THE TRIALS AND TRIBULATIONS OF BECOMING
A GROUP MEMBER

by Vince Beckman, Megan Bitsoff,
David Heineman, & Brent Scott

Please Note:  These materials may be used for research, study, and education, but please credit the authors and source.
 

            Everyone in their lifetime will experience or be a part of a group.  Groups are an important part of existence because our society runs on group actions and group decisions.  We are all in some type of group whether you realize it or not.   A group is defined as collection of individuals who have relations to one another that make them interdependent to some significant degree (Cartwright & Zander 1968).

frat-boys.jpg (151133 bytes)Groups share the following features:
roles: allocate responsibility for tasks
norms: identifies suitable behaviors
communication structure: details who talks to whom
power structure: who has the most influence

             Since we all experience group behavior and group process we must at some point become part of a certain group.  Becoming a member of a group can be seen as a remorseless process that deals with psychological issues.  We can refer to a new member of a group as a rookie, thus they experience a rookie situation.  To clarify, a rookie situation is one in which an individual is new to a group or situation.  In most cases, other members of the group are veterans or experienced with the current group process.  Thus, the behavior of the group is affected by the lower status of the novel individual. Group pressures can take many forms, including repetition, monopolization of time and positive reinforcements of desired behaviors and beliefs.  This combination of such techniques can influence behavior and perhaps beliefs.  The classic experiments of Asch clearly show that a significant minority of people will under certain conditions change their behavior and conform.  Thus, beliefs and attitudes can be modified through group process.  This process is experienced by various groups including: fraternities, sororities, employee groups, sports teams, as well as many others.

             People join groups for many reasons, but most frequently these reasons involve some type of psychological security and protection.  When dealing with groups like fraternities and sororities, an important reason is to provide security.  For example, hazing is an unlikable experience but most “rookies” will comply and accept cruelty, harassment, and hazing techniques just to become a part of that group.  Thus, being part of a group implies something greater than the act of hazing, meaning the positive aspects outweigh the negative aspects when joining a group.  The reason for joining a group should be beneficial, right?   By joining a group, individuals can reduce the insecurity of standing alone.  People feel stronger, have fewer self-doubts, and are more resistant to threats when they are a part of a group.  People join groups for status.  Inclusion in a group that is viewed as important by others provides recognition and status for its members.

            People join groups for power and what cannot be achieved individually often becomes possible through group action.

               People also join groups for goal achievement, where it takes more than one person to accomplish a particular task.

         While there are many aspects of group behavior, this website has focused on in-group/out-group bias, hazing, and teasing.  Further information on these topics can be explored via the links below.

Quiz Yourself
See how well you conform; take the social
anxiety test.

When it comes to groups, “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”  

For more information click on these links:

This tutorial was produced for Psy 324, Advanced Social Psychology, Spring 2000 at Miami University.  All graphics are from the public domain,used with permission, or were created by the authors.  Social Psychology / Miami University (Ohio USA).   Last revised: Tuesday, March 11, 2014 at 23:13:04. This document has been accessed 6,839 times since April 15, 2002. Comments & Questions to R. Sherman