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The following program is produced by the University of Michigan broadcasting service under a grant of aid from the National Educational Television and Radio Center in cooperation with the National Association of educational broadcasters man and the group a program from the series human behavior social and medical research produced by the University of Michigan broadcasting service with special assistance from the Mental Health Research Institute of the university. These programs have been developed from interviews with men and women who have the too often on glamorous job of basic research. Research in medicine the physical sciences social sciences and the behavioral sciences. Occasionally you will hear what may seem like strange or unfamiliar sav these are the sounds of the participants office laboratory or clinic where the interviews were first recorded. The people you will hear today are Professor George C. Homans professor of sociology at Harvard University and Professor Alex babbelas of Stanford University. And my
name is Glenn Phillips. How should one think of a group. Do groups have the same reality as an individual. What is a group. Where does a group begin or end where and how does an individual fit into a group. Such questions are not new but they are receiving new and concerted attention by more minds than ever before. Today's programme will consist mainly of an interview with Professor George Coleman's of Harvard University with excerpts from an interview with Professor Alex Bevan. My questions have been re recorded for audio clarity. Professor Homans I ask what is a group. What are the ingredients so to speak. The only thing we can say about what a group is. Is that a group is a number of people. Each of one. Of the groups in existence.
Interacts at some time or other with each of the others. Oh by interact here we simply mean that a person who interacts with another. In a direct some kind of behavior around him. And if a group of a hundred thousand people each one of them interacted with or the others at some time during the time the groups in existence well that could be a group but since this obviously doesn't occur. We don't ordinarily speak of as large a number of people that as a group. But a lot of that we can't. State any. Absolute number of people that it was upper limit can scums to the largest possible group as opposed to a group then what is a mob.
But I don't think you can say except that one's strong and the influence of some emotion on the other isn't but. By my method of defining a group a mob could well be a group. If each of the members interacted with each of the others but in general this isn't the case with Muslims. Professor battlers supplies the answer to the next question. What are the limits of a group numerically. This is this is an old chestnut really and I mean it's been discussed a long time I think the answer is well known. But they're defining of a group. For psychologists the rest essentially on psychological and not American considerations. I remember one paper I read many years ago in which the individual was considered to be a group. But I think most researchers who say they work with groups talking about two
as a minimum. Although the second person doesn't need to be physically present always on the higher side in terms of numbers though it's likely that as the number of people increases the psychological groups present. Increase that is to say it breaks down into smaller units so that there might be several psychological groups in a collection of 50. People very likely would be. One of the reasons why the sizes of groups that have been studied has been fairly small however is a technical and methodological reason. If you're going to study groups in the laboratory and if you want to take certain kinds of records then it becomes impractical to try to do this for technical reasons for very large groups so that if the good deal of the laboratory work with groups is confined to fairly small
numbers say 2 6 7 or 8. This is not entirely because psychologists don't think a psychological group can be bigger than this. It's merely that it's very difficult to study a bigger one. Are there differences in the methods of studying a mob and a group. Again Professor Buffalo's. Well not every group that gets out of hand becomes a modeless some unpleasant notion here of greater size. But I don't know if my fact that Iran has successfully started a mob laboratory. These studies tend to be descriptive don't think and I'm sure that the method you use to describe what happens in a collection of several hundred people and they are engaged in a lynching let's say tearing up goalposts. Must be different because they're essentially observational. It's also possible that in
studying a very large collection of people whether they be a mob or a group but a large collection that somehow or have some activity in which they're in gaze whether they're interacting very much or not that if the numbers beg the kinds of measures you might use it would give you statistical stabilities of a different kind than the study of a small group so that with a small group of two or three people you might hope to trace in detail the interactions that occur and try on that kind of basis to explain what happens. Whereas on the study of a very large group one might depend on certain statistical regularities rather than the tracking of individual behaviors or that interactions between selected players and so on. As groups develop leaders eventually emerge as well as followers. Is everyone adaptable to being a leader. Professor home.
The person who becomes Alito. Is likely to be somebody who possesses a high degree and ability to reward the other members. Now what this ability. Yes varies very much from. One group to another and in some industrial groups that I've studied the leader has been a person who is able to. Help the others in their work in other industrial groups such as. Some groups of young women I've I've studied it's been the ability to work and teach the other girls some interesting thing to do. But in any case it's the ability to really learn what other people that forms early days except of course when leaders are appointed but we're not talking about that now are
people adaptable in all situations. Or would for example someone like Sir James Barrie's the admirable Crighton be basically symbolic of human nature and perform best under a given situation and not perform as well under another situation. I think this is a reasonably true statement. You know whether a person is a leader depends on the circumstances of the number of people as a group for whom these whom he's leading. And the great ingredient of a leader is the ability to root out these people in some way. The nature of the warlord varies with the interests of the people concerned. I've never been able to discover any single general psychological. Characteristic that made people a leader with one possible exception and that is not intelligence. But energy. Which is perhaps.
Not a it's not a very widely used or easily defined psychological concept it seems to me to to be more a matter of. The sheer ability to put out social behavior. Using an example which is perhaps more real to many of us. I asked Professor Homans if Lincoln would have been the great success that he was had he been alive at some other period he said. But I can conceive of times in American history where Lincoln wouldn't have got to the top but he had a high ability to produce behavior that rewarded other people in this case SAS at a time which demanded his particular kind of abilities. So you've got to consider both Lincoln and the situation. What does your recent research been concerning groups. I'm not at present doing any field research but my own past
research has consisted in mostly. Of studies of fairly small groups say of the size of a department in industry American business I should say. I must say that I am interested in American business but the great chat I'm about about studying groups in business is that the groups are captive groups that there somebody else got them together and and they're available for you to study if you can persuade the management and the union to let Chell. Out over the years. Beginning with my. Early. Work with Elton Mayo at the Harvard. Business School. I've pursued a number of these studies and besides doing some of my own work in the in the Boston Edison Company I have also been
associated through the years with a group of people led by Fritz Rothlisberger over at the Harvard Business School that I've concentrated on. Making fairly detailed what we call for your studies of rather small industrial groups. My concern and interest is in isn't social behavior. Not human groups as such. Suppose you got. Three people. A B and C. A M B C each other. And b and c c each other. But every and C don't see each other. That was another situation where a b and c are all together in the same place nor do I. Associate freely with one another.
And are in general. I'm sure that the main force of social behavior applied to both situations. But only the second situation when a b and c are freely in contact with one another. Is the kind of a situation where we can speak of a group. And I should call a group of or. I should say that a group consists of two men. So I think the main laws of social behavior apply to both situations. But the investigator. Is better off. As far as getting there for his money is concerned. If you can study the. A B and C freely associating.
Situation. Because he deems to be only one who needs to be at only one place. Therefore I say that groups are handy places to study social behavior. But what we're really interested in is the social behavior much more than the group. Well and what you're doing then is studying not the function of the group but the reactions of the individuals within the group. It is true this is true but of course out of the interactions of the individuals concerned there may be. Other phenomena such as the one about leadership that you spoke of earlier that emerge. What are some of the if not surely to tell or if you can relate them. What are some of the major questions which. Are involved in this particular type of study.
Some of the major questions. Well you mentioned one of them the determinants of leadership. How do. What we call group norms get established standards of behavior apply to. A group of people. One of the first is that the term in. Conformity. To norms. Oh what determines. Standing for status in a group. Under what conditions do people become. Either satisfied or dissatisfied. With the behavior of others towards them. Which is for me always a question of not a simple but a question of justice. Then there are some of the problems
of what makes for. Equality between members as well as differences between members. And. Perhaps to well wind up the story. What is it that makes. People in different positions with different status as in a group tend to behave differently. Does this last bit of information tend to behave differently imply also non-conformity this sort of thing. That's right there are certain we've got several studies now that suggest that people either a very high standing or a very low standing in the group are less likely to be confirmed once. If you rise is. It's likely to be because he does something that the group value was iffy for all. It's likely to be because. He has not done something that the group doesn't value. Those forces can then make him.
Produce the kind of behavior that the group values. And if one of the things they value was conformity to some kind of a norm these middle people are apt to conform. One out strategically the people at the top or at the bottom end are in a different situation. The person at the top has gotten as fire has he can by doing what the group grab you. Any further achievement he's likely to perform may be in the direction may be run by. You know they should and innovation is in the nature of the case non-conformity it something new. The person at the bottom of society wants to cite Society of the group as a person who can't fail anymore. He's already at the bottom. They have long. Known conformity is not going to cost him
anything. He hasn't got a thing. It's the business of having nothing to lose that fly no one confirmed but hey that makes me one of the reasons that makes me want to confirm it. Whereas the fellow at the top produces perhaps a different kind of non-conformity out of what I call innovation. But he too wound up in the balance of advantage is open to him. He has not got much to gain by doing the same kind of thing he's done before. From Professor Homans preceding answer I wondered if energy alone would be the determining factor for its superior intelligence combined with energy help the individual to rise in a group. His further comment was there are plenty of people that are successful in doing what you described and if success is a measure of his intelligence then he's highly intelligent.
All I mean is that intelligence as measured by intelligence tests does not always correlate very high highly with the ability to attain relatively high social position within the group. If success in winning a high social position in a group is the measure of intelligence then you are back to a tautology. All we know is that doesn't seem to be any high correlation between intelligence as measured by intelligence tests and this ability to win a high. Position in a group. From his years of experience I wondered if Professor Homans could be given the answer to one question that intrigued him in this area. What would that one question be.
He said the question for me is now about. What. Specific kind of questions. To be answered. Question for me and the kind of interest I have. Is. We have an awful lot of finding about. Social behavior now embodied in that you know a great deal of scientific writing and a great deal of common knowledge. The problem for me is not a problem that's ring specific questions but a problem of how we organize this body of knowledge. Which for me again is always a question of how we can explain you know ride variety of phenomena. On the basis of a rather small number of general principles. And. And this is the scientific
endeavor. One of the great scientific endeavors of the problem of organization and explanation and this is the thing that interests me much more than it says to more specific questions. Earlier there was discussion of leaders in our society if in our modern day with their social institutions to act as ethical safeguards. How does one explain the rise of a Hitler or a Mussolini or a St. Louis. Now we're not talking about small groups we're talking about sociology in general. And I think the only answer you can give the Arab is that if you look at the history. And most social institutions are a result of course over long past histories. In the case of both. In the case of Russia that have been there had been previously no democratic institutions of any kind and. Substantially No. And in the case of Germany
and Italy these institutions were of recent date and not very deeply rooted societies had to have social institutions but not all societies have social institutions. Of a nature that allow or the easy appearance. And great power of dictators. Would a dictator ever be possible in our society. I suppose it's possible because I think that almost anything is possible in any society. But. The betting would be heavily against it with the kind of social institutions that we have now and the kind of past experience that this society has been through the so-called Anglo-Saxon people have had an experience of some kind of democracy. In the past. Which runs back now a very long
time. In the case of English society it runs back at least. 600 Yes. Well no. This is not been the kind of experience that that Italy and Germany and Russia have been through. Therefore my betting would be that it's possible but more difficult for. This country to produce a dictator. Than those many others. Going to Professor babble is 4 3 final questions I ask him what his major interest has been group functioning. I'm interested in communication in small groups. And at the moment. Planning an experiment.
Which quite simply asks how well individuals will have. Different kinds of knowledge about a common problem. You can put what they know together effectively. In order to reach some solution. And the experiment will be very simple. It consists of giving the different persons who are going to be brought together. Individual Training and some selected aspects of the problem that. The group will face later. So hopefully one would know. What each person knows about the problem and how well he's mastered that particular aspect. Then the group will come together and they'll try to put what they know into some. Synthesis so that they can arrive at a solution. Would this type research have eventual practical application. I don't know whether. Any direct application will come out of this study. This one is the first of a series and as we get to
know more and more about the conditions under which groups are able to put together what they know constructively there might be something of value in terms of application. I don't know that it would apply to decisions which depend as much on sentiment as they do on facts however. But it's entirely possible although one can say now. That something of practical value would come out in the sense that an understanding of what conditions are necessary in order to make the odds more favorable. That a group will be able to put together what it knows in such shape that all the information will be available for use in this complex age with space exploration etc. where small groups will be forced together for long periods of time. Will there be any special application of research findings to these smaller groups. I really don't know how it will benefit them. With respect to small groups in submarines or in. An
individual in isolation for long periods these problems I'm sure are being studied in very practical ways. I don't know of such studies specifically but it would be unlikely that somewhere studies aren't being made on what happens to it to a group when it's isolated for many many days under conditions resembling the hose for example that might obtain a submarine. But more important perhaps is the kind of work that. Goes one step deeper and studies not the to the actual situation that we expect will occur but rather studies the effect of stress itself on judgment and group functioning. So that instead of asking what will happen to a group of men who are isolated and something like a submarine what might well ask what different kinds of stress. Can occur in such a
situation or how do group function under various kinds of stress expression dosed by drugs expression dosed by unusual conditions of uncertainty and so on. Our thanks to Professor about to listen to Professor George Coleman's for their participation in this discussion on man in the group. Next week you will hear Dr Patrick Super-AIDS who is dean of the department of humanities and science at Stanford University. Professor Donald Davidson also of the Stanford University philosophy department and Duncan Luce professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania as they discuss the decision process on the next program from the series human behavior social and medical research consultant for today's program was Professor Dorwin cock right. The University of Michigan. We extend our special thanks to the Mental Health Research Institute of the University of Michigan.
May we take this opportunity to call to your attention other programs in our series. Two weeks from today we will hear a discussion on performance and stress. That program will appear Dr. Louis West who is head of the department of psychiatry neurology and behavioral sciences at the University of Oklahoma and Dr. Robert H. Felix who is director of the National Institute of Mental Health in Bethesda Maryland. Three weeks from today a discussion on religion and science. That program we will hear Rev. S. Leslie Glenn Reverend George Christian Anderson and Dr. Earle lumens. Glenn Phillips speaking asking that you join us next week and thanking you for being with us at this time. This program has been produced by the University of Michigan broadcasting service under a grant in aid from the National Educational Television and Radio Center in cooperation with the National Association of educational broadcasters. This is the ne e b Radio
Behavioral science research
Man in a group
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University of Michigan
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University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Episode Description
This program focuses on the research of human groups. Guests are: George C. Homans, Ph.D; and Alex Bavelas, Ph.D.
Series Description
A documentary series on behavioral science and its role in understanding human health.
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Host: Cowlin, Bert
Interviewee: Homans, George Caspar, 1910-1989
Interviewee: Bavelas, Alex
Producing Organization: University of Michigan
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 61-36-5 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:29:37
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Chicago: “Behavioral science research; Man in a group,” 1961-06-22, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed March 2, 2024,
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APA: Behavioral science research; Man in a group. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from