Social behavior is often group behavior. People are in many respects individuals seeking their personal, private objectives, yet they are also members of social collectives that bind members to one another. The tendency to join with others is perhaps the most important single characteristic of humans. The processes that take place within these groups influence, in fundamental ways, their members and society-at-large. Just as the dynamic processes that occur in groups--such as the exchange of information among members, leading and following, pressures put on members to adhere to the group's standards, shifts in friendship alliances, and conflict and collaboration-change the group, so do they also change the group's members. In consequence, a complete analysis of individuals and their social relations requires a thorough understanding of groups and their dynamics.

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Copyright © 2010 Oxford University Press. This book chapter first appeared in Advanced Social Psychology: The State of the Science.

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