Small Group

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Small Group


a sociological and sociopsychological concept designating the simplest form of social group in which direct personal contacts exist among all members. These contacts become established through the emotional relationships of likes and dislikes and the group’s specific values, goals, and norms and rules of behavior. Generally, the small group includes between two and 15 members (the family or work team); when the group has a stable composition, it may include several dozen people, for example, a class of schoolchildren.

The small group is common to all spheres of human activity. If the small group is the local unit of a labor, educational, military, sports, social, or other organization, the relationship of whose members is regulated by rules established by the respective bylaws, statutes, and other documents, it is called a formal group. If it arises primarily on the basis of personal preferences (a group of friends), it is called informal. One or several informal groups may arise within a formal small group.

The small group is characterized first and foremost by its cohesiveness, that is, the degree of behavioral unity of the group’s members when it is possible to choose behavioral patterns. Insofar as all behavior in a small group is interpreted through interpersonal relationships, the group’s structure and the extent of its members’ mutual likes and dislikes, measured by sociometric methods, serve as a general index of the group’s cohesiveness. There are highly cohesive, weakly cohesive, and disconnected small groups. The more positive choices (sympathies) a given group member receives, the higher his status in the group.

Small groups exert an important influence on the development of personality. Even in early childhood, a person finds himself a member of several small groups (the family, play groups) that shape his initial adaptation (primary socialization) to the values, norms, and rules of social behavior. For this reason, such groups are called primary groups. As the personality develops, the nature and number of small groups to which the individual belongs changes. In contemporary society, an adult is simultaneously a member of a family and of a work group; he or she often belongs to several social organizations, has a group of friends, and so on. The individual’s status varies in different small groups; a low status in one small group may be compensated by higher status in another, and this is very important for the formation of the individual’s general positive feeling; otherwise, a tendency toward antisocial forms of behavior may develop. Sometimes the individual becomes a member of antisocial small groups (gangs of delinquents, bands of thieves).

Along with the internal structure which imparts a certain degree of independence to the small group, the group has an external structure that reflects its dependence on larger social groups and organizations.

Under capitalism, the nature of relationships in small groups in the sphere of labor and other spheres is determined by antagonistic production relations in the capitalist enterprise and in society as a whole. Under socialism, collectivist relations of cooperation and mutual aid permeate all spheres and levels of society and, in the sphere of labor, transform small groups into primary labor collectives in which the interests of society, the collective, and the individual are intertwined.

Table 1. Main characteristics of some Soviet small digital computers
Speed of operation (operations/sec) ...............100-1,000100-1,0002503,000-4,0008,000-10,000
Memory capacity (word × bit configuration) direct-access ...............99 × 26227 × 264,096 × 72,048 × 36(4,096-32,768) × 37
long-term ...............20 × 2664 × 264,096 × 15016,384 × 3616,384 × 37
Data input ...............MS, PCMKET, PTET, PTET, PT
Data output ...............ETETET, PTET, PTET, PT, DP
Weight (kg) ...............260260500660502
Power consumption (kVA) ...............0.650.451.522.5
Abbreviations: (MS) manual switching, (MK) manual keyed, (PC) punched cards, (PT) punched tape, (ET) electric typewriter, (DP) digital printer

Bourgeois sociologists consider the small group to be a “society in miniature” (G. Simmel) and primary groups to be the foundation of the entire social structure (C. Cooley). Such interpretations distort real social ties and ignore the fact that small groups are conditioned by existing social relations, the most important of which are class relations.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in classic literature ?
Small groups of men crouched in tight circles round the wooden platters; brown hands hovered over snowy heaps of rice.
Long stands of hackney-chairs and groups of chairmen, compared with whom the coachmen of our day are gentle and polite, obstructed the way and filled the air with clamour; night-cellars, indicated by a little stream of light crossing the pavement, and stretching out half-way into the road, and by the stifled roar of voices from below, yawned for the reception and entertainment of the most abandoned of both sexes; under every shed and bulk small groups of link-boys gamed away the earnings of the day; or one more weary than the rest, gave way to sleep, and let the fragment of his torch fall hissing on the puddled ground.
Had the unknown builder who erected and owned these new villas contented himself by simply building each within its own grounds, it is probable that these three small groups of people would have remained hardly conscious of each other's existence, and that there would have been no opportunity for that action and reaction which is here set forth.
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