Primary relationships are most common in small and traditional societies, while secondary relationships are the norm in large and industrial societies. Because secondary relationships often result in loneliness and isolation, some members of society may attempt to create primary relationships through singles' groups, dating services, church groups, and communes, to name a few. This does not mean, however, that secondary relationships are bad. For most Americans, time and other commitments limit the number of possible primary relationships. Further, acquaintances and friendships can easily spring forth from secondary relationships.
A group's size can also determine how its members behave and relate. A small group is small enough to allow all of its members to directly interact. Examples of small groups include families, friends, discussion groups, seminar classes, dinner parties, and athletic teams. People are more likely to experience primary relationships in small group settings than in large settings.
The smallest of small groups is a dyad consisting of two people. A dyad is perhaps the most cohesive of all groups because of its potential for very close and intense interactions. It also runs the risk, though, of splitting up. A triad is a group consisting of three persons. A triad does not tend to be as cohesive and personal as a dyad.
The more people who join a group, the less personal and intimate that group becomes. In other words, as a group increases in size, its members participate and cooperate less, and are more likely to be dissatisfied. A larger group's members may even be inhibited, for example, from publicly helping out victims in an emergency. In this case, people may feel that because so many others are available to help, responsibility to help is shifted to others. Similarly, as a group increases in size, its members are more likely to engage in social loafing, in which people work less because they expect others to take over their tasks.
Leadership and conformity
Sociologists have been especially interested in two forms of group behavior: conformity and leadership.
The pressure to conform within small groups can be quite powerful. Many people go along with the majority regardless of the consequences or their personal opinions. Nothing makes this phenomenon more apparent than Solomon Asch's classic experiments from the 1950s and 1960s.
Asch assembled several groups of student volunteers and then asked the subjects which of the three lines on a card was as long as the line on another card. Each of the student groups had only one actual subject; the others were Asch's secret accomplices, whom he had instructed to provide the same, though absurdly wrong, answer. The experimenter found that almost one‐third of the subjects changed their minds and accepted the majority's incorrect answer.
The pressure to conform is even stronger among people who are not strangers. During group‐think, members of a cohesive group endorse a single explanation or answer, usually at the expense of ignoring reality. The group does not tolerate dissenting opinions, seeing them as signs of disloyalty to the group. So members with doubts and alternate ideas do not speak out or contradict the leader of the group, especially when the leader is strong‐willed. Group‐think decisions often prove disastrous, as when President Kennedy and his top advisors endorsed the CIA's decision to invade Cuba. In short, collective decisions tend to be more effective when members disagree while considering additional possibilities.
Two types of leaders normally emerge from small groups. Expressive leaders are affiliation motivated. That is, they maintain warm, friendly relationships. They show concern for members' feelings and group cohesion and harmony, and they work to ensure that everyone stays satisfied and happy. Expressive leaders tend to prefer a cooperative style of management. Instrumental leaders, on the other hand, are achievement motivated. That is, they are interested in achieving goals. These leaders tend to prefer a directive style of management. Hence, they often make good managers because they “get the job done.” However, they can annoy and irritate those under their supervision.