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.