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What Is Group Behavior?

Mary McMahon
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Group behavior is the behavior of human groups, from formation to dissolution. Along with many other organisms, human beings tend to group up and engage in cooperative activities. The behaviors of a group can be highly variable, as can the factors that put pressure on the group. Social psychologists study group behavior. Their work contributes to everything from the development of advertising aimed at specific groups to the understanding of how crowds react to dangerous situations.

Groups can vary widely in size and composition. Individuals tend to drift to people with like characteristics, and the composition of a group that arises organically may be more homogeneous. In contrast, a group with enforced membership, like an assigned group of people in a class who must complete a project together, will be more variable. Various activities may facilitate bonding within the group, one reason many organizations use retreats and ice-breaking exercises to get their members to work together.

Within a group, a number of interesting phenomena can occur and these are topics of study in the field of group behavior. Some personalities may be more dominant than others, and some members may emerge as natural leaders and trendsetters within the groups. Groups can create a situation where individual members will be influenced by each other. Members of the group may act as a herd or mob to make decisions, rather than considering issues as individuals. Groups can also become narrow minded, as seen in group think, where pressures within the group lead to a bad decision.

Humans can be members of more than one group at the same time, and group membership may only be temporary. At a concert, for example, attendees form a group and may behave in unison for a few hours before separating at the end of the event to return to their own lives. While functioning as a group, they can be prone to situations like mass panic that may endanger the group as a whole. Stampedes and tramplings usually involve a series of events that trigger the development of thoughtless and dangerous group behavior.

Understanding the way that groups work is important in a number of settings. For teachers and work supervisors, it is important to know how groups operate and how to improve their functionality. Law enforcement officers, on the other hand, need to know how to control and work with crowds for safety. Marketing professionals also observe group behavior and use their findings to tailor advertisements and public outreach.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a The Health Board researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By GreenWeaver — On Aug 17, 2011

@Bhutan - I think that organizational behavior in a company has a lot to do with the organizational culture. I think that if the company is formal and all of the employees are dressed in business suits and work long hours, they will act differently than in a company that offers a more casual dress code with with flexible hours.

These employees will probably be more relaxed and less formal because the culture of the company is that way. I also think that the flipside is possible too. If you work in an environment where the group stays late and works twelve hour days, you will probably feel uncomfortable working only an eight hour shift even though you already completed your work for the day.

In these types of environments the group often waits until the boss leaves before they pack up for the day.

By Bhutan — On Aug 17, 2011

@Icecream17 - I wanted to add that group behavior in organizations can actually promote someone to a leadership position for positive reasons. They say that people that are well liked by the group can influence the group with their ideas and then eventually become a leader of the group. For example, if an employee becomes really popular within their company and offer suggestions on how to improve the company they would probably be noticed and even promoted.

I think that people are willing to listen to ideas of people that they like. This is why I think that people with excellent communication skills that know how to work well with others will always be more successful than people that have expert knowledge but are abrasive with others.

I also think that this is why certain celebrities are used for promotional advertising because advertisers are hoping that the presence of the popular celebrity can influence a specific target group to purchase the product or service.

By icecream17 — On Aug 16, 2011

I think that dynamics of group behavior can sometimes focus on being accepted in order to fit in. You can really test this theory when you have a leader of the group that offers an outspoken and opinionated demeanor. The rest of the group becomes submissive and goes along with whatever the leader says although they may not agree, but they keep their opinions private because they want to belong to the group.

I think that this happens to kids in middle school and high school. Sometimes peer relationships become so important that kids do destructive things in order to belong. This is why I always talk to my kids about friendships that are worthwhile and those that are not because if kids learn what makes a healthy relationship they won’t be influenced by group behavior or peer pressure.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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