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The Power of Groups . Topics 4 & 5. Group. Two or more people who, for longer than a few moments, interact with and influence one another and perceive one another as “us”. Power. Ability to do Capacity to act Capable of performing or producing

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The Power of Groups

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The Power of Groups

Topics 4 & 5


  • Two or more people who, for longer than a few moments, interact with and influence one another and perceive one another as “us”


  • Ability to do

  • Capacity to act

  • Capable of performing or producing

    Webster’s New Twentieth Century Unabridged Dictionary (1979)

The Power to Name

  • Women & last names

  • Nigger—Colored—Negro—Black--African American

  • Homosexual—Gay, Lesbian, Transgendered, Queer

  • Girls—Women

Governmental Power

  • Govt. control census allows for govt. control of categorizations of individuals and social movements

  • Dichotimization of Race e.g., 1 drop rule

  • Aggregation V. Disaggregation e.g., Hispanic V. Mexican, Puerto Rican, etc.

General Allotment Act 1887 ¼ bloods and land

Naturalization Law 1970 only “free” white immigrants could be citizens

1922 Supreme Court held Japanese were not white

People V. Hall 1854 Blacks, Mulatos, Native Americans & Whites were declared not white so could not testify against whites

Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo 1848 Mexicans were defined as white and allowed the political legal status of “free white persons”

The Law & Group Power

Group Social Influences

  • Social Loafing

  • Deindividuation

  • Group Polarization

  • Groupthink

  • Minority Influence

The tendency for people to exert less effort when they pool their efforts toward a common goal than when they are individually accountable

Applies more to individualistic rather than collectivistic societies

Social Loafing

Loss of self-awareness and evaluation apprehension

Occurs in group situations that foster anonymity and draw attention away from the individual

Impacted by:

Group size (Zimbardo, 1970 “car”)

Physical anonymity (Ellison, Govern, et al., (1995, Halloween candy)

Arousing & distracting activities (Zimbardo & others, 1977, Moonie choo choo chant)

Diminished self-awareness (Ickes & others, 1978 drinking & behavior)


Group –produced enhancement of members’ preexisting tendencies; a strengthening of the members’ average tendency, not a split within the group

Due to:

Informational influence I.e., gaining information that alters how you think

Normative influence i.e., evaluation of one’s ideas as compared to others

Group Polarization

Group Think

  • The thinking style of those in a cohesive in-group with dominant concurrence- seeking that overrides realistic appraisals of appropriate alternative ideas and/or behavior

Minority Influence

  • Minority members can influence majority members

    • If they are respected

    • If they speak at the beginning of a social movement

    • If they are consistent & persistent

    • If they are confident

    • Then “we should welcome, not fear, the voices of dissent.” Senator Wm Fulbright

Psychological Mechanisms of Aggression (Bandura, 1979)

  • Aggression = behavior resulting in personal injury & physical/psychological destruction

  • Aggression is impacted by

    • Subjective judgments about others’ intent

    • Privilege & disadvantage

Causes of Aggression

  • Biological i.e., dominance hierarchy

  • Environment

  • Social Learning

  • Cognition

  • Cultural

Utilizing Groups to Foster Cooperation

  • Sheriff et. Al., 1961

Factors Germane to Group Harmony

  • Reciprocal attitudes toward each other must be positive (not patronizing)

  • Power between the groups must be equal

  • Groups must not be in competition for a goal where one group’s win is another group’s loss i.e., superordinate goals must be complementary or common to all groups

  • Stereotypes must be eliminated

  • Norms for intergroup interaction must be altered to be only positive

  • Leadership style must be open

  • Solidarity must be experienced e.g., games or experiences

  • Frustrations & deprivations must be addressed i.e., frame of reference must be understood

  • Groups may share a common enemy

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