Understanding Group Behavior: Consensual Action by Small Groups - Vol. 1

Understanding Group Behavior: Consensual Action by Small Groups - Vol. 1

Understanding Group Behavior: Consensual Action by Small Groups - Vol. 1

Understanding Group Behavior: Consensual Action by Small Groups - Vol. 1


These books grew out of the perception that a number of important conceptual and theoretical advances in research on small group behavior had developed in recent years, but were scattered in rather fragmentary fashion across a diverse literature. Thus, it seemed useful to encourage the formulation of summary accounts. A conference was held in Hamburg with the aim of not only encouraging such developments, but also encouraging the integration of theoretical approaches where possible. These two volumes are the result.

Current research on small groups falls roughly into two moderately broad categories, and this classification is reflected in the two books. Volume I addresses theoretical problems associated with the consensual action of task-oriented small groups, whereas Volume II focuses on interpersonal relations and social processes within such groups. The two volumes differ somewhat in that the conceptual work of Volume I tends to address rather strictly defined problems of consensual action, some approaches tending to the axiomatic, whereas the conceptual work described in Volume II is generally less formal and rather general in focus. However, both volumes represent current conceptual work in small group research and can claim to have achieved the original purpose of up-to-date conceptual summaries of progress on new theoretical work.


The project that was to become the two volumes, Understanding Group Behavior, began as a conference, emphasizing theory and conceptual issues in empirical research on small group behavior. Held at the University of Hamburg, November 1992 (and sponsored by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft), conference presentations were later amplified and considerably expanded as a consequence of discussion among participants and subsequent exchanges. The two volumes present original theoretical works that address a variety of important current problems, both applied and basic. Contributions to both volumes are up-to-date accounts of original theory: Those comprising Volume 1 tend to be rather specific in character; those of Volume 2 are similar, but the work described is of a more general conceptual nature.

The special emphasis of Volume 1 is on "consensual action by small groups." Juries, panels, and committees of many kinds are ubiquitous in the affairs of societies, and have been the target of considerable research by social psychologists, as well as researchers from a variety of other disciplines. The chapters collected in Part I present theories and models stressing the process of aggregating preferences and combining member contributions in achieving consensus. Part II contributions emphasize the social processing of information and interpersonal exchanges, as well as member reactions, during the consensus process. Together, these chapters offer a wide range of theoretical perspectives on the process of "individual-into-group" behavior characteristic of consensus.

Small groups (two to a dozen or so) are not only primary agents for performing many of the tasks of organizations and institutions, within which they are . . .

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