Theories of Group Behavior: Commentary

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Abstract

The nine preceding chapters consider a variety of group phenomena and theories about why they occur. The approach to understanding group behavior adopted in these chapters seems to be a rich and productive one in two respects. First, for the most part, the theories represented here consider the relevance to group behavior of concepts that have been applied to individuals. Second, they have been developed to explain a broad range of behaviors, not just particular, isolated individual or group phenomena (see Mullen, Chapter 1, this volume). Because of their applicability to both individuals and groups and their applicability to a broad range of behaviors, each of these theories, individually, has the potential to provide an integrative analysis of not only behavior in groups, but also of social behaivor more broadly. If some integrative analysis and understanding is provided by each of the theories individually, what can we say about the degree of understanding to be derived from the theories collectively, that is, from the volume as a whole? We shall approach this question by addressing two issues in this commentary. First, how do the various theories relate to one another? How do they differ, how do they compete, and how do they cooperatively add to our knowledge? Second, once the theories are placed in comparative perspective, what do we know about group behavior, and what do we still need to know?