Group Dynamics: All Psyches are Affected, Only Mine is Psychiatrically More Sensitive?


The negativity that has recently been displayed in my classroom actually threw me into a wonderful, Bipolar Cycling spree.  In fact, I’m still in it.  As a result, I may not be able to finish this until later.  I’ll also try and keep it brief because it’s not just a “story.”  There is some information here about how group’s “work,” and how negativity within them “works,” as well.  I’d like to use that to draw some correlations to my particular situation.

Briefly, from a human, historical perspective, we’ve always existed in “groups.”  I won’t go into that too much.  However, it does lay a bit of foundation, simply in some ways of interpersonal relationships.  Perhaps, I should just leave it at that.  KISS.  We’re social beings, correct? Nonetheless, that social aspect does pave the way for the negative interaction.

The psychological aspect of studying “Group Dynamics” was founded by Kurt Lewin in 1943.  For my circumstance, our small group consists of some things such as: seeking goals, and/or a reward at the end (i.e. employment), and possibly a purpose.  Of the latter, I am not so sure, but it maybe for some.  I know it is for me, in seeking more education.  I love to learn.

Now this is where things get ugly.  Both within my classroom and within this post.  I can’t explain it any better than within these citations, so that is what I am giving you.  However, I will break it down to give you some examples as to what is going on specifically.

Individuals can be influenced by: a majority, a certain situation, a leader, persuasion, their own behaviors and attitudes, etc. Asch’s (1956) study of conformity suggests that individuals conform to the majority even when there is no social pressure to conform, no rewards for conforming, or no punishments for being the minority.

We have one girl in our class who is quiet as a mouse! I have tried to make several attempts to provide opportunities to allow her to express herself as we all have the right to speak freely.  However, with everyone constantly interrupting each other, she continually clams up!

Other research conducted by Milgram (1965) suggests that individuals can be influenced under certain immediate situations that make the individual feel they are emotionally distant, following orders, and/or part of a larger group. Research on leadership suggests that individuals can be influenced by leaders depending on the situation (Bales, 1958). If an individual is in a situation where they do not know what to do, they will look for a leader. In situations where a group is formed to accomplish a task, an individual is more likely to be influence by a task-oriented leader, and situations where a group is formed to increase social relations, an individual is more likely to be influenced by a socially-oriented leader. An individual, no matter the situation, is more likely to be influenced by a leader that possess both task and social leadership (Fiedler, 1971). Research on persuasion suggests that individuals are influenced by the credibility and trustworthiness of an individual (Cook & Flay, 1978 cited in Myers).

We have another girl in the class who keeps bouncing back and forth, no matter what is going on! She changes what she has to say, whatever opinion she has to give, it doesn’t matter.  It all depends upon whomever she speaks to at the time!

Lastly, individuals can be influenced by their own attitudes and behaviors (Zimbardo, 1971; Pilner, 1974;Cialdini, 1978 all cited in Myers). Research suggests that individuals’ attitudes can influence their own behavior, (my edit: cont’d…)

We have another girl in the class.  Wow.  She is the most challenging to deal with! There is nothing but pure negativity spewing forth from her mouth!

and that behavior can also influence one’s attitudes (Waller, 2002; Zimbardo, 1971; Pilner, 1974;Cialdini, 1978 all cited in Myers).

Here we get to me! Sort of.  It is not so much my “attitude” that is being “influenced.”  It is more my feelings (and emotions.)  I am becoming upset and frustrated.  Under other circumstances, I wouldn’t be bothered about these other girls’ opinions and issues.  I would simply carry on and do my work. The problem is, things have reached such a point, it is now so disruptive that the learning environment is almost unmanageable.  Thus, it is affecting my “goal seeking,” my “reward seeking,” and my “sense of purpose,” according to Kurt Lewin!

Further, it is extending to my emotional state.  Lewin doesn’t mention anything about those with any mental illnesses, but it has destabilized me to throw me into the aforementioned Bipolar Cycling spree!

This research on what influences individuals plays an important role in group dynamics because it can influence the group cohesion and later inter-group dilemmas.

Finally, this is also true.  The oddest thing happened on Friday when our Instructor was ill, and I was trying to spend the entire morning in a boardroom, feeling like I an arbitrator trying to mediate with a bunch of four year olds.  We all sit in our same spots in the room.  That morning, another girl moved from hers and sat beside me! Now, could that say something about a negative impact upon group dynamics?

This one’s a little more difficult to break down.  Maybe you can choose to read it if you wish? I won’t break the block up to explain things more, as is too “multi-factorial,” itself!

Whether a group works well together is multi-factorial. It depends on the members, the environment and the group tasks. The group’s cohesion depends on the extent that the individuals in the group want to accomplish the group’s common goals and group identity. The cohesion of a group is an important factor that could help explain the group’s behavior and its inter-group relations. The elements of cohesion are the members attraction to the group, normative influence, informational influence, and outside sources in the world (McCauley, Class notes). A cohesive group consists of having a common identity, a sense of shared purpose and a structured pattern of communication (Carron, 1980). Cohesion can be seen through many different factors such as the similarities of the group members, the satisfaction and support of other group members, and the size and stability of the group. These factors that affect cohesion, are also affected by the way members of the group interact with one another and the environment. Usually the attraction towards the group can consist of the individual having the same group goals and/or wanting social relations and support from people who are similar. The more similar the members (age, sex, race, attitudes) of the group are, the higher the cohesion. Similarity within a group gives the group a common identity in which the members can all relate and the more categories the members of the group have in common, the stronger the common identity. This common identity empowers the group to create group norms that all members of the group are expected to fulfill through their attitudes, beliefs and behaviors. If members of the group are not fulfilling their duty to follow the group norms, then this can affect cohesion. (McCauley, Class notes & Handouts)

There are several differences within our group that may contribute to a lack of cohesion that are mentioned, or can be attributed to what is mentioned above.  These are a few of them.  And by no means is this in any way “negative” in criticism.  They are simply things that exist, or have arisen, that may play a role.

There are cultural differences among us.  I am not playing the “race card,” here.  However, with the prior Instructor, she was of similar background of some of these girls, so they could relate to their cultural backgrounds.  So much so, that we would take extended breaks (for which the Instructor was reprimanded), where those individuals would engage in too much personal discussion.  Others, like myself, would simply ignore it as we could not relate.  Unless it was something “generally” funny.

Another example of a cultural difference, is a change to our new Instructor.  She comes from a different background where English is not her first language.  A comment has been made about this, as a reflection upon her performance.

There are differences in sexual preference.  I am “gay.”  The first Instructor we had, made a somewhat derogatory statement about a celebrity being gay.  It was a typical one, along the lines of…”Oh, what a waste!” Then others went on to discuss who “looked” gay, who didn’t.  I couldn’t stand it anymore, and nearly shouted: “There’s nothing wrong with being gay! I’m gay!” There was quite a lengthy silence in the room.  Then, the Instructor said, “Oh! Well, yes! You’re right!”

I stared at nearly everyone with a significant frown.  I don’t know how long it remained on my face for the rest of the class.

We have differences in degrees of knowledge.  This may be intimidating to others.  In fact, comments have been made (somewhat veiled or somewhat overtly), that this is, shall we say, “unappealing?” Well, there is nothing that can be done about that.  Despite the fact that some may know more than others, we are all there to learn.  However, it is still causing a problem.

I think I have said enough.  This may give you an example of how things are operating, and how our group dynamic is possibly displaying some more negative qualities.

One last thing I would like to mention is something called Social Loafing.  It is a social phenomenon, originally identified or coined, by a French, agricultural engineer named Max Ringlemann in 1913.  I will not delve further into its “dynamics,” although I will note the two forms where it could apply here:

Lessened contingency between input and outcome: Team members may feel they can hide in the crowd and avoid the consequences of not contributing. Or, a team member may feel lost in the crowd and unable to gain recognition for their contributions (Latane, 1998). This description is characteristic of people driven by their uniqueness and individuality. In a group, they lose this individuality and the recognition that comes with their contributions. Therefore, these group members lose motivation to offer their full ability since it will not be acknowledged (Charbonnier et al., 1998). Additionally, large group sizes can cause individuals to feel lost in the crowd. With so many individuals contributing, some may feel that their efforts are not needed or will not be recognized (Kerr, 1989).

Simply put, this could again apply to the disparity of knowledge within our group.  It could also apply to the individual’s own perception of their status within the classroom.

Non-cohesive group: A group functions effectively when members have bonded and created high-quality relationships. If the group is not cohesive, members are more prone to social loafing since they are not concerned about letting down their teammates (Piezon & Donaldson, 2005).

Of course, here we have our “biggie?” In the plainest language ever: the person just doesn’t care at all!

There was nothing specific that I could find regarding those with psychiatric problems, negative group dynamics, and said effects.  Only that the outcomes could make people depressed.  Well, it made me depressed and a whole lot more.  It triggered me into a Bipolar Cycle that took me straight out of the stratosphere!

NOTE: All excerpts excluding those from Wiki can be found here.




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