University. Forty males (aged 20–50 years) drawn from in and around the city of New
Haven, Connecticut (USA), were recruited to participate in a study on ‘memory and learning’. No mention was made at any
stage that the study concerned obedience.
There was no experimental design as such, because no factors were manipulated. The teacher–learner scenario was
explained, and participants were led to believe that roles had been determined by chance, although the ‘victim’ (the ‘learner’)
was, in fact, an experimental confederate (i.e. he was instructed how to behave by the experimenter). The experimenter
explained that, by means of a ‘shock generator’, the participant (as ‘teacher’) was to deliver increasingly more intense elec-
tric shocks to the ‘learner’ each time they made a mistake on the learning task. The shock generator had a row of 30 push-
buttons, each marked by the appropriate intensity (from 15 V to 450 V). Successive shock levels were clari?ed by verbal
labels ranging from slight shock (to 60 V), through moderate shock (to 120 V), strong shock (to 180 V) and very strong
shock (to 240 V), to intense shock (to 300 V), extreme intensity shock (to 360 V) and ‘danger: severe shock’ (to 420 V).
The two ?nal shock levels were marked ‘XXX’. In fact, no shocks were delivered, but the teacher did not know this as the
learner pretended to suffer, convincing the participants that they were administering real shocks.
The procedure was carefully scripted so that the experimental scenario had a very high impact on participants, without
sacri?cing control over the situation. Both the victim’s responses (a predetermined set of grunts, screams etc.) and the
experimenter’s commands (four levels of ‘prods’) were held constant throughout the study.
The study ended with a detailed debrie?ng, which included uniting the participant with the victim and conveying the assur-
ance that no shocks had in fact been delivered in the study.
Results and implications
No statistics are reported on the data, nor are they needed, since no experimental variations were compared in the study.
The primary dependent measure was the maximum shock a participant administered before refusing to go any further, on
a scale from 0 (i.e. refusing to administer the ?rst shock) to 30 (a 450 V shock). Unexpectedly, given Milgram’s prior sup-
positions, no participant discontinued before administering at least a 300 V shock. Across the sample, maximal obedience
was shown by 26 of 40 respondents, or 65 per cent (see table 18.1). Milgram concluded that ordinary people were capa-
ble of high levels of destructive obedience in response to strong situational pressures.
This study triggered an outcry regarding ethical issues. Milgram was severely criticized for inducing suffering in his participants.
Could this extent of suffering be dealt with in normal debrie?ng? How might participants be affected by learning that they
could be so easily deceived and that they were (apparently) capable of committing great harm under instruction? Should
the experiment have even been carried out? Was the research suf?ciently important to justify such deception and stress?
These are just some of the issues that you may wish to re?ect upon . . .
Milgram, S., 1963, ‘Behavioral study of obedience’, Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 67, 371– 8.
Table 18.1 Number of participants who proceeded to each level of shock.
Verbal designation and shock indication
No. of participants for whom this was maximum shock level
Slight shock (15– 60 volts)
Moderate shock (75–120 volts)
Strong shock (135–180 volts)
Very strong shock (195–240 volts)
Intense shock (255–300 volts)
Extreme intensity shock (315–360 volts)
Danger: severe shock (375–420 volts)
XXX (435–450 volts)
Source: Adapted from Milgram (1963).
PSY_C18.qxd 1/2/05 3:50 pm Page 391
whom we expect continued interaction. How many of your
advice), love (affection, warmth), money (things of value), ser-
friends at college live close to you on campus? The likely answer
vices (e.g. shopping, childcare) and status (e.g. evaluative judge-
is ‘many of them’ (see Festinger, Schachter & Back, 1950). We
ments). A relationship continues when both partners feel that the
also tend to like people who have similar attitudes and values to
bene?ts of remaining in the relationship outweigh the costs and
our own (Byrne, 1971), especially when these attitudes and values
the bene?ts of other relationships.
are personally important to us.
According to this framework, these considerations apply to
even our most intimate friendships. We now turn to a considera-
The importance of social support
tion of these closest relationships in our lives. It is argued that
these relationships are also based on complex cost–bene?t ana-
lyses (‘she brings the money in and is practical, but I have a
Generally, having appropri-
social support the feeling of being
secure pension and do more for the children’). According to the
ate social support is a very
supported by others, whether in one’s
more speci?c equity theory,
powerful ‘buffer’ against
broader social network (which impacts
partners in such relation-
stressful events. Cohen and
equity theory assumes that satisfaction
positively on health and stress) or
ships are happier if they feel
Hoberman (1983) found that,
in a relationship is highest when the
within a small group (which helps one
that both partners’ outcomes
among individuals who felt
ratio of one’s own outcomes to inputs
to resist pressures to comply with an
are proportional to their
that their life was very stress-
is equal to that of a referenced other
outside majority or obey an immoral
inputs, rather than one part-
ful, those who perceived
(individuals will try to restore equity
ner receiving more than they
themselves to have low social
when they ?nd themselves in an
give (Walster, Walster &
support reported many more
physical symptoms (e.g. headaches, insomnia) than those who
felt they had high social support (see ?gure 18.6). Overall, the
evidence is clear – social integration is good for our physical and
Happy vs. distressed relationships
psychological health (Stroebe & Stroebe, 1997).
A major characteristic of happy, close relationships is a high degree
Social exchange theory
of intimacy. According to Reis and Patrick (1996), we view our
closest relationships as intimate if we see them as:
A general theoretical frame-
social exchange theory a general theor-
caring (we feel that the other person loves and cares about
work for the study of inter-
etical model that views relationships in
personal relationships is social
terms of rewards and costs to particip-
understanding (we feel that the other person has an accur-
exchange theory (Thibaut &
ants; expected outcomes are based on
ate understanding of us); and
Kelley, 1959). This approach
personal standards, prior experience,
validating (our partner communicates his or her accept-
regards relationships as effec-
partner’s outcomes, and the outcomes
ance, acknowledgement and support for our point of
tively trading interactions,
of comparable others
including goods (e.g. birthday
presents), information (e.g.
Unhappy or ‘distressed’ relationships, on the other hand, are
characterized by higher rates of negative behaviour, reciprocat-
ing with such negative behaviour when the partner behaves
Low social support
negatively towards us. Reciprocation, or retaliation, is the most
High social support
reliable sign of relationship distress (Fincham, 2003). Those in
unhappy relationships also tend to ignore or cover up differences
(Noller & Fitzpatrick, 1990), compare themselves negatively with
other couples (Buunk et al., 1990) and perceive their relationship
as less equitable than others (van Yperen & Buunk, 1991). They
also make negative causal attributions of their partner’s
behaviours and characteristics (Fincham & Bradbury, 1991). For
Physical symptomatology 10
example, being given ?owers might be explained away with ‘He’s
just trying to deal with his guilt; he’ll be the same as usual tomor-
row.’ In a happy relationship, the explanation is more likely to be
something like ‘It was nice of him to ?nd time for that; I know
how stressed he is at the moment.’
The relationship between perceived stress and physical symp-
The investment model
tomatology for individuals low and high in social support.
Source: Hewstone and Stroebe (2001), based on Cohen and
Ultimately, what holds a relationship together is commitment –
the inclination to maintain a relationship and to feel psychologically
PSY_C18.qxd 1/2/05 3:50 pm Page 392
Interpersonal Relations and Group Processes
attached to it (Rusbult, 1983).
Another perspective, based on social comparison theory
investment model a theory that pro-
According to the investment
(Festinger, 1954), is that we af?liate with similar others in order
poses that commitment to a relation-
model (Rusbult & Buunk,
to obtain support and consensus for our own perceptions, opinions
ship is based upon high satisfaction,
1993), commitment is based
and/or a low quality of alternatives,
on one or more of the follow-
A third approach rests on social identity theory (Hogg &
and/or a high level of investment
ing factors: high satisfaction,
Abrams, 1988; Tajfel & Turner, 1986). According to this frame-
low quality of alternatives,
work, group formation involves a process of de?ning ourselves as
and a high level of investments. Highly committed individuals are
group members, and conforming to what we see as the stereo-
more willing to make sacri?ces for their relationship, and to con-
type of our group, as distinct from other groups. We categorize
tinue it even when forced to give up important aspects of their
ourselves in terms of our group’s de?ning features (Hogg, 1993)
life (Van Lange et al., 1997).
– e.g. ‘we are psychology students, we are studying a useful
Close relationships do, regrettably, often dissolve, sometimes
subject’. This process describes and evaluates who we are and
as a result of extreme levels of violence committed within inti-
is responsible for group phenomena such as group cohesion, con-
mate relationships (Gelles, 1997). The ending of a relationship is
formity to norms, discrimination between different groups, and
often a lengthy, complex process, with repeated episodes of
con?ict and reconciliation (Cate & Lloyd, 1988). Women tend to
terminate intimate relationships more often than do men (Gray
& Silver, 1990) and are more distressed by relationship con?ict
(Surra & Longstreth, 1990).
The process of joining and being in?uenced by a group doesn’t
But for both partners the consequences can be devastating.
generally happen all at once. It is an ongoing process. The relev-
The physical and mental health of divorced people is generally
ant mechanisms have been investigated by many social psycho-
worse than that of married people, or even people who have
logists interested in group development, or how groups change
been widowed or never married (Stroebe & Stroebe, 1987).
Factors that predict better adjustment to divorce include having
One very well established general model of group develop-
taken the initiative to divorce, being embedded in social net-
ment is Tuckman’s ?ve-stage model (1965; Tuckman & Jensen,
works, and having another satisfying and intimate relationship
(Price-Bonham et al., 1983).
forming – initially people orient themselves to one another;
storming – they then struggle with one another over leadership
and group de?nition;
norming – this leads into agreement on norms and roles;
performing – the group is now well regulated internally and can
perform smoothly and ef?ciently;
TAKING OUR PLACE IN THE GROUP
adjourning – this ?nal stage involves issues of independence
within the group, and possible group dissolution.
Almost all groups are structured into speci?c roles. People move
in and out of roles, and in and out of groups. Groups are dynamic
More recently, Levine and Moreland (1994) have provided a
in terms of their structure and their membership. But ?rst of all,
detailed account of group socialization – how groups and their
of course, people need to join groups.
members adapt to one another, and how people join groups,
maintain their membership and leave groups. According to this
account, groups and their members engage in an ongoing
cost–bene?t analysis of membership (similar to the kinds of
We join groups for all sorts of reasons, but in many cases we are
analyses that we have already discussed as being relevant in
looking for company (e.g. friendships and hobby groups) or to
regulating dyadic interpersonal relationships). If the bene?ts of
get things done that we cannot do on our own (e.g. therapy
the group membership outweigh the costs, the group and its
groups, work groups and professional organizations). We also
members become committed to one another.
tend to identify with large groups (social categories) that we
This approach highlights ?ve generic roles that people occupy
belong to – national or ethnic groups, political parties, religions,
and so forth.
Research on group formation generally examines the process,
prospective member – potential members reconnoitre the group
not the reasons. One view is that joining a group is a matter of
to decide whether to commit;
establishing bonds of attraction to the group, its goals and its
new member – members learn the norms and practices of the
members. So a group is a collection of people who are attracted
to one another in such a way as to form a cohesive entity
full member – members are fully socialized, and can now nego-
(Festinger et al., 1950). This approach has been used extensively
tiate more speci?c roles within the group;
to study the cohesiveness of military groups, organizational units
marginal member – members can drift out of step with group
and sports teams (Widmeyer, Brawley & Carron, 1985).
life, but may be re-socialized if they drift back again; and
PSY_C18.qxd 1/2/05 3:50 pm Page 393
ex-member – members have left the group, but previous com-
mitment has an enduring effect on the group and on the
Levine and Moreland believe that people move through these dif-
ferent roles during the lifetime of the group.
Almost all groups are intern-
roles patterns of behaviour that dis-
ally structured into roles. These
tinguish between different activities
prescribe different activities
within a group, and that help to give
that exist in relation to one
the group an ef?cient structure
another to facilitate overall
group functioning. In addition
to task-speci?c roles, there are also general roles that describe each
Some communication networks that have been studied experi-
member’s place in the life of the group (e.g. newcomer, old-timer).
mentally. Source: Hewstone and Stroebe (2001), based on
Rites of passage, such as initiation rites, often mark movement
between generic roles, which are characterized by varying degrees
of mutual commitment between member and group.
Roles can be very real in their consequences. In the famous
Stanford Prison Study (Zimbardo et al., 1982), researchers ran-
domly assigned students to play the roles of prisoners or guards
in a simulated prison set-up. The ‘prison’ was located in the base-
ment of the psychology department at Stanford University.
Before the study began, all participants were carefully screened to
ensure they were psychologically stable. Zimbardo and his team
planned to run the study for two weeks, while observing the
participants. In fact, they had to terminate it after six days because
the participants were conforming so extremely to their roles. The
guards harassed, humiliated and intimidated the prisoners, often
quite brutally, and the prisoners increasingly showed signs of
individual and group disintegration, including severe emotional
disturbance and some psychosomatic problems. The importance
of this classic study was shown recently by the appalling treat-
ment of Iraqi prisoners recorded inside Abu Ghraib jail in 2003.
Roles also de?ne functions within a group, and the different
parts of the group normally need to communicate with one
another. Research on communication networks (Bavelas, 1968;
Leavitt, 1951) focuses on centralization as the critical factor (see
?gure 18.7). More centralized networks have a hub person or
group that regulates communication ?ow, whereas less central-
ized networks allow free communication among all roles.
Centralized networks work well for simple tasks (they liberate
Are some people ‘born to lead’, or do they acquire leadership
peripheral members to perform their role) but not for more
personalities that predispose them to leadership?
complex tasks – the hub becomes overwhelmed, delays and
mis-communications occur, frustration and stress increase, and
peripheral members feel loss of autonomy.
Extensive research has revealed that there are almost no per-
sonality traits that are reliably associated with effective leadership
in all situations (Yukl, 1998). This ?nding suggests that many of us
can be effective leaders, given the right match between our lead-
The most basic role differentiation within groups is into leaders
ership style and the situation. For example, leader categorization
and followers. Are some people ‘born to lead’ (think of Lady
theory (Lord & Maher, 1991) states that we have leadership
Margaret Thatcher, Sir Ernest Shackleton or Sir Alex Ferguson),
schemas (concerning what the leader should do and how) for dif-
or do they acquire leadership personalities that predispose them
ferent group tasks, and that we categorize people as effective
to leadership in many situations?
leaders on the basis of their ‘?t’ to the task-activated schema. A