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The Psychology of Group Dynamics

Updated: Jan 29

The author Elena Menchetti of the article:" The psychology of group dynamics".

Publication date: 14.11.2023

If you think that psychology has nothing to do with group dynamics, think twice!

Actually, being in a group can be challenging. However, it can also be beneficial for two reasons.

What impact does a group dynamic have

One reason is that, in a group, resources add up which makes a goal easier to achieve. The second reason is that, according to psychological studies, people who have strong social bonds tend to experience less stress. Besides that, they are less likely to suffer from depression and are often physically healthier.

Social bonds in a group

What psychology has to say about groups

According to the psychology of group dynamics, there are 4 core elements that can be found in any group. These include:

Group elements

● Social relations

They are characterized by the willingness of individuals to maintain harmonious and nurturing relationships with others

● Social self

It is a sense of self that is based on group-level relationships, roles and social identities rather than individual personal qualities

● Social motives

These reflect group members’ concern for group success and cooperation

● Social obligations

They refer to the group norms and roles that guide group behavior and decisions

The factors groups are based on

Groups are formed based on 3 factors:

  1. the group members themselves, their personalities and preferences

  2. the situation, including environmental forces that push members to work together to achieve a common goal

  3. attraction, which is necessary in a group to allow for interpersonal bonds to be formed

Social identification becomes personal identification

Social identification (or categorization), is a term often used by psychologists in the analysis of groups. It is through social identification that individual members start identifying with their group. What’s more, a powerful situational trigger that leads to group identification is the presence of other groups but also group size. That is, groups with fewer members tend to categorize themselves more quickly compared to larger groups.

Group cohesion

Psychologists of group dynamics are also known for their studies on social cohesion. When there is a shared commitment among members to achieve a goal, then the group is said to have task cohesion. When a group’s unity is based on shared identity and belonging then there is collective cohesion. Finally, when there is clarity around members’ roles and group norms then there is structural cohesion.

What psychology has to say about group dynamics

Sometimes, members’ skills and abilities must complement each other in order for a group to be successful. This is where Leary’s Rose model comes in handy.

Psychology of group dynamics

The model explained

This model offers some insight into group behaviors and relationships. It follows that the most common complementary patterns in groups are:

● Leading-dependent

● Helping-cooperative

● Competitive-withdrawn

● Aggressive-defiant

The model sectors

Looking at the model’s sectors, psychologists have described the following:

1. The leading sector

This usually presents itself in groups where the leader is task-oriented.

2. The helping sector

This usually presents itself in groups where there is a socio-emotional leader. Socio-emotional leaders are often driven by high ideals of serving and taking care of others.

3. The cooperative sector

A cooperative behavior is usually held by people who will contribute to settling conflicts.

4. The dependent sector

In this sector we find the behavior of group members who usually accept being managed, and who always conform and follow orders.

5. The withdrawn sector

People in this sector are inclined to be reserved and prefer to be alone. They are also likely to blame themselves if the group fails at anything.

6. The defiant sector

In this sector, people are not very tolerant. They will ask many questions and will want issues to be considered and assessed carefully.

7. The aggressive sector

This sector is characterized by people who are completely on the offensive. When it comes to leaders, they will seek to eliminate all imperfections and be highly demanding of norms and discipline.

8. The competitive sector

Group members whose behavior lies in this sector are able to present themselves as inspirational. They are full of self-confidence, and they like to be the focus of attention.

The importance to know your role


Based on Leary’s Rose model, we can see the importance of knowing our own role in groups. What’s more, it is important to know whether our role is complementary to that of someone else. Lastly, even though roles can change and evolve over time, knowing which role is at play can be advantageous for ourselves and the group.


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