Friday, November 16, 2012

The Human Group: George Homans (Blog #2)

Here is a photograph I took from my personal magazine.  Here are a group of friends who have one thing in common, fashion.  They clearly share the same interests and decided how fun it would be, as a way of entertaining each other, to have their photograph taken in beautiful outfits. Not only do they hang out at photo shoots, they hang outside of what they do professionally as well.

          George Homans wrote a book called The Human Group in 1951.  In his book, Homans tried to focus on studying larger groups than single groups.  Usually, in his practice and study of the social behavior, he was interested in how single groups of people interacted.  Now that he started to study larger groups, specific questions will be answered and clarified.  For example, how groups change over time.  In The Human Group, Homans was able to make generalizations on the interaction of people in larger groups.  However, at first, it was important to understand why he decided to study bigger groups.  According to his developed work, The Human Group, he concluded that there were two reasons for studying the group.  He decided to study the group for the “sheer interest of the subject and the desire to reach a new sociological synthesis” (Homans 1951: Pp. 2).  He stressed how important it was to study social behaviors or the environment of social interaction in units. Generalizations and studies of patterns would be easier to find when social groups are larger, rather single. Homans focused on the interaction of people in a group.  For example, a group of five friends would acknowledge that they are friends because they share similar interests.  Well, Homans would ask, why are they friends, besides their common interests? According to the book, Coming to My Senses: The Autobiography of a Sociologist, by George Homans, he recognized how the feelings for one individual in the group of friends can influence and affect the rest of the group of friends. In other words, if one of the individuals in the group began to misbehave, the others would treat him wrongly because of his or her behavior.  Therefore, he or she will not try to act good and become a better person.  “If, because the other members of the group judge his behavior to be “bad” by their standards and so put him at the bottom of the system, no worse behavior can lower his status further” (Homans 1986: Pp. 337). It isn't clarified, however, why the friends can’t see that if they treat the friend, who is misbehaving, more kindly, that there is bound to be a change in his behavior.  Hopefully, he or she will start to act more positive. To further this concept, Homans focused on the reason behind their friendship.  He questioned what happened first.  Did the similar interests or friendship come first? However, despite the fact that he already concluded that neither had come first, why would that be in the back of his mind?  How can a friendship come before getting to know one another and forming a bond over what they have in common?  Homans clarifies that there are more factors that are considered rather than the initial bond over common interests.  For example, how long and how many times have the group of friends had actually interacted. “If they meet and have interests in common, they are apt to become friends; on the other hand, if they are friends, they will find occasions for getting together” (Homans 1951: Pp. 7).   So basically, when two individuals meet and greet for the first time, the first instinct is to see what they have in common, which would eventually lead to a friendship.  However, if a group of individuals are already friends, they already established what they had in common and used their interests to find ways to hang out and enjoy each other’s company.  But, what if they do not hang out often? Would they still be considered friends? According to Homans, he suggested the use of the phrase “absence makes the heart grow fonder” relevant. Even though the friends do not hang out all the time, it is possible that their friendship would cease to exist, to say the most. “Once the members of a group have by their actions, created and are maintaining a social structure, that structure in turn becomes one of the set of environmental contingencies affecting their further behavior” (Homans 1986: Pp. 337).  Basically, the fat that the friends, that aren't hanging out anymore are so distant, it takes a toll on their behavior.  So maybe the next time they see each other, they wouldn't treat each other as friends, maybe more so as acquaintances.  As for the group of friends with the one friend who behaves badly, unfortunately, they may soon end up excluding him from their friendship circle because his negative attitude affects the whole group to feel negative.  What Homans really wanted to focus on was how social reality—at three levels: customs, analytical hypotheses, and social events—affect a group of people and their interactions.    

 Homans, Casper George. 1986. Coming to My Senses: The Autobiography of a Sociologist.
                          New Brunswick, New Jersey: Transaction Inc.
Homans, Casper George. 1951. The Human Group. New Brunswick, New Jersey: 
                         Routledge & Kegan Paul Ltd. 

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