Topic: Elements Of Social Interaction

Groups are collections of people who identify and interact with one another and are united in some way.

In the social sciences, a social group is two or more humans who interact with one another, share similar characteristics, and have a collective sense of unity. This is a very broad definition, as it includes groups of all sizes, from dyads to whole societies. A society can be viewed as a large group, though most social groups are considerably smaller. Society can also be viewed as people who interact with one another, sharing similarities pertaining to culture and territorial boundaries.

Renowned social psychologist Muzafer Sherif formulated a technical definition of a social group. It is a social unit consisting of a number of individuals interacting with each other with respect to:

  1. common motives and goals;
  2. an accepted division of labor;
  3. established status relationships;
  4. accepted norms and values with reference to matters relevant to the group; and
  5. the development of accepted sanctions, such as raise and punishment, when norms were respected or violated.

Primary and secondary groups

A primary group is typically a small social group whose members share close, personal, enduring relationships. Sociologists distinguish between two types of groups based upon their characteristics. A primary group is typically a small social group whose members share close, personal, enduring relationships. These groups are marked by a concern for one another, shared activities and culture, and long periods of time spent together. The goal of primary groups is actually the relationships themselves rather than achieving some other purpose. Families and close friends are examples of primary groups.

Secondary groups are large groups whose relationships are impersonal and goal-oriented; their relationships are temporary. Unlike first groups, secondary groups are large groups whose relationships are impersonal and goal-oriented. People in a secondary group interact on a less personal level than in a primary group, and their relationships are generally temporary rather than long-lasting. Some secondary groups may last for many years, though most are short term. Such groups also begin and end with very little significance in the lives of the people involved. Secondary relationships involve weak emotional ties and little personal knowledge of one another. In contrast to primary groups, secondary groups don’t have the goal of maintaining and developing the relationships themselves.

In groups and out groups

In-groups are social groups to which an individual feels he or she belongs, while an individual doesn’t identify with the out-group. In sociology and social psychology, in-groups and out-groups are social groups to which an individual feels as though he or she belongs as a member, or towards which they feel contempt, opposition, or a desire to compete, respectively. In-group bias is a phenomenon in which people tend to act more favorably towards people who they perceive to be part of their in-group. In-group bias becomes more extreme in times of conflict.

Group Size

Size (the number of people involved) is an important characteristic of groups, organizations and communities in which social behavior occurs.

Dyads and triads are the smallest social groups. Social interaction in a dyad is typically more intense than in larger groups because neither member shares the other’s attention with anyone else. A triad is more stable than a dyad because one member can act as a mediator should the relationship between the other two become strained.

As an organization or community grows in size it is apt to experience tipping points where the way it operates needs to change. The complexity of large groupings is partly because they are made up of interrelated subgroups. As the size of a group increases, the need for more organization or leadership also often becomes more obvious.


Practice Questions


Khan Academy

 

MCAT Official Prep (AAMC)

Practice Exam 2 P/S Section Passage 4 Question 21

Practice Exam 4 P/S Passage 3 Question 14

Practice Exam 4 P/S Passage 3 Question 16


Key Points

• A social group exhibits some degree of social cohesion and is more than a simple collection or aggregate of individuals.

• Social cohesion can be formed through shared interests, values, representations, ethnic or social background, and kinship ties, among other factors.

• Primary groups are marked by concern for one another, shared activities and culture, and long periods of time spent together. They are psychologically comforting and quite influential in developing personal identity.

• Secondary relationships involve weak emotional ties and little personal knowledge of one another. In contrast to primary groups, secondary groups don’t have the goal of maintaining and developing the relationships themselves.

• In- group favoritism or bias refers to a preference and affinity for one’s in-group over the out-group, or anyone viewed as outside the in-group.

• The out-group homogeneity effect is one’s perception of out-group members as more similar to one another than are in-group members (e.g., “they are alike; we are diverse”).

• Dyads and triads are the smallest social groups. Social interaction in a dyad is typically more intense because neither member shares the other’s attention with anyone else. A triad is more stable because one member can act as a mediator if the relationship between the other two become strained.

• As an organization or community grows in size it is apt to experience changes in the way it operates. As the size of a group increases, the need for more organization or leadership also becomes more obvious.


Key Terms

Social group: a collection of humans or animals that share certain characteristics, interact with one another, accept expectations and obligations as members of the group, and share a common identity

Close friends: they are examples of primary groups

Group: a number of things or persons being in some relation to one another

Relationship: connection or association; the condition of being related

Primary group: it is typically a small social group whose members share close, personal, enduring relationships. these groups are marked by concern for one another, shared activities and culture, and long periods of time spent together

Secondary groups: they are large groups whose relationships are impersonal and goal-oriented.

Dyad: a pair of things standing in a particular relation; dyadic relation

Triad: a group of three people

In-group bias: preference for member’s of one’s in-groups



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