Sunday, April 22, 2012

Yet another concept map

It seems these are always hopelessly flawed.  Nevertheless, this map seems to capture most of what we've been talking about.  How useful it may be is another question entirely.

So, here I've partitioned the environment into different aspects, those that affect groups and those that affect individuals.  These, however, are not compartmentalized which is my way of attempting to show these are not always separate.  As I've been discussing, then, groups and individuals may have very different experiences within the environment and, as a result, may face different kinds of pressures.  The environment alone, however, is not the only source of influence/pressure/constraints/whatever.  Groups can also exert pressures on individuals and, of course, groups are affected by the traits of the individuals who comprise them.  All of these different influences work to produce outcomes.  Outcomes at the group level might be different from outcomes at the individual level.  Or they might not.  Perhaps I should have placed them in a box together the way I did for environmental influences?

I haven't quite unpacked this yet, but it may be in the outcomes that we find some traction with our conceptions of "alignment" between groups and individuals.

Does this do any useful conceptual work?  Again, I'm not entirely sure.  However, it does allow us to more methodically follow constraints and pressures (are these different?) to see how they might affect tightness or looseness.  For instance, let's imagine a harsh environment that offers little existential security for either groups or individuals.  This would limit the variation between groups operating within that environment and between individuals who are potential members of groups.   These should work together to create very tight groups.

Or what about an environment that is existentially secure for individuals but in which groups face existential insecurity by virtue, say, of fierce competition with other groups.  In this environment, groups should be far looser than in the previous scenario.  Nevertheless, they should be relatively tight in those particular traits that lead to differential success for the group.  For instance, let's suppose that successful groups within a given context are those with the greatest perceived entertainment value.  If groups can only survive by virtue of their entertainment value, then opinions about the relative importance of entertainment among group members should be tight even while opinions about other aspects of the group might be quite loose.  Clearly, I need to think of better examples but hopefully this gives an idea of what we're after.

One thing I do like about this map is that unlike some of my other recent formulations this provides space to consider the bottom up influence of individuals on the group and the top down influence of the group on individuals.  Aside from giving us a place to stick psychological variables like personal need for structure and social dominance orientation, it also gives us a way to consider historical trajectories.  For instance, if a tight group has survived several generations of individuals then it seems likely individuals raised within the group should have a higher need for structure or a higher social dominance orientation by virtue of their indoctrination over generations by the group.  Even if that group moves to a place where existential security at both the individual and group levels would lead us to predict greater looseness, it may take considerable time for the group to move in that direction due to to the bottom up influence of many tight individuals working in concert.

Okay, now I'm just rambling.  Enough!

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