What are groups? How do they behave? Arrow, McGrath, and Berdahl answer these questions by developing a general theory of small groups as complex systems. Basing their theory on concepts distilled from general systems theory, dynamical systems theory, and complexity and chaos theory, they explore groups as adaptive, dynamic systems that are driven by interactions among group members as well as between the group and its embedding contexts. In addition, they consider not only the group’s members and their distribution of attributes, but also the group’s tasks and technology in order to understand how those members, tasks, and tools are intertwined, coordinated, and adjusted. Throughout the book, the authors focus our attention on relationships among people, tools, and tasks that are activated by a combination of individual and collective purposes and goals that change and evolve as the group interacts over time.

Small Group Research: The past and Some Needs for the Future

Small group research: The past and some needs for the future

In this chapter, we offer a brief characterization of a century of small group research, highlighting features of past and current work that we build on in this book. We also note some major limitations of the knowledge base within the field and suggest how some new conceptual tools may help us transcend those limitations.

A Brief History of past Research on Small Groups

Although its roots go back to the end of the 19th century (e.g., Triplett, 1898), small group research first became a distinguishable field within North American social psychology in the early part of the 20th century. It flourished in that domain through ...

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