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Group cohesion and performance



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    This paper explains the importance of and aspects of groups. It defines norms, roles and cohesiveness in respect to groups. It also discusses the roles conformity, groupthink and group polarization has in relation to group cohesiveness and performance. This paper uses several peer-reviewed journals and two textbooks on social psychology to argue that increased group cohesiveness negatively impacts group performance. Imagine yourself outside in the hot sun; a dry humid breeze crosses your face as you attempt to lift a heavy block. As you strain to get one side up, you feel the block getting lighter, as you adjust your eyes into focus; you are greeted by a follow comrade helping you with the block. Teamwork is a wonderful thing; sometimes it’s necessary to accomplish tasks, like the building of the Great Pyramids in Egypt. Throughout history humans have always worked together in groups to help each other. According to Saul Kassin, Steven Fein, and Hazel R. Markus, “the complexity and ambitions of human life require we work in groups,” (Kassin, Fein, Markus, 2011, p. 295). Within most groups there are three important aspects: roles, norms and cohesiveness. A role entails specific tasks that are to be done by members of the group. Norms are, “…rules for accepted and expected behavior,” (Myers, 2009, 130). And finally cohesiveness, “…the extent to which forces push group members closer together such as through feelings of intimacy, unit, and commitment to group goals,” (Kassin, Fein, & Markus, 2011, p. 299). This paper will focus on the different studies done on cohesiveness and performance. This paper will provide evidence that increased group cohesion does not warrant better group performance and increased group cohesiveness can lead to pressures to conform, groupthink and group polarization, (Rovio et al., 2009).

    There are many studies which support increased cohesion as a predictor of increased performance, (Carron, Colman, Wheeler, & Stevens, 2002), (Michalisin, Karau, & Tangpong, 2007) and (Shin, & Song, 2011). According to a meta-analysis by Carron et al. (2002), cohesion and performance are positively correlated and are complementary. Although the facts from this meta-analysis may seem true, another, more recent study shows that performance causes cohesion not the other way around, (Fullagar, & Egleston 2008). Michalisin, Karau, and Tangpong’s (2007) experiment “…suggest that leader behavior, through its positive impact on the development of team cohesion, can yield superior performance.” This study shows an indirect correlation of cohesion and performance. If the leader’s behavior was not included to promote group cohesion, the basis of their study would be changed. The original premise of heighted group cohesion resulting in an increase of group performance would be thwarted with the inaction of the leader to promote cohesion. The last study, done by Shin and Song (2011) does show that group performance has a direct, positive effect on group performance. It also has evidence that cohesion has nothing to do with contextual performance, which is contraindicating. Although these facts may seem justified by these studies many other studies have shown that increased cohesiveness within a group is detrimental. Many studies show that larger groups and the high amount of cohesion can deter performance, (Rovio et al., 2009), (Hardy, Eys, & Carron, 2005) and (Carron & Hausenblas, 1998). The following paragraphs will demonstrate the reasons highly cohesive groups can falter by conformity, group think and group polarization. The study by Rovio et al. (2009) will be used extensively in the following sections to provide a clear and simple example of how group cohesion can lead to decreased group performance. The Rovio et al. (2009) study consisted of 22, 15-16 year old boys in a hockey league.

    This study was comprised of individuals with the same hockey experience and close in ethnic, socioeconomic and educational background. The study consisted of questionnaires done by the individuals, observations by the experimenter, and diaries and notes taken by both the experimenter and the coaches. Although this study does not meet a generalized population and cannot determine the outcomes of a realistic sample; it serves its purpose in providing evidence that high cohesion can be destructive to a team’s performance, additional studies will also provide support. As previously mentioned there are 3 important factors that occur in groups: roles, norms and cohesiveness. These respects work together in establishing groups. In groups that are highly cohesive it is nearly impossible to stray from the norms (Kassin, Fein, Markus, 2011, p. 313). Any behavior or belief that is inconsistent with the group’s norms, will question that individuals “fit” in the group. Thus, refraining from unexpected or unacceptable behavior is warranted to maintain a part in the group. In addition, highly cohesive groups are more likely to reject members with deviant opinions (Kassin, Fein, Markus, 2011, p. 313). For example in the study, the captain of the team did not want to risk rejection by voicing his opinion about the group (Rovio et al., 2009). This decision ultimately negatively impacted their performances in their games. By conforming to the rest of the team, the captain set his highly cohesive team for a disaster. His inabilities to fulfill this role lead to the poor performance of the team. Evidence is provided by Kassin, Fein, and Markus (2011) stating, “…establishing clear roles can help a group, but when member’s roles are assigned poorly….or undergo change, stress, and poor performance can result” (333). The change that was occurring in this captain’s role was his conformation to the group and his participation in groupthink. According to Janis Irving (1982), “groupthink is an excessive tendency to seek concurrence among group members”.

    This occurs when agreement is favored over obtaining accurate information (Kassin, Fein, Markus, 2011, p. 315). There are many examples in history that concur with this idea, where a group of individuals need to make a decision and base it on the agreement of the group without even considering the facts. This writer believes that it could happen anywhere that groups occur; in court, the president’s cabinet, a school board, or judges on a television show. This author considers groupthink to develop more frequently in situations where conformity and group cohesiveness are high. Instances where conformity and group cohesiveness occur are: in high school cliques, in gangs and in racial groups. In the Rovio et al. (2009) study, group think occurred when the members of the team agreed that the status of their team was highly successful, when in reality they were doing worse than in the previous season. In addition, Turner et al. (1992) showed that high cohesion and groupthink are correlated with poor performance and defective decision making. These studies show that an increase in group cohesion could be disadvantageous to group’s performance. In accordance to groupthink another concept highly associated with groupthink is group polarization.

    Group polarization defined by, Straus, Parker and Bruce (2011) is, “…whereby group interaction amplifies the positions of group members in the direction of, and in proportion to, individuals’ prediscussion attitudes or judgments.” The effects of group polarization are equally harmful to groups’ performance as groupthink is. If groupthink happens initially, group polarization will intensify these thoughts and in return decrease group performance. In the Rovio et al. study, group polarization occurred when their initial rise in performance convinced the group that they were up to par and didn’t need to improve their practicing or skills on the field. Although this group was highly cohesive, their way of thinking and compliance to one another, put them in a fog, which lead to their mediocre season. In conclusion, highly cohesive groups do not increase performance. The Rovio et al. study provides support that an increase in cohesiveness can lead to poor performance. Groups that are highly cohesive can lead to conformity, groupthink and group polarization. It is also clear that these three concepts have a negative effect on groups’ performance and decision making. In order to create a high performing group, group cohesiveness is not necessary.

    Carron, A., & Hausenblas, H. (1998) Group dynamics in sport (2nd ed.). London, Ontario, Canada: Fitness Information Technology. Carron, A. V., Colman, M. M., Wheeler, J., & Stevens, D. (2002). Cohesion and performance in sport: A meta-analysis. Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology, 24, 168-188. Fullagar, C. J., & Egleston, D. O. (2008). Norming and Performing: Using Microworlds to Understand the Relationship Between Team Cohesiveness and Performance. Journal Of Applied Social Psychology, 38(10), 2574-2593. doi:10.1111/j.1559-1816.2008.00404.x Hardy, J., Eys, M. A., & Carron, A. V. (2005). Exploring the potential disadvantages of high cohesion in sports teams. Small Group Research, 36(2), 166-187. doi:10.1177/1046496404266715 Kassin, S., Fein, S., Markus, H.R., (2011). Social Psychology, Eighth Edition. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning Michalisin, M. D., Karau, S. J., & Tangpong, C. (2007). Leadership’s Activation of Team Cohesion as a Strategic Asset: An Empirical Simulation. Journal Of Business Strategies, 24(1), 1-26. Myers, D. G., (2009). Exploring Social Psychology Fifth Edition. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Rovio, E., Eskola, J., Kozub, S. A., Duda, J. L., & Lintunen, T. (2009). Can high group cohesion be harmful?: A case study of a junior ice-hockey team. Small Group Research, 40(4), 421-435. doi:10.1177/1046496409334359 Shin, Y., & Song, K. (2011). Role of face‐to‐face and computer‐mediated communication time in the cohesion and performance of mixed‐mode groups. Asian Journal Of Social Psychology, 14(2), 126-139. doi:10.1111/j.1467-839X.2010.01341.x Straus, S. G., Parker, A. M., & Bruce, J. B. (2011). The group matters: A review of processes and outcomes in intelligence analysis. Group Dynamics: Theory, Research, And Practice, 15(2), 128-146. doi:10.1037/a0022734 Turner, M. E., Pratkanis, A. R., Probasco, P., & Leve, C. (1992). Threat, cohesion, and group effectiveness: Testing a social identity maintenance perspective on groupthink. Journal Of Personality And Social Psychology, 63(5), 781-796. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.63.5.781 Professor’s Comments:

    Thank you for your work on the argumentative essay and throughout the class. Its always a challenge to be objective in grading essays and I did try my best to do so. Here is the breakdown on how the points were assigned: Statement is clear and demonstrates good insight about the controversy (5/5 X 2 = 10 points). Uses detail from at least 3 sources other than text; has at least 3 important concepts to support position (4/5 X 3 = 12 points). Shows a clear understanding of opposing view (5/5 X 3 = 15 points). Original comments demonstrate analysis and understanding of how information relates to thesis and position (4/5 X6 = 24 points). Quotations are brief, used sparingly, and clearly augment or enhance the argument. (5/5 X 2 = 10 points). Organization is logical but intent not explicit; good flow across paragraphs; introduction and conclusion are specific and engaging (5/5 X 2 = 10 points). Very good use of Standard English; some variation in sentence structure; few minor mechanical or spelling errors (5/5 X 2 = 10 points) Thus, your total score for this assignment was 91. Thank you for your good work here and throughout the class. It was a pleasure to share this time with you, Abigale. N Griff

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