Social group is a basic form of association between human beings who are mutually interacting. Sociology defines a social group as any more or less stable meeting of two or more people associated through interaction. Due to social interaction, groups have to maintain some form of organization when carrying out joint actions of common interest. People in a queue to enter a cinema do not constitute a social group, as there is no interaction between them.
Social groups have some form of organization. They share norms, habits, values, customs and objectives. Social groups differ in the degree of contact between their members.
The main social groups are the familial group (family), the vicinal group (neighborhood), the educational group (school, college), the religious group (religious institution), the leisure group (clubs, associations), the professional group ( offices, companies, store) and the political group (political party or organization).
The main characteristics of social groups are:
- Plurality of individuals: there needs to be more than one person in a group.
- Social interaction: group members interact with each other.
- Organization: there must be a certain order in the group
- Objectivity and exteriority: the group is above the individual. Externalitymeans that an individual’s existence does not depend on his participation in the group.
- Common objective: there are certain values, principles and objectives that unite group members.
- Group awareness: thoughts, ideas and feelings are shared by the group members.
- Continuity: interactions between group members need to be lasting, as in families, in a school, in a religious institution, etc.
Social groups can be classified as primary , secondary and intermediate . Primary groups are those in which members have direct personal contacts, more intimate contacts. The greatest example of a primary group is the family. Secondary groups are those in which social contacts are direct, but there is no intimacy. An example of a secondary group is a political party. Intermediate groups are those in which the two forms of social contacts are complemented, that is, the primary and the secondary. An example of an intermediate group is the school.
There is a difference between social groups and social aggregates .
Social aggregate is a gathering of loosely clustered people who, despite physical proximity, have a minimum of social relationships. In general, the social aggregate is not organized and does not have a stable structure or hierarchy of positions and functions. Most people who participate in a social household are unaware and contact between them is limited and of short duration.
The main types of social aggregates are the crowd , the public and the mass .
An example of a crowd is a group of people coming together to observe a phenomenon. A crowd is a peaceful or tumultuous aggregate of people occupying a certain physical space.
The main characteristics of the crowd are:
– physical proximity: there is direct, but temporary, contact between the components of a crowd. The individual must necessarily be present in the social household.
– anonymity and absence of status: the name and social / professional / economic position of the people who join the crowd are not important. The components are anonymous, as they do not take their social position with them when they integrate into the crowd.
– lack of organization: even if there is a leader, there is no set of norms or defined positions or a division of labor. The interaction is usually disordered and uncontrolled, spontaneous and unpredictable.
– common goals: the crowd shares some interest, act or emotion. However, the interaction does not take into account the different social personalities. The crowd can be fanatical and pursue their goals without restrictions.
– undifferentiation: there is no room for individual differences to manifest. This makes the members equal.
– security and power: due to the presence of others, participants can do or say things that they would not do or would say if they were alone.
– interexcitation: the components are momentarily lost in the “crowd spirit”.
Crowds can be classified as follows:
- Casual crowds: have momentary existence and loose organization. Example: people contemplating a fire.
- Conventional crowds: the behavior is expressed in a pre-established way, having a limited duration. Example: spectators of a football game.
- Active crowd: usually aggressive, it is characterized by the existence of a goal. Examples: riots, riots, lynching.
- Panicked crowd: there is a stimulus within the group itself that intensifies feelings of panic. Example: people fleeing an earthquake.
- Expressive crowd: there are physical movements that are designed to loosen tension. Examples: Carnival, street celebrations after selecting a country to win the World Cup.
Public and Mass
The public is a group of people who follow the same stimuli. It is based not on physical contact, but on communication received through different means of communication. The public is a group of individuals in which the number of people who express and receive opinions is practically equal. Public opinion can be transformed into effective action, even against the current system of authority. The public is also relatively autonomous in its actions.
There is a difference between crowd and audience, as the integration of the individuals that form the audience is usually intentional. In the crowd, integration is occasional.
The public’s ways of thinking, feeling and acting constitute what is known as public opinion . Three basic characteristics stand out in public opinion. The first is access to information. There is only public opinion when individuals in a society have free access to current information. The second characteristic is free discussion. Given the information received, each individual can take a position. The third characteristic is the attempt to turn opinion into action, that is, that opinions on matters of interest to the nation influence and determine government actions.
The mass is different from the public, as it consists of a relatively large grouping of separate people, who do not know each other. It is formed by individuals who receive formed opinions, which are conveyed by the mass media. The mass is a set of elements in which the organization of public communication makes it difficult or even impossible to effectively respond to publicly expressed opinions. The mass has no autonomy; there is virtually no formation of independent opinion generated through discussion. The group of individuals that behaves like masses tends to be manipulated, as it reacts in an unthinkable way, having no group conscience.