Human beings are social animals and therefore they usually behave in ways that are more similar as influenced by various factors. It is very common to find that what a person or a group of people do regarding a certain situation is not as a result of individual response. Most of the decisions reached at are influenced by other external factors such as the way of upbringing, the environment and a person’s social relations. More often than not, the actions are influenced by the people around the decision makers. Human behavior is therefore a resultant of the several decisions and actions that human beings make and therefore when human beings develop a certain characteristic behavior as a result of influence by other people and this happens to several people who then they respond to certain situation in a similar manner and it becomes a group behavior. There are various theories that describe human behavior as viewed when human beings act collectively. These theories are called the group behavior theories.
A group of people refers to two or more people who are socially interrelated. There is a similarity between group behavior and mass action but the two should not be confused to refer the same actions. Mass action is relatively superior to group behavior and so the theories of group behavior are not wholly inclusive in explaining mass action. Mass action is usually on a national, regional or global level while group behavior is mainly focused on smaller areas such as villages, schools, clubs or other small social organization although with relatively smaller populations. A similarity between group behavior and mass action is that they usually develop along certain social norms but while mass action is usually assertive and forceful, group behavior is not very much focused on attracting attention intended at bringing change (Burke, 2003).
One of the theories of group behavior is the social identity theory. The theory was formulated by Turner and Tajfel in 1979 and it was used to try and explain how discrimination occurs between groups as viewed with a psychological approach. Based on Tajfel’s earlier work which was intended at establishing how individuals or groups of pople discriminate each other, Turner supported his work as they both explained how the fear of discrimination may influence how a group of people may choose to act in a certain way. The theory made several assumptions and such one is that an individual has several personalities and that is why people are able to fit in more than one social group. Such groups include families, “level of self”, and other social classifications as chosen by a person or a group of people. Therefore there is relationship between group behavior and what forms an individual’s behavior. Group behavior influences personal behavior and personal behavior also affects how the individuals in a group act. However, according to this theory, the fear of discrimination causes one to act in accordance to what the group is acting like (Capozza & Brown, 2000).
The theory identifies three major factors that contribute to emergence of favoritism for in-group. The factors are very important in defining how people behave to fit in certain group and the reason as to why they behave that way. One of the factors is how much the situation allows for comparison between the prevailing situations in a group as compared to situations other groups. Thus the behavior of people in a group may be influenced by the behavior of other people in a different social group. Members of a certain group exult their group and uplift their self esteem by comparing themselves to member of other groups and also comparing the groups in totality. The other factor is that members hold themselves so close to the group and its characteristics so much so that they feel like it is a key part of them. They therefore act in a manner that does not offend other group members and they are also very dedicated in maintaining the “class” of that group. Thirdly, the in-group comparison and the internalization of the group by members determines how the members behave. All these factors therefore affect group behavior which is relatively a representation of individual behavior but acting as a group (Capozza & Brown, 2000).
The other group behavior theory is the theory of planned behavior which basically explained how human beings act as a group although their actions are planned based on past expperiences and also based on recycling of various activities throughout their lives. The theory also explains that through experience, some future occurrences can be predicted and so the people prepare as a group on how they will respond to the future happenings as predicted how they will occur. The experiences also shape how members of a certain group perceive certain happenings and so they prepare for them depending on the perception. The intentions of the group also determine how the members of the group behave as they seek to fit in the group and so their behavior is ideally for loyalty to the group (Huston, 2004).
Another theory of group behavior is the identity theory which is somewhat comparable to the social identity theory. The theory has been revised by several sociologists such as Stryker, Burke, Serpe, McCall and Simmons and Turner. It explains that human beings behave the way they behave in a group because there is a way they will benefit from the society as members of the group. The society is thought to affect the human social behavior and for human beings to continue benefiting from the society they have to maintain a certain code of conduct. Such benefits include acceptance in the society and the social security offered to those who are regarded as being good to the society. The members of certain groups therefore behave in a way that is pleasing to the society and they are restricted by the belief that if they don’t behave that way then they will not get the favors from the society when they need them (Burke, 2003).
The theories of group behavior may not be fully effective in explaining group behavior when they are considered independently. However, when they are merged they all carry some relation to the way people behave as a group. The major challenge in selecting one theory that is fully effective is because of the dynamics in human behavior. There exist differences in the behavior of every individual although most of the differences are acceptable by the society. However, it is these minor differences that make it difficult to come up with one perfect theory that explains why human beings behave the way they do whether in a group or individually.