The View from Above: New insights into how we group

In Brainwaves by Andrew RenningerLeave a Comment

Social psychology’s raison d’etre may well be the study of groups. As early as 1939, Muzafer Sherif showed that people perceived a light’s movement differently if they were in a group: their reported perceptions were pulled towards that others. In the 1950s, Solomon Asch found that conformity is a default in groups. Participants were markedly less accurate determining line lengths when confederates voiced an incorrect opinion. Social gravity of this sort is something to consider in designing for specific outcomes, but just how to anticipate grouping is another matter entirely.

Missing in these studies is an antecedent concern: how do these groups form in space? For this reason, in what they believe is a novel study, Halberstadt and colleagues tracked waiting behaviour from above to determine just how groups agglomerate. Using in-vivo behavioural tracking, the team watched as participants lingered in a waiting space. Gender failed to predict composition; attractiveness did, like mingling with like. Level of attractiveness also positively associated with centrality in the group. In a second phase of the study, these social butterflies were less likely to help with a menial task. Importantly, the authors claim central figures are sought out, rather than seeking: the group forms around them.

Link to the study on PLOS ONE

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