Systems, Exchange and Balance Theories of Group Dynamics
Humans are social beings who seek to interact with each other in a bid to fulfill their various needs. A significant portion of human interactions occurs in a group setting. These groups may be formal such as groups at the workplace or informal such as peer groups. The processes and activities that occur between members of a group are referred to as group dynamics. Group dynamics are influenced by feelings, internal thoughts, communication, and the context within which members interact (Nazzaro & Strazzabosco, 2009). Group dynamics assist group members in understanding each other and making meaning from their interactions.
Overview of the Balance, Exchange, and Group Formation Theories of Group Dynamics
Several theories have been put forward to explain group dynamics. Theodore Newcomb’s Balance theory, Homan’s theory of group formation, and Emerson’s exchange theory are the major theories of group dynamics.
Newcomb’s balance theory states that people are attracted to each other based on similarity of attitudes towards common objects and goals. This similarity of goals influences the individuals to initiate a relationship after which they strive to maintain a balance between the attraction they have for one another and the common goals or attitudes (Forsyth, 2009). In case an imbalance occurs, the concerned parties strive to restore it, and in case their attempts are futile, the relationship is dissolved. A good example of Newcomb’s theory would be spouses that like each other but have different tastes for watching football. When one of them is watching football where the other spouse is not a fan, the relationship is in a state of imbalance. The partner who does not love watching football is forced to start enjoying football, or the relationship ends due to the imbalance.[Need an essay writing service? Find help here.]
Emerson’s exchange theory argues that interactions between two or more people are a form of social exchange that has rewards and costs (Shore, Tetrick, Lynch, & Barksdale, 2006). Rewards take various forms and lead to the gratification of needs. Costs, on the other hand, take the form of anxiety, embarrassment, and frustration. Group members in an organization may, for example, organize themselves into groups due to various social and economic reasons (Shore et al., 2006). Members join groups where they feel that they will get benefits. According to this theory, based on needs and rewards, there are different types of groups that include primary groups, coalitions, and reference groups (Shore et al., 2006).
Hoffman’s theory of group formation explains the forces behind the formation of groups. It is based on three elements: activities, interactions, and sentiments. Hoffman perceives these three aspects to be directly related to each other (Forsyth, 2009). Activities refer to tasks such as job responsibilities that are assigned to people. Sentiments are the feelings of people towards other people or work, and they are associated with approvals or disapprovals (Forsyth, 2009).
A good scenario that depicts Hoffman’s theory is a group of students queuing in a bank to deposit their school fees. These students cannot be considered to be a group because they are not bound to one another in each way. In case a student comes from somewhere and tries to break the line, resistance is expected from the other students who are behind the point at which the new student is breaking the queue. Disapproval will arise from the members behind, and they will gang up and join hands to eject the new student from the queue. When removing the new member based on majority disapproval, group behavior is seen.[“Write my essay for me?” Get help here.]
Comparison of the Three Theoretical Approaches
Theodore Newcomb and the Balance Theory
The three theorists outlined above took on a very different approach towards group formation and the processes that sustain groups. Newcomb took on additive perspective into group dynamics in which he introduced (added) the factor of balance into interaction and propinquity. Newcomb argues that for a group to be successfully formed, there has to be balanced in their interactions (Forsyth, 2009). In case a state of imbalance occurs, the group members often strive to restore it with the attraction they have as the impetus. Without this balance, the group has no survival chances because members often dissolve it.
Newcomb’s approach to group dynamics is logical and practical in the real world. In most relationships, there is some form of attraction between the members that stands between them and the prevailing attitude (Grant & Dutton, 2012). To sustain this appeal, parties to the relationship often strive to strike a balance on the common goal.
Emerson and the Social Exchange Theory
Emerson takes on a different approach that has an economic dimension and does not focus on the attraction between parties or common goals (Moss, n.d.). Emerson argues that individuals enter into relationships with their eyes on the costs and reward outcomes of their interactions (Zafirovski, 2001). In this view, people are more likely to get into groups that are rewarding than those without rewards. Specifically, individuals will choose teams that have rewards that are most crucial to them. These are the groups that gratify their most pressing needs (Zafirovski, 2001).
Hoffman and the Group Formation Theory
Hoffman, on the other hand, focuses on the reason behind the formation of most groups. He postulates that interactions between people are aimed at achieving many different objectives which include solving problems, reducing tension, and achieving life balance (Luthans, 2002). Interactions thus occur due to the feelings or sentiments of people.[Click Essay Writer to order your essay]
In conclusion, group dynamics are the forces acting within a group to influence group activity or behavior. Conventional theories that explain group dynamics are the exchange theory, balance theory, and the group formation theory. The balance theory focuses on the balancing act between attraction and goals in groups. The exchange theory concentrates on the economic perspective of group interactions such as rewards and costs associated with interactions. The group formation theory, on the other hand, focuses on the ideal reasons behind the formation of groups.
Forsyth, D. R. (2009). Group dynamics (5th ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.
Grant, A. M., & Dutton, J. E. (2012). Beneficiary or benefactor: Are people more prosocial when they reflect on receiving or giving? Psychological Science, 23(9), 1033-1039.
Luthans, F. (2002). Organizational behavior. Boston, MA: McGraw-Hill/Irwin.
Moss, S. (n.d.). Social exchange theory.
Nazzaro, A., & Strazzabosco, J. (2009). Group dynamics and team building (2nd ed.). Montreal, QC: World Federation of Hemophilia (WFH).
Shore, L. M., Tetrick, L. E., Lynch, P., & Barksdale, K. (2006). Social and economic exchange: Construct development and validation. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 36(4), 837-867.
Zafirovski, M. (2001). The economic approach to human behavior under scrutiny: An overview of arguments for the autonomy of social action. Social Science Information, 40(2), 195-240.