What is considered a group? Unpacking the Definition.

Groups, in general, are formed due to common interests, shared goals, or because people just like to be together. However, the concept of a group is more complex than it sounds – it has different meanings and can be interpreted in various ways. Everyone seems to have a different definition of a group, and it often depends on the context. In this article, we will explore the topic ‘What is considered a group? Unpacking the Definition’, in-depth, and look at various interpretations of the term ‘group.’

What is a Group?

According to the dictionary, a group is a (noun) number of people, things, or organizations that are located, gathered, or classed together. Groups can be found in every aspect of our lives, and we’re a part of many groups without even being aware.

Groups are formed for various reasons, including:

  • Shared interests
  • Shared goals or motives
  • Simple association (e.g., living in the same area)

The Different Types of Groups

Below we’ll look at the most common types of groups:

Primary vs. Secondary Groups

Sociologist Charles Horton Cooley defined primary and secondary groups. A primary group is characterized by the following:

  • A small number of individuals who share a common identity and nurture a long-lasting relationship.
  • Real and intense feelings of mutual dependence, sympathy, and affection.
  • Members put in effort to maintain relationships for the group’s sake.

A primary group is composed of family members and close friends. A secondary group, on the other hand, is described as:

  • A large number of people who come together for a specific purpose.
  • Limited contact and relationship duration; they come together to accomplish a specific goal and leave when it is complete.
  • They usually do not have strong connections outside the group.

In-Groups and Out-Groups

When people come together to form a group, they create a bond that goes beyond just the group. It creates an “us” versus “them” mentality. This phenomena is called in-groups and out-groups. An in-group is a group that a person belongs to, and an out-group is one they don’t. The in-group creates a sense of belonging, respect, and loyalty among its members that usually doesn’t exist as much with an out-group.

Formal vs. Informal Groups

A formal group is a group formed for specific purposes and has a pre-determined structure for decision making and rules. A good example of a formal group is a company, with a CEO and board of directors overseeing employees. Informal groups, on the other hand, are usually spontaneously formed and do not have a set structure or rules that govern them, like a group of neighbors who come together to discuss community matters.

Group Dynamics and Behavior

Groups cannot exist without people, and when humans interact, they create a system of dynamic behavior, which creates its own characteristics. Groups have different styles and levels of interaction, and they often shape their behavior by:

  • Rules: Groups have rules that govern their behavior, including how they will interact with each other.
  • Leadership: Groups often have at least one leader who sets the tone for the rest of the group and directs its behavior.
  • Communication: The way people communicate within a group influences its behavior, and certain types of communication (e.g., passive or aggressive) can create undesirable group characteristics.

The Importance of Diversity in Group Composition

The composition of a group has a significant impact on how the group behaves. It is important to have diverse backgrounds and expertises among the group members to ensure that the group’s behavior is productive and effective. A lack of diversity can lead to Groupthink, where critical thinking is replaced by the desire for conformity within the group.


Groupthink is a concept related to group behavior, where members prioritize agreement and consensus over creativity and healthy debate. The group may maintain positions that are not workable or sustainable, leading to incorrect or suboptimal decision making. This can be problematic in a work setting, where groups make decisions that affect the entire organization.

The Future of Groups

Groups are an important component of human behavior and interaction, and they are likely to remain so in the foreseeable future. However, advancements in technology have changed the nature of groups and how they interact with one another. For example:

  • Virtual/Online Groups: The rise of the internet has made virtual groups more common. These groups allow people from different parts of the world to meet and share ideas.
  • Social Media: Social media has created new channels for groups to communicate and interact with each other. Users can join or create groups on platforms, such as Facebook or LinkedIn, to connect with like-minded individuals.


In conclusion, the concept of a group is far more complex than most people realize. From the various types of groups to the behavior of the group and factors that influence its dynamics, there are many things to consider when exploring this topic. While the rise of technology has had an impact on the nature of group behavior, at the core, they still offer a way for people to connect and collaborate around shared interests, goals, or motives.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a group?

According to the dictionary, a group is a (noun) number of people, things, or organizations that are located, gathered, or classed together.

What are the types of groups?

There are various types of groups, including:

  • Primary vs. Secondary Groups
  • In-Groups and Out-Groups
  • Formal vs. Informal Groups

What is Groupthink?

Groupthink is a concept related to group behavior, where members prioritize agreement and consensus over creativity and healthy debate.

What is the importance of diversity in group membership?

Diversity in a group is important because it ensures that members have varied backgrounds, perspectives, and expertise, which can lead to more effective and creative problem-solving.


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  • Robbins, S. P., Coulter, M., & DeCenzo, D. A. (2017). Fundamentals of management. Pearson.
  • Schein, E. H. (2010). Organizational culture and leadership. John Wiley & Sons.
  • O’Grady, W. (2013). Contemporary moral issues: diversity and consensus. Broadview Press.

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