Because humans are social to a degree not noted in any other species, the study of group dynamics holds potential insights into how and why specific behaviors develop. Exploring the features of this realm of interactivity is an integral part of disciplines ranging from psychology to business. For individuals interested in pursuing a career in organizational psychology, social work, human resources or anthropology, understanding these dynamics is foundational. The article below provides further definition of the term, unpacking its potential applications for research and implementation.
The Brass Tacks
Group dynamics is both a feature of human social behavior and a discrete area of study in psychology. As noted by the Psychology Dictionary it refers to the shifting factors and processes that impact patterns of group formation and interaction. But it also addresses the study of how a group of any size forms and operates, irrespective of culture or period. An individual might also examine the specific events and actions that occur within a group or between separable groups—known respectively as intra- and inter-group scrutiny.
Rationale and Social Value
In any corporate group formed by humans, one will find what anthropologists term a political dynamic. This refers to the fluid exchange of social power through dominance or cooperation to accomplish mutually beneficial goals or to establish a corporate identity. But the broader study of these transactions can be conducted for any subset within a culture, informing the understanding of racism, inequality, the formation of formal political structure and partisan ideologies, ritual creation and substantiation, scientific focus, monumental building projects requiring community effort, familial constructs and the value attached to various relationships, and many more human behaviors.
The underlying premise of the study of groups is that culture or society represents a recursive exchange. Not only do individuals inform the processes and events of a given culture, but, once created, those social structures and ideologies exert an impact upon individuals within the culture. Whether the unit of study is a social club or religious group within a society or the nation-state, broader regional tradition or the human species itself is a matter of the individual researcher’s need and focus.
Adaptive Human Sociality
Sociality refers to the practice of living in cooperative groups. As pertains to Homo sapiens, that entails an increasingly complex and dynamic social landscape, which individuals and groups must navigate via adaptive psychological behaviors. Everything from concepts of extended kinship, debt obligation, social stratification into a hierarchical status model, identifying dishonesty in social engagements, the formation of value systems that dictate responses to social and physical environmental phenomena, and even the development of networks of exchange and valuation as referenced in the discipline of Game Theory emerge.
Humans are complex animals who adapt to coexist in rich and textured social systems of an astonishing variety. But how does studying the dynamism of group formation, action, and interaction benefit a variety of disciplines and endeavors? Consider its implications and applications for corporate groups ranging from neighborhood book or garden clubs and non-profit organizations to local businesses and imminently for-profit global corporations.
No matter what the mission of a particular group, it must negotiate with individual members to satisfy specific requirements, craft an image that is carried forth by those members and represented to the world beyond the group, and maintain the intergroup balance between itself and other groups of varying types, both similar and not. Group dynamics forms the core of value systems, value transmission, economic and political dynamics, and a host of other integral social features that human society requires to maintain itself.