Group Communication

Communication is crucial for the emergence and ongoing dynamics of any group of individuals with a common goal. While there is no single view on the minimum or maximum number of individuals in a group, size affects the communication and other dynamics within a group. In a group there are extra resources than in a two-person relationship, which can be used to assist with the activities in a group and to provide input into decision-making, planning and problem solution. The study of group communication helps improve the understanding of the ways groups function when they influence individuals and society, while it can also result in innovations in a number of areas.

Group communication is used to describe the messages members in a group exchange between each other. Individuals in a group participate, maintain the group identity, motivate participation, determine goals and do all the things that keep the group intact through the exchange of messages, which can be verbal or nonverbal. The messages exchanged by group members identify the nature of the group, its purpose, the roles individuals play in a group. Group communication is also important because it is the means used by groups to make decisions, manage conflict and build rapport, while it also shapes the future of the group and what it can accomplish.

Group communication is studied in an attempt to provide insight into aspects of groups that sometimes seem hidden. The study of group communication can reveal the reason why groups make some decisions but do not make others. This field of study helps further the understanding of cooperation, decision-making, influence on individual members and accomplishment of goals in a group.

The study of group communication focuses on group processes, ways and means for improvement of group communication, the influence of a group on the exchange of messages and the impact of the exchange of messages on a group. "Group dynamics" is a term created by Kurt Lewin early in the history of the study of groups, referring to what happens in group situations. One of the first and also longest lasting areas in this field of study is "leadership" whose goal is to understand what makes leaders of a group effective.

Another dominant area in the study of group communication is "decision making", where the goal is to understand the factors behind good decisions and bad decisions in a group. "Social influence" includes the study of how messages in a group affect the conformity and deviance of individual members. "Group process" is about the functions of communication in groups and the way in which it becomes patterned and sequenced over time. "Conflict" studies the ways in which differences between group members and differences with other groups are managed.

The study of group communication is influenced by rhetorical, the pragmatic and the social-psychological traditions. Group researchers using rhetorical approaches have developed discussion protocols as well as standards for the assessment of the quality of group discussion. The development of discussion agendas and rules for critical thinking has also been helped by researchers drawing from rhetoric and argumentation. Researchers in the social-psychological tradition identify the way in which a variety of social factors change the beliefs and attitudes of group members.

Researchers in the pragmatic tradition identify the sequences and patterning of communication within a group. They assess the way in which communication patterns affect what groups can and cannot accomplish as a result of these patterns. The interest of these researchers focuses on the variety of meanings of messages and the way they are negotiated by group members.

The three basic areas have blended in some new forms of group communication research. Computer and telecommunication networks have also affected research in group communication, raising questions about whether the emergence and functioning of groups is possible without them meeting face-to-face or whether group effectiveness can be aided by technology.

There were four eras in the development of group communication research in relation to the goal of developing better forms of discussion. In the first period, 1900-1920, there was interest in the improvement of democracy and the government responsiveness. Interest in the second period, 1930-1950, focused on the use of groups to help individuals learn about themselves. The third period, 1960-1980, is marked by an interest in better effectiveness of organisations and in the final period, from 1980 onwards, there is interest in knowledge.

Solomon Asch, B. Aubrey Fisher and Marshall Scott Poole are among the scholars who have worked in the group communication area.

Group Communication: Selected full-text books and articles

Skilled Interpersonal Communication: Research, Theory, and Practice By Owen Hargie; David Dickson Routledge, 2004 (4th edition)
Librarian's tip: Chap. 14 "Groups and Group Interaction"
An Integrated Approach to Communication Theory and Research By Michael B. Salwen; Don W. Stacks Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1996
Librarian's tip: Chap. 23 "Small Group Communication"
Group Communication in Context: Studies of Natural Groups By Lawrence R. Frey Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1994
Emotion in Social Relations: Cultural, Group, and Interpersonal Processes By Brian Parkinson; Agneta H. Fisher; Antony S. R. Manstead Psychology Press, 2005
Librarian's tip: Especially Chap. 4 "Group Emotion" and Chap. 5 "Intergroup Emotion"
Family Communication By Chris Segrin; Jeanne Flora Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2005
Managing Group Process By Marvin R. Gottlieb Praeger, 2003
Librarian's tip: Especially Chap. 13 "Nonverbal Behavior in Groups"
Survival in Groups: The Basics of Group Membership By Tom Douglas Open University Press, 1995
Librarian's tip: Chap. 6 "Presentation, Perception, Communication, Difference and Resources"
Handbook of Communication and Social Interaction Skills By John O. Greene; Brant R. Burleson Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2003
Librarian's tip: Chap. 21 "Communication Skills for Group Decision Making"
The Influence of Interpersonal Communication Variables on Group Communication Satisfaction By Johnston, Michelle Kirtley; Pecchioni, Loretta; Edwards, Renee Journal of Organizational Culture, Communications and Conflict, Vol. 4, No. 1, January 2000
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
Gender-Based Communication Styles, Trust, and Satisfaction in Virtual Teams By Furumo, Kimberly; Pearson, J. Michael Journal of Information, Information Technology, and Organizations, Vol. 2, Annual 2007
Managing Communication within Virtual Intercultural Teams By Grosse, Christine Uber Business Communication Quarterly, Vol. 65, No. 4, December 2002
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
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