Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Group Behavior Research Paper

Research Paper on Group Behavior

Basically, group behavior is often susceptible to serious changes. It is not a secret that such changes are often symptoms of serious functional problems in group behavior which naturally need to be eliminated in order to provide stable development of an organization and positive atmosphere between members of the group. In this respect, decision making process is probably one of the most important aspects of the stable functionality of a group as the way decisions are taken within the group can dramatically affect the relationship between its members and their behavior within this group. On the other hand, there are various organizational structures which imply different approaches to the decision making process and may vary from authoritarian to extremely liberal and highly democratic.


In such a situation, on analyzing group behavior, it is extremely important to properly assess the role of the decision making process in the group behavior. This will help clearly distinguish possible problems that exists within an organization and are caused by certain problems in the decision making process. Obviously, the elimination of such problems will increase the functionality of an organization and, thus, it will be possible to make group behavior more predictable and harmonious that can make the cooperation and relationships between members of the group more effective and, thus, the effectiveness of the whole organization will increase.

Decision making in group behavior
First of all, it is necessary to say that decision making process is of a paramount importance in any organization and it can define the group behavior. For instance, the participation of all members of a group in the decision making process can contribute to the unification of the whole group and positively influence group behavior, while authoritarian methods of decision making contribute to the distancing of the group leader or leaders from other members of the group.

In fact, there are a variety of factors that influence human decision making. At this point, it should be said that one of the most significant component of the decision making process is human rationality since as a rule, before taking a decision, an individual carefully analyzes the situation, evaluates it, forecast consequences of a variety of possible decisions and only after that makes the one he/she considers the most efficient or correct. Often in such situations it is human rationality that plays the defining role in the choice of the presumably right decision on the basis of consistency and coherence.

However, when taking complicated decisions, people can violate the traditional and rationale principles of consistency and coherence and make decisions under the influence of different psychological factors. This is one of the main decision problems which may be defined by “the acts or options among which one must choose, the possible outcomes and consequences of these acts, and the contingencies or conditional probabilities that relate outcomes to acts” (Tversky and Kahneman 1981, p.453).

It should be said that specialists (Tversky and Kahneman 1981, p.453) use the term ‘decision frame’ when they refer to the decision-maker conception of the acts, outcomes and contingencies associated with a particular choice. In this respect, it is worthy to take into consideration the fact that decision frame is shaped under the impact of external factors, such as formulation of the problem, which do not directly depend on the personality of decision-maker, and internal factors, such as norms, habits and personal characteristics of decision-maker which, in contrast, directly depend on individual’s psychology and personality.

It is interesting to note that some researchers found out that there exist a system of reversals of preferences, which produce a significant impact on decision making, and are defined by variations in the framing of acts, contingencies, or outcomes (Brown, 2000).

In fact, it is possible to distinguish two main groups of choices made by individuals. On the one hand, there are risk taking choices and, as a rule, these choices involve losses. On the other hand, there are risk averse choices, which mainly involve gains (Brown, 2000). In such a way, it should be said that the process of decision making and choices are often closely related to certain risks. At the same time, people cannot take or avoid risky decision without an evaluation of the prospects of the decision they make.

In this respect, it is necessary to underline that there exist a variety of theories which tend to explain decision and choice making. For instance, the utility theory may to a certain extent explain the decision making since it implies that utility is one of the key aspects of the decision making. According to this theory, “the utility of a risky prospect is equal to the expected utility of it outcomes, obtained by weighting the utility of each possible outcome by its probability” (Tversky and Kahneman 1981, p.455).

Another noteworthy theory is the prospect theory, which implies that there are values associated with outcomes, and decision weights, associated with probabilities, such that the overall value of the prospect equals (Tversky and Kahneman 1981, 456). In such a way, it is obvious that it is necessary to take into consideration the values or utilities and possible outcomes in the decision making process.

Furthermore, it is also necessary to take into consideration such a notion as the treatment of probabilities since often they can affect dramatically the choice and decisions people make. In this respect, it is possible to apply both theories mentioned above, i.e. expected utility theory and prospect theory, to this important concept. According to expected utility theory, “the utility of an uncertain outcome is weighted by its probability”, while in prospect theory “the value of an uncertain outcome is multiplied by a decision weight” which though is not a probability (Tversky and Kahneman 1981, p.456).

As a rule, the researches (Bantel & Finkelstein 1995) show that people traditionally take risky decisions more readily when they expect the positive outcome while the expectations of losses make their choices and decisions more careful. To put it more precisely, people’s choice in decision is risk averse when a risckless prospect is preferred to a risky prospect of equal or greater expected value, while choice in decision is risk taking when a risky prospect is preferred to a riskless prospect of equal expected value. In other words, risky choices in decision making are more often when a sure gain is expected and certain aversiveness is typical for choices in decision making where the sure loss is highly probable.

It is also worthy to note that a significant impact on the choice and decision making produce the degree of certainty. In fact, certainty may affect dramatically decision making and people readily make choices when they are certain in the outcomes while, in contrast, they it takes a lot of time to choose a proper decision when the outcome is initially uncertain.

By the way, speaking about outcomes, it is necessary to point out that outcomes are commonly perceived as “positive or negative in relation to a reference outcome that is judged neutral” (Tversky and Kahneman 1981, p.457). In fact, the reference point is extremely important since it determines whether a given outcome is evaluated as a gain or as a loss and eventually affects the choice in decision making.

In addition, it is necessary to briefly dwell upon some psychological aspects of the choice in the decision making process. In fact, there are several aspects of psychology of choice that Tversky and Kahneman define as follows: individuals who have a decision problem and have a definite preference might have a different preference in different framing of the same problem, are normally unaware of alternative frames and of their potential effects on the relative attractiveness of options, would wish their preferences to be independent from frame, but are often uncertain how to resolve detected inconsistencies (1981, p.458).

Finally, it should be said that choice in decision making is often affected by the responsibility of the choice. To put it more precisely, on making choices in decision making process individuals evaluate outcomes of their choices on the basis of responsibility for their consequences. It means that they can either accept or reject the responsibility for their choices and decisions. In such a way, it is obvious that choice in decision making may be also a very important ethical act, especially from the perspective of the responsibility for the choice since it may define the extent to which an individual is conscious of the consequences of his decision and their impact on other individuals as well as on his own image in the public opinion.

At the same time, the framing of act in this process may serve as an instrument of self-control. This is very important because self-control is one of the important factors that contribute to making right decisions and choices.

At the same time, it is already possible to estimate that basically the decision making process involves two stages. During the first stage acts, outcomes and contingencies are framed and, on the second stage, the evaluation of outcomes and consequences of choices in decision making takes place. In such a way, choices and the decision making process implies very careful approach when the outcomes are uncertain and it is extremely important that this process involved personal responsibility of a decision-maker.

Functional and dysfunctional behavior in two groups
Naturally, behavior in different groups will vary. At the same time, different behavior in different groups can have both functional and dysfunctional characteristics. In this respect, it is possible to analyze the situation in different organizations I am a member of, notably this is my work, and a charitable organization targeting at helping children in need.

Speaking about my work I should say that the organizational structure is quite strict that implies the ‘vertical’ decision making that, to a significant extent defines the behavior of the whole group. To put it more precisely, ordinary employees like me are practically deprived of any kind of autonomy that means that all decisions are taken by the administration. As a result, we cannot act autonomously and we just have a set of rules and regulations we should constantly follow. At any case, when we confront some problems or when we have to make certain choices, we need to consult our manager first and after it is the manager who takes decision. In such a situation, the employees turn to be just a kind of tools in the organization and thus, the whole organization functions as a mechanism regulated by the administration that, naturally, defines our group behavior. Practically, it means that our group behavior is defined by the established set of rules and we, being employees, cannot change it.

Naturally, such group behavior is good in a way since the administration can easily control the work of all members of the group and, what is more, it is the administration that decides what each member of the group is doing. This contributes to the fast implementation of the decision taken by the administration which not simply controls the functioning of the organization but also is fully responsible for its effectiveness.

On the other hand, there are certain difficulties since fast and accurate work is possible on the condition if employees fulfill clear tasks that are defined by the rules and each employee knows what he or she is supposed to do at any moment. On the other hand, employees’ responsibility turns to be quite low and they cannot take decisions independently because of the high level of centralization. As a result, when a new or extraordinary decision has to be taken, it takes a lot of time when our manager analyses the situation and takes the decision.

In stark contrast, the group behavior of the charitable organization I am currently a member of is quite different. In this group, each member is supposed to act autonomously. It means that the administration of the organization simply sets the strategic goals and we, in our small teams, take can choose directions to meet these goals, while the administration organizes the supply of essential resources for our charitable work. Obviously, at first glance, this organization functions more effectively since we do not waste time on decision making through consultations with the administration while we can simply take decision immediately and we are responsible for the results of our work. At the same time, we may contribute to the strategy of the organization during meetings when all member of the group has a chance to offer some new strategies, or goals.

However, there are some cases which reveal certain dysfunctional side of our organization. In fact, the group behaviour seems to be spontaneous and even the organization’s administration does not really know what each member of the group is working at. In such a way, it turns out to be quite difficult to immediately assess the effectiveness of work of the whole group and make essential changes or make a different choice in order to improve the functioning of the organization at large.

Recommendations to improve functionality of behavior
Consequently, it is obvious that both groups I am a member of have substantial drawbacks that have to be improved in order to increase the effectiveness and functionality of group behavior. In this respect, it is possible to recommend to the administration of the company I am working at giving more independence in decision making to employees. It means that the administration should basically coordinate the functioning of the whole organization and define the group behavior but it should not take absolutely all decisions. In other words, employee should be able to take decisions on their own if the decision does not influence or change the strategic goal the company attempts to meet. This is why, each team within the organization should have an opportunity to take decisions that will make employees more responsible and involved in the functioning of the organization making its behavior more democratic and liberal since each employee will realize its value.

As for the charitable organization, I should recommend the improvement of coordination of the work of all units of the organization. It means that the administration should not simply set strategic goals but either appoint or choose, on consultations with all members of the organization during the meeting, teams responsible for the fulfillment of concrete goals. As a result, being autonomous, each team could more effectively coordinate its behavior with other teams and improve its functionality.

Thus, it is possible to conclude that such changes could improve the functionality of both organizations and group behavior since it will be more harmonious, democratic and better coordinated and each member of the group will feel his or her own importance. As a result, the behavior of each group will be deprived of internal contradictions or conflicts, or at least the level will be minimized.
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