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Socioemotional and Task Behavior

In problem-solving groups, individual members engage in different types of behavior, including task behavior, which focuses on the external problem to be addressed, and socioemotional behavior, which addresses the feelings that arise as a result of group interaction. This entry describes these two types of behavior and examines the leadership styles of group leaders who focus on each one.

Starting in 1947, social psychologist Robert F. Bales, at Harvard University, began studying roles in problem-solving groups. For the time, his methods were quite innovative. Small groups were observed through one-way mirrors, and all behavior was recorded. The observed groups were composed of five male Harvard undergraduates. They were given a human relations case and were told to discuss it for about 40 minutes and then dictate ...

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