ohesiveness refers to the degree of unity or “we-ness” in a group. More formally, cohesiveness denotes the strength of all ties that link individuals to a group. These ties can be social or task oriented in nature. Specifically, a group that is tied together by mutual friendship, caring, or personal liking is displaying social cohesiveness. A group that is tied together by shared goals or responsibilities is displaying task cohesiveness. Social and task cohesiveness can occur at the same time, but they do not have to.
For example, a group of friends may be very cohesive just because they enjoy spending time together, regardless of whether or not they share similar goals. Conversely, a hockey team may be very cohesive, without liking each other personally, because the players strongly pursue a common objective.
Consequences of Cohesiveness
A high degree of cohesiveness is a double-edged sword. Positive consequences include higher commitment to, and responsibility for, the group. Also, satisfaction with the group is higher within cohesive groups. Furthermore, there is a positive relationship between the degree of cohesiveness and the performance of a group. Although the direction of causality between performance and cohesiveness is still disputed (in fact, cohesiveness and performance seem to mutually influence one another), cohesive groups are likely to outperform noncohesive ones if the following two preconditions are met: First, the group has to be tied together by task (rather than social) cohesiveness. Second, the norms and standards in the group have to encourage excellence. Indeed, if the norm in a group encourages low performance, increasing cohesiveness will result in lower instead of higher performance. Thus, depending on the norms present in a group, the cohesiveness-performance link can be beneficial or detrimental. Aside from potentially worse performance, negative consequences of cohesiveness entail increased conformity and pressure toward unanimity. Cohesiveness may thus lead to avoidance of disagreement, groupthink, and hence bad decision making. Another negative consequence of particularly social cohesiveness may be maladaptive behavior if the composition of a group is changed. Indeed, in cases in which cohesiveness is high and mainly due to personal liking, changes in the group’s structure may result in disengagement of group members.
Enhancing Group Cohesiveness
Social cohesiveness can be enhanced by increasing liking and attraction among group members. Liking can be enhanced, for example, by increasing similarity of group members (people like those who are similar to them or share similar experiences). Task cohesiveness can be enhanced by emphasizing similar goals and ensuring that the pursued goals are important to all members. Both social and task cohesiveness can be promoted by encouraging voluntary interaction among group members or by creating a unique and attractive identity of the group, for example, by introducing a common logo or uniform. Finally, cohesiveness is generally larger in small groups.
- Hogg, M. A. (1992). The social psychology of group cohesiveness: From attraction to social identity. New York: Harvester.
- Mullen, B., & Copper, C. (1994). The relation between group cohesiveness and performance: An integration. Psychological Bulletin, 115(2), 210-227.