Date of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
Studies of group communication and group identity rest on two competing theoretical concepts of the group, one that prioritizes examining the relationships between members and one that examines the group as a gestalt construct. For live groups, it is not always clear which style, individual or gestalt, is most appropriate or provides more insight into any specific group because groups’ identities and communication behaviors are sometimes explicable by both theoretical concepts. This occurs because in real-world groups the formation process typically involves an amalgamation of both influences. In other words, live groups form identities built around both members’ individual traits and categorical commonalities among members. When group formation occurs, it is not always clear which theoretical concept should guide the analysis because when both identity formation styles occur together, research currently lacks a way to determine which has more influence on the resulting group. The present study brings our theoretical understanding of group formation closer to groups in a live context. It does so by forming groups under conditions that provide opportunities to foster both formation styles and measuring members’ perception of gestalt or individually focal group identity. Results indicate that members tended to perceive a greater degree of gestalt identity, but not to the exclusion of individual identity.