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The study of communication within a group consisting of a limited number of participants is usually grounded in systems theory. A small group comprises less than 15 people, and usually, they go through a progression that leads from social awkward ness through rule establishment, conflict, and, finally, consensus. Several different theories of small-group development have been propounded in the past 40 years or so. To take but one example, B. A. Fisher's small-group development theory (1970) outlines four stages of development: orientation, conflict, emergence, and reinforcement. (1) When group members get to know each other, they experience primary tension, which results from the awkward feeling people have before they understand the common rules and expectations that give them a sense of being comfortable. (2) The ...

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