Study of Groups Term Paper

Excerpt from Term Paper :


The experimental method is usually taken to be the most scientific of all methods, the 'method of choice'. The main problem with all the Psychodynamic Method is lack of control over the situation. The experimental method is a means of trying to overcome this problem. The experiment is sometimes described as the cornerstone of psychology: This is partly due to the central role Experimental method play in many of the physical sciences and also to psychology's historical view of itself as a science. A considerable amount of psychological research uses the experimental method. An experiment is a study of cause and effect. It differs from Psychodynamic Method; in that it involves the deliberate manipulation of one variable, while trying to keep all other variables constant.

Psychodynamic psychology, although still practiced clinically, is not one of the current major approaches to personality psychology. During the 1950's and 1960's, numerous attempts to test experimentally the claims of psychodynamic psychology failed to show any positive results. As a consequence, the field of personality psychology mostly abandoned the core theories of psychodynamics and turned to trait theoretic, humanistic, or social learning theories of personality.(Margaret, 1996)

Experimental methods are the only means by which cause and effect can be established. An experiment differs from Psychodynamic methods in that it enables us to study cause and effect because it involves the deliberate manipulation of one variable, while trying to keep all other variables constant. Sometimes the independent variable (IV) is thought of as the cause and the dependent variable (DV) as the effect. The Experimental method allows for precise control of variables. The purpose of control is to enable the experimenter to isolate the one key variable which has been selected (the IV), in order to observe its effect on some other variable (the DV); control is intended to allow us to conclude that it is the IV, and nothing else, which is influencing the DV. In the Psychodynamic method no such control is possible.

The Experimental method can be replicated. We cannot generalize from the results of a single experiment. The more often an experiment is repeated, with the same results obtained, the more confidant we can be that the theory being tested is valid. The experimental method consists of standardized procedures and measures, which allow it to be easily repeated. It is also worth noting that an experiment yields quantitative data (numerical amounts of something), which can be analyzed using inferential statistical tests. These tests permit statements to be made about how likely the results are to have occurred through chance. (Roger et all.1998)

However the experiment is not typical of real life situations. Most Experimental method is conducted in laboratories - strange and contrived environments in which people are asked to perform unusual or even bizarre tasks. The artificiality of the lab, together with the 'unnatural' things that the subjects may be asked to do, jointly produces a distortion of behavior.

Therefore it should be difficult to generalize findings from Experimental method because they are not ecologically valid (true to real life). Behavior in the laboratory is very narrow in its range. By controlling the situation so precisely, behavior may be very limited.

The Major difficulty with the experimental method is demand characteristics. Some of the many confounding variables in a psychology experiment stem from the fact that a psychology experiment is a social situation in which neither the Subjects nor the Experimenters are passive, inanimate objects but are active, thinking human beings. Imagine you've been asked to take part in a psychology experiment. Even if you didn't study psychology, you would be trying to work out what the experimenter expected to find out. Experimenters too have expectations about what their results are likely to be. Demand characteristics are all the cues, which convey to the participant the purpose of the experiment.

However it must also be noted that it is not possible to completely control all variables. There may be other variables at work, which the experimenter is unaware of. In particular, it is impossible to completely control the mental world of people taking part in a study.

A very major problem with the experimental method concerns ethics. For example, Experimental method nearly always involves deceiving participants to some extent and the very term 'subject' implies that the participant is being treated as something less than a person. Recently the use of the experimental method has come under considerable criticism for the way that researchers often break ethical guidelines.

It is also important to recognize that there are very many areas of human life which cannot be studied using the experimental method because it would be simply too unethical to do so.

Some researchers consider that an important advantage, which Experimental method has over Psychodynamic techniques, is the random assignment of research participants to experimental conditions. This helps to reduce the problems of analysis caused by systematic differences between people. Other psychologists, however, argue that grouping people together in this way, and trying to cancel out individual differences so that we only look at a group norm, is limited in how much it can tell us because it ignores what is special about people.

Nonetheless, an understanding of the psychodynamic approach to personality is crucial because it provides a foundation and counterpoint for all of the approaches that followed. Freud's basic assumptions about human nature have continued to influence the way both lay people and personality researchers think about human nature. His emphasis on the importance of the unconscious, the role of early life experience, and the role of basic, biological instincts formed the context within which modern theories of personality were formed. Many of today's theories explicitly reject Freud's claims; but in doing so they show their indebtedness to psychoanalysis just as much as if they had accepted them.

The psychodynamic view rejects the rational and economic views on work and believes that experimental analysis tells nothing useful about group behavior or the people working in the system. It also rejects the notion of a grand theory of group (Lawrence, 1999; Miller, 1976). Instead, it views work as both a painful burden (e.g., in the task that needs to be performed) and a pleasurable activity (e.g., in the outcome) (Kets De Vries, 1991). The basic question in understanding work is, why is it experienced as painful and to be avoided on the one hand, and why is pleasure obtained from it on the other hand.

The answer lies in the renunciation of the instincts, giving up the pleasures of playing and the freedoms of childhood, and entering life ruled by the reality principle rather than the pleasure principle. If this does not happen, working will be too painful to perform, and it will be avoided altogether.

Consequently the group member will never have an opportunity to gain the pleasure associated with accomplishment because he/she cannot delay gratification or endure the necessary suffering (Lawrence, 1999; Miller, 1976). To study this behavior, this approach focuses on flowing back and forth between theory and case analysis (Kets De Vries, 1991; Lawrence, 1999; Miller, 1976; 1983; 1993; Obholzer & Roberts, 1994).

The rationale of studying group behavior forms the psychodynamic approach which can be stated as follows: The group as a system has its own life which is conscious and unconscious, with subsystems relating to and mirroring one another (Coleman & Bexton, 1975; Czander, 1993; Hirschhorn, 1993; Miller, 1993; Obholzer & Roberts, 1994). It is the belief that the study of this unconscious behavior and dynamics leads to a deeper (than, for example, the humanistic approach) understanding of group behavior. With this knowledge, real group change can be facilitated.

The group member (a micro system) approaches the work situation with unfulfilled and unconscious family needs which he/she wants to fulfill in the work situation -- for example, wanting to play out unfulfilled parental needs for recognition or affection towards the manager, who may be representing male or female authority for them. The group member brings unconscious, unresolved conflict (e.g., with authority) into the group.

Because the role of manager excludes relating to the group member on the level a father or mother would, the individual experiences conflict (a basic experience in this model). The group member unconsciously plays out a need for power over siblings and the parental figure. Because colleagues are not siblings or parents, the need does not fit the reality of the work situation. This may lead to confusion, anxiety, anger, and aggression (another example of basic experiences in this model).

The Basic Assumptions in "The Psychodynamics of the Group "Bion (1961) identified three basic assumptions to be studied in the individual (a micro system), the group, department or division (the meso system), and the group (the macro system). These assumptions have since been accepted as the cornerstones of the study of group dynamics.

The assumption is that the group member, in the same way as a child, unconsciously experiences dependency from an imaginative parental figure or system. Because…

Cite This Term Paper:

"Study Of Groups" (2003, July 26) Retrieved January 20, 2018, from

"Study Of Groups" 26 July 2003. Web.20 January. 2018. <>

"Study Of Groups", 26 July 2003, Accessed.20 January. 2018,