Small-Group Communication

Lawrence R. Frey

in Communication

ISBN: 9780199756841
Published online January 2012 | | DOI:
Small-Group Communication


The study of small-group communication investigates: (a) the nature and effects of members of small collectives (a minimum of three people) using verbal and nonverbal messages to share and create meaning (referred to as a symbolic-management focus) and (b) how groups and their processes and products result from message activity (referred to as a symbolic-constitutive focus). Scholarship on small-group communication emerges from the general study of group dynamics and, thus, has important grounding in, and ties to, research conducted in social psychology. However, in contrast to a psychological focus on members’ traits and cognitive processes, a communication approach explores what and how members communicate, how various factors (e.g., the context) affect that communication, and the resulting consequences of that communication (including members’ shared conception of being a “group”). Within the academic, disciplinary study of communication (that took place circa 1910), small-group communication was one of the earliest foci (after public speaking), but institutionally (e.g., in professional associations) such scholarship initially was connected to the study of interpersonal (dyadic) communication. Although scholarship on small-group communication has historically privileged the study of task groups (in specific, decision-making and problem-solving groups), fueled most recently by the growth of organizational communication scholarship on work groups and teams, in the early 21st century, communication is studied in a wide range of group contexts (e.g., families, peer groups, work groups/teams, support groups, political groups, and community groups).

Article.  8685 words. 

Subjects: Communication Studies

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