GROUP DYNAMICS ISSUE 1 McGrath - Group Dynamics: Theory,...

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Group Dynamics: Theory, Research, and Practice 1997, Vol. l,No. 1,7-27 Copyright 1997 by the Educational Publishing Foundation I089-2699/97/S3 0C Small Group Research, That Once and Future Field: An Interpretation of the Past With an Eye to the Future Joseph E. McGrath University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign This review chronicles prior approaches to research on small groups, critiques contem- porary theories and methods, and notes some future possibilities. Early group research- ers worked in isolated "schools," treating groups as social systems for influencing members, for patterning interaction, or for performing tasks. Assumptions of those 3 schools are blended in some contemporary approaches, treating groups as systems for processing information; for managing consensus and conflict; and for motivating, regulating, and coordinating member behavior. Past and contemporary approaches are limited by their analytic focus, limited temporal scope, and failure to treat groups in context. The article points to an alternative theoretical approach that treats groups as complex, adaptive, dynamic systems and notes some methodological issues and possibilities raised by that approach. Many scholars have remarked on the rise and fall of small group research as a core topic within mainstream academic social psychology Komorita, 1976; Levine & Moreland, 1990; 1966; McGrath & Kravitz, 1982; Steiner, 1974, 1983; Zander, 1979). All of these commentators agree that group research was a very popular topic within social psychology in North America during the forties and fifties and well into the sixties, yielding a plethora of research studies. Many of those studies (some commentators would say too many!) were done in controlled and artificial laboratory settings with short-term, ad hoc concocted groups. All who have written on this topic also agree that group research suffered a system crash within North American social psychology in the late sixties and early seventies, although it simultaneously flourished in a number of The research pertaining to this article was supported in part by National Science Foundation Grant IRI 93-10099. Correspondence concerning this article should be ad- dressed to Joseph E. McGrath, Department of Psychology, 603 East Daniel Street, University of Illinois at Urbana- Champaign, Urbana, Illinois 61801-5032. Electronic mail may be sent via Internet to adjacent disciplines (e.g., organizational behav- ior, speech communication, political science). Commentators differ somewhat in their interpre- tations of what caused that system crash. They differ considerably in what they see regarding current group research within social psychology, and in the implications of those current trends for the future of group research within social psychology. I do not want to add more predictions about
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This note was uploaded on 05/04/2008 for the course PSYCH 1003 taught by Professor Quigley during the Spring '07 term at Trinity College Dublin.

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GROUP DYNAMICS ISSUE 1 McGrath - Group Dynamics: Theory,...

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