Group cohesion

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Connection space between individual and group

Group cohesion (from the Latin cohaerere “to be connected”) describes the sense of community or togetherness in a social group , the “we- feeling ” as an emotional field of bonds and cohesion between the people involved.

Group cohesion as a phenomenon is mainly engaged in social psychology and its application fields of industrial psychology , the sports psychology , the sociology of organizations and the Defense Advanced Research Projects examined. The bond and dynamics of individuals within social systems take a central place in the theory of group dynamics .

A high level of group cohesion ideally results in team spirit and causes individual members to set aside their individual needs in favor of a group context (coping with a group task, achieving a group goal, etc.). This does not happen without - more or less conscious - benefit calculation. Belonging to the respective group must promise advantages for the individual. This can only result from the fact that belonging to a certain group enables (higher) self-worth within the respective social context (for example: respective society) ("group pride"). To do this, this “special” group must be differentiated from other groups, both internally and externally, and to that extent clearly differentiate itself.

factor thesis
Effect of social comparisons • Group cohesion arises through the mechanisms of social comparison
Frequency of interaction • Greater group cohesion with frequent and intensive interaction

Group homogeneity
• Greater group cohesion when the group members are relatively homogeneous and sympathetic to one another
Interdependence • Greater group cohesion when members are aware of their interdependence
Membership attractiveness • greater group cohesion, the more group membership is valued
Competition with other groups • greater group cohesion, the stronger the contrast with a competing group
Dangers to
the group
• greater group cohesion, the more a group is endangered in its existence
Personality of
the group members
• Larger group orientation with less competent, insecure, authoritarian socialized, with few other professional options and new members who have joined the group
Henrik Gast's table on the emergence of group cohesion

Factors in the formation of group cohesion

  • Mechanisms of social comparison
  • Interaction frequency and quality
  • Homogeneity of group members
  • Interdependence
  • Attractiveness of group membership
  • Competition with other groups
  • Endangerment of the group's existence through external threats
  • Few options for group members to join other groups

Group cohesion and performance

Situational leadership model according to Yukl: Group cohesion as one of seven situation variables

High group cohesion alone is only partially decisive for high group performance ( productivity ). This simplistic connection of the Humans Relations movement is now considered obsolete. Productivity depends on the extent to which the group follows (performance) norms. If these deviate from the organizational goals, it is unlikely that higher performance will be achieved (and if group norms deviate from the norms of the organization, such groups even represent a potential threat to the respective organization, according to Koschnick). If coherent groups identify with the organizational goals and norms, the probability of higher productivity of the groups increases.

According to the SGRPI model (System - Goal - Rule - Procedural - Interpersonal) according to Rubin and Beckhard (1984), good group performance requires goal (goal), role (rule), process (procedural), relationships (interpersonal) (in chronological order ) of the group members are / will be clarified. According to the model, a poor group performance is justified by an undesirable development within (one) of the four key factors. Dysfunctional relationships in the group often appear “only” as symptoms.

Types of cohesion

Often a differentiation is made between

  • social cohesion (social cohesion)
  • task cohesion (task-oriented cohesion)


  • vertical cohesion (group members for leadership)
  • horizontal cohesion (group members among themselves).

A higher level of satisfaction among the individuals in the group in relation to the (past) performance of the superior (in favor of the group) increases vertical cohesion.

On vertical cohesion (or its failure), for example, the subject of military research is the phenomenon of the (disguised) killing of superiors ( fragging ) by their subordinates within the US units during the Vietnam War . Subordinates killed superiors in order to protect themselves from existential mistakes by their superiors. In addition, there is the thesis that “group pride” could not develop sufficiently in the face of the US public, which was largely opposed to the war, which could further reduce vertical cohesion.

Military research

During the Second World War, the eastern front of the German armed forces was characterized by high resistance and extreme stamina. Numerous research projects deal with the connection between the cohesion within the units of that time and their combat strength under the most adverse conditions. There is still no unanimous opinion about the decisive factors for group cohesion, motivation and actions of the units.

According to the current status, military research also distinguishes between:

  • social cohesion (social cohesion)
  • task-oriented cohesion (task cohesion)
  • instrumental cohesion.

The field of social cohesion (social cohesion) includes in particular the adoption of the assumption of homogeneity of the group members (to their high cohesion). The practical relevance of this concept is controversial today, since it violates politically correct paradigms, which is why the concept of task cohesion is increasingly used in military concepts . In task-oriented cohesion , the individuals in the group are more oriented towards values, norms, tasks and goals than towards homogeneous interdependence (within the respective primary group ).

With instrumental cohesion it is clear to the individual that he is instrumentally dependent on the respective organization, not from social, but from functional needs, he experiences himself dependent on the other group members in the context of the respective context: “The loads that affect the soldier , cannot cope with this alone. He is dependent on his comrades and superiors [...] Because the individual soldier must, if he wants to increase his chances of survival, necessarily develop primary group relationships and participate in them ”(Zweckverband).

Sports psychology

In their questionnaires ( Group Environment Questionnaire ), Widmeyer, Brawley, Carron differentiate between task-oriented and socially-oriented cohesion. It has been shown that task-oriented cohesion tends to increase the team's performance. The effect of only socially oriented cohesion (how important are social relationships to me) on team performance could not be proven. In any case, it could be shown that the team's successes also have a positive effect on cohesion.

Organizational structures that weaken social cohesion

The flattening of hierarchical structures in organizations results in politicization dilemmas that promote structural egoism at the expense of social cohesion. By Christoph Deutschmann et al. Attention was drawn to the (intended) development of structural egoism in “newer” corporate structures ( intrapreneurship ).

While conflicts and competition within the group weaken group cohesion, the level of group cohesion increases when the group is in competition with other groups.

See also


  • Jürgen Wegge: Leadership of working groups. Göttingen 2004.

Individual evidence

  1. Bruno Klein, Rainer Marr: The social potential of business organizations. Berlin 1979, p. 81.
  2. Rüdiger Arnscheid: Together we are strong? On the relationship between group cohesion and group performance. Münster / New York 1999, p. 19 ff.
  3. ^ A b Günter W. Maier: Group cohesion. In: Gabler Wirtschaftslexikon. February 19, 2018, accessed October 26, 2019.
  4. Werner Auer-Rizzi: Decision-making processes in groups. Cognitive and social bias tendencies. Wiesbaden 1998, p. 31.
  5. ^ Wolfgang J. Koschnick: Management. Encyclopedic Lexicon. Berlin / New York 1996, p. 293.
  6. ^ Simone Kauffeld: Team diagnosis. Göttingen 2001, p. 127 ff.
  7. ^ Heiko Biehl, Ulrich vom Hagen, Reinhard Mackewitsch: Motivation of soldiers in foreign deployments. 2000, p. 35 ff. ( PDF at
  8. "The soldiers paid for the mistakes in politics, according to the military perception, on the battlefield and at home."
    (Gerlinde Groitl: Strategic Change and Civil-Military Conflict. Politicians, Generals and US Intervention Policy from 1989 to 2013. Wiesbaden 2015, p. 154.)
  9. Heiko Biehl: Morale of combat and cohesion as an object of research, military practice and organizational ideology. In: Maja Apelt (Hrsg.): Research topic military. Wiesbaden 2010, p. 141.
  10. Heiko Biehl: Morale of combat and cohesion as an object of research, military practice and organizational ideology. In: Maja Apelt (Hrsg.): Research topic military. Wiesbaden 2010, p. 144 ff.
  11. Dominic Ionescu: Shils / Janowitz (1948) - Cohesion and Disintegration in the Wehrmacht in Word War II. In: Stefan Kühl (Hrsg.): Key works of organizational research. Wiesbaden 2015, p. 632.
  12. Heiko Biehl: Morale of combat and cohesion as an object of research, military practice and organizational ideology. In: Maja Apelt (Hrsg.): Research topic military. Wiesbaden 2010, p. 147 f.
  13. N. Widmeyer, L. Brawley, A. Carron: The measurement of cohesion in sports teams: The group environment questionnaire (=  Sports Dynamics ). London / Ontario 1985.
  14. ^ Siegfried Nagel, Torsten Schlesinger: Team development in sports game teams in high-performance sports. In: Pawlowsky, Mistele (Ed.): High performance management. Targeted promotion of performance potential in organizations. Wiesbaden 2008, p. 382.
  15. ^ Deutschmann, Faust, Jauch, Notz: Changes in the role of management in the process of reflexive rationalization. [Year?], P. 9 ff. ( PDF ( Memento from December 29, 2015 in the Internet Archive )).
  16. Werner Auer-Rizzi: Decision-making processes in groups. Cognitive and social bias tendencies. Wiesbaden 1998, p. 39.