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Organizations - Sociology Notes

Organizations - Sociology Notes - A social group is a...

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A social group is a collection of two or more people who interact frequently with one another, share a sense of belonging, and have a feeling of interdependence. Groups provide the context in which we develop our self-identity and fulfill our needs. However, not every collection of people constitutes a group. An aggregate is a collection of people who happen to be in the same place at the same time but share little else in common. A category is a number of people who may never have met one another but share a similar characteristic. In everyday life, the distinctions between groups, aggregates, and categories often blur. For example, a collection of people riding on an elevator are an aggregate, but if they all work in the same building, they also belong to a category. Should the elevator get stuck between floors, the people may find that their predicament produces a sense of belonging and interdependence as they begin to interact. Are they now a group? Perhaps. Just as the concept group is difficult for you to pin down, sociologists have used the term group to conceptualize a variety of human interactions and experiences. Types of Groups According to Charles H. Cooley, a primary group is a small group whose members engage in face-to-face, emotion-based interactions over an extended period of time. A secondary group is a larger, more specialized group in which the members engage in more impersonal, goal-oriented relationships for a limited period of time. Cooley's concept of the looking glass self noted that this distinction was a critical aspect in shaping our self -concept through our perceptions of others. Another important type of groups are ingroups and outgroups. According to William Graham Sumner, an ingroup is a group to which a person belongs and with which the person feels a sense of identity. An outgroup is a group to which a person does not belong and toward which the person may feel a sense of competitiveness or hostility. The contrasting nature of ingroups and outgroups produces a "consciousness of kind" among people which increases levels of social cohesion and solidarity within one's group. However, it may also produce feelings of group superiority that reduce interactions between groups. Competition for scarce resources can be a contributing factor to ingroup/outgroup feelings. While primary groups and ingroups exert control over our behaviors and values, other groups can be equally important in this regard. A reference group is a group that strongly influences a person's behavior and social attitudes, regardless of whether that individual is an actual member. In addition, people often use the standards of their reference group to evaluate their performance. Reference groups help explain why our behavior and attitudes sometimes differ from those of our membership groups. That is, we may accept the values and norms of a group with which we identify rather than one to which we belong. For example, an undergraduate student's reaction to a grade may
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