Affiliation, social loafing, collective phenomenon of deindividuation   1 comment

Posted at 11:07 pm in Psychology,Sociology

As planned I have spent this week reading Social Psychology, 5th Edition, S. Brehm et al, and I found to be a good introductory textbook on the subject.

We will start by defining a group as a set of individuals having at least one of these characteristics:
(1) direct interactions with others over a period of time
(2) joint membership in a social category based on sex, race or other attributes
(3) a shared common fate, identity or set of goals.

This set of characteristics should be sufficient to define a group in offline and online world, and by understanding characteristics it should allow us to see that groups can be as little as two people or over 1000 as long as they satisfy one of the above criteria. The interesting thing I would like to look at is why people choose the particulat groups they want to be part of and be affiliated with.
The need for affiliation -is a social motivation, humans are drawn to each other. Everyone has a different strength of need for affiliation and they will be motivated to set up a optimum balance of social contact, sometimes wanting company of others and sometimes wanting to be alone. Affiliation can also satisfy other needs such as: attention, stimulation, information and emotional support.
Affiliation is a necessary first step in forming a social relationship. I wrote in my last blog about social facilitation and will now add that being in presence of others can lead to increased arousal and increases an individuals tendency to make a dominant response. This dominant  response is the reaction elicited most quickly and easily by a stimulus. Usually dominant response will only be successful / correct whenever task they must respond to is easy or they are well practiced at doing it. This means that in presence of others, a person who is well practiced can perform at their best when aroused by presence of pthers and the opposite is also true. People need presence of other people – to celebrate, share news, commiserate, learn from or just chat. People can also be at their best, or worse when in a groups. Through groups individuals can form communities that can pool resources and share in success, and it is through groups frustration can turn into mob violence, conflicts turn into wars. Most big decisions are made by groups such as governments, businesses and other organisations that and we don’t imagine such decisions being left to any individual. By working in a group people can produce great performances or achievements – such as orchestra concert or ballet performance. Conversely groups working against each other can lead to violence, death and destruction. While this book on social psychology deals mainly with physical “real-world” groups I found most of the ideas could equally be applied to online groups. Online groups have made some good collective achievements such as wikipedia, open source software, or annotating free maps, but they also have led to flame wars, and denial of service attacks.
One other key theme that kept re-occuring when I was researching existing online communities was that they can come to an end or be destroyed – in many cases Spam has been cited as a contributing factor.

social loafing: describes the reduction in individual output on easy tasks where contributions are pooled in a group. The example the book gives is that studies have shown people do not cheer louder or clap harder with increasing group sizes, instead individual contribution becomes less, social loafing phenomenon.
This ties in neatly with the collective effort model which asserts that individuals work harder on a collective task when they believe their efforts will help achieve an outcome they personally value.
Some of studies of social psychology have highlighted some troubling effects of presence of others – chiefly deindividuation, that often leads to a person losing control. The book did mention that people may be motivated if there is the possibility of being evaluated. In the offline world it could take careful observation of individuals within a group to accurately evaluate their contribution, whereas in online groups most interactions are facilitated by technology, can be recorded and made instantly available. This could then be quickly analysed and simple evaluation of an individuals activity and contributions could be presented to the group and could act as deterrent to social loafing.

Deindividuation is a persons loss of individuality and reduction in normal constrainst on deviant behaviour, and most most investigators found this phenomenon to only occurs in the presence of others. They found that arousal, anonymity, and reduced feelings of responsibility together contribute to de-individuation. When reading this I particularly thought that online groups are at more risk of deviant behaviour occuring since Internet provides instantly two contributing factors: anonymity and feelings of reduced responsibility.

Finally, one of main questions I wanted to review was why join a group? Social psychology gives several reasons such as it provides affiliation, protection or sense of security. Also fro reasons of social status and identity, Some simply join because they like members and want to interact with them. Usually people will join because they are optimistic about the benefits they will get from belonging to a particular group, and one of main reasons people leave or disengage from activities whithin a group is when the benefits don’t outweigh the costs.

Next week I will focus on roles within groups, and the outputs of groups.

Written by cm7e09 on March 5th, 2010

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One Response to 'Affiliation, social loafing, collective phenomenon of deindividuation'

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  1. Having looked at all four blog posts one thing that strikes me is that you are managing to be critical in your reading – despite being outside your usual disciplinary domain – so well done (this was evident in your first post).
    You have a reading list that ranges from the introductory – general (Giddens) to the advanced – specific (Castells) so be aware of this as you are doing your reading. I imagine you will find it helpful to get the gist/generalities before diving into the more theoretical /focussed work.
    Your question will help you stay on track – my way of orienting myself to the task would be to reframe it slightly to ask why people join a group ON THE WEB – and the task of the module is to see how sociology and psychology would answer this for a largely offline world (as a lot of the material you read will not be directly applied to the web) and whether any of these disciplinary insights can help….

    Catherine Pope

    14 Mar 10 at 3:34 pm

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