CPSC 689/602--Spring 1997
Computer-Supported Cooperative Work

Paper Report

Title: : Groups and Human Behavior (Excerpt)
Authors: J. McGrath

Citation: From Groups: Interaction and Performance, pp.12-17, 1984.
Reprinted in: Groupware and Computer-Supported Cooperative Work, pp.113-115, Edited by R.M. Baecker.


This reading provides a conceptual framework for the study of groups. McGrath describes the group interaction process as the central feature of this model. The major classes of inputs into the group process are: properties of the group members, properties of the task/situation, and the properties of the surrounding environment.

The participants who make up the group and the pattern of relations among the members, or group structure, bring an important set of properties or variables to the group process such as: How many members are there and how long have they belonged to the group? Do the group members like each other? Do they have differential influence on each other.

The group interaction takes place in an environment which includes both physical and social aspects which affect the interaction process. The group interaction is also influenced by the specific "task" which the group is undertaking. Finally the group interaction process is affected by the internal forces of the interaction process itself.

This framework can be viewed as two separate panels, the individual people who are members of the group and the environment in which these people are embedded. As the people become interrelated as members of a group, they develop a structure which McGrath refers to as the standing group. This patterns or structures are defined in terms of the composition of members, the terms of division of labor tasks, the communication structures, the power structures, and the interpersonal relations structure.

The environmental properties include the demands, constraints, and opportunities which combine to form a particular task and situation. Barker's behavior setting for individuals is used to describe the fit between the standing group and the task as a structured set of requirements, demands, opportunities, possibilities, and constraints.

All of the different forms of "inputs" are referred to as group interaction process (GIP) and describe the processes that take place. The general structural properties such as level and rate of interaction, distribution of participation, and extent of member involvement are labeled morphological properties. The acting group is described as the collection of the interactive processes. The group setting to group interaction process is viewed as a reciprocal process where one feeds directly into the other. The group interaction can change the structure of the standing group and the individuals can also be affected as a result of being members of the group.

Report prepared by: Gary Baker Email: sadiki@tamu.edu
Discussion date: 1/27/97            Report date: 1/28/97