As a thesis by publication, the candidate presents his published or submitted first-author research papers that develop a model to explain the innate capacity of humans to collaborate in egalitarian teams. Group dynamics are comprised of the minutiae of member perceptions and reactions that cohere a group. This research addresses the lack of a compelling (comprehensive, accurate and detailed) model of group dynamics.
The word model describes a simplified representation of reality, that may encapsulate multiple theories. By contrast, theory is singular and suggests only partial representation of reality. A model may therefore offer a more complete representation and may achieve the consilience of numerous theories.
This thesis formulates the PILAR model and evaluates each of its five Pillars (Prospects, Involved, Liked, Agency, Respect) and 20 interconnecting forces for their collective capacity to characterise a small group. Various empirical and conceptual evaluations allow the candidate to recommend PILAR as a consilience model that credibly integrates numerous theories while representing an extensive assortment of group dynamics.
Reviews current group dynamics literature; including concepts, models, perspectives, and methodologies. Reasons are proposed for why social and organisational psychology has (arguably) failed to converge upon a compelling baseline model that is consistent with anthropological hominin groups. To demonstrate a potential application of such a model, I examine a practitioner method of organisational devolution, Appreciative Inquiry (AI). The chapter then presents a novel, iterative, method for developing a baseline model of group dynamics that has been adopted by the candidate.
Chapter two (published)
Proposes PILAR as a baseline model of group dynamics encapsulating a significant proportion of social and group psychology (SGP) theory. PILAR postulates five ostensive constructs (Pillars) that each member is unconsciously influenced by, when moderating their level of effort, or engagement. These five Pillars then prompt various participant behaviours, including both visible actions such as expressing an opinion or aiding another member, and hidden actions such as thought processes, which may only be evident in body language (if at all).
Chapters three, four and five (all published)
These three chapters examine whether group members use the five Pillars to assess one another’s contribution to a team. A member observing a colleague’s low Pillars may deduce their poor engagement, while higher Pillars suggest significant effort. A member might also collectively evaluate colleagues’ Pillars to assess a group’s overall engagement, either to match this level, or strategically vary from it, for instance to demonstrate leadership (discussed further in §8.3.3).
Chapter three considers whether peer assessment data is indicative of a student team’s collective engagement, and therefore team grade. However only a weak correlation between team grade and team engagement is found. Empirical investigation reveals that half of the respondents answered the survey insincerely, as demonstrated by a lack of variance between responses. Recommendations are made for an improved, and shorter, peer assessment instrument to encourage sincere responses.
Using an Exploratory Factor Analysis, Chapter four tests whether respondents aligned their item responses in accordance with the five Pillars. Results were as hypothesised, which prompts the candidate to assess whether the five Pillars were present in a popular online peer assessment tool, the Comprehensive Assessment of Team Member Effectiveness (CATME). It is found that CATME’s originating methodology had excluded two Pillars from consideration. High inter-correlations between CATME’s dimensions may have been the result of redundancy as three Pillars were extended over five dimensions.
Chapter five reports the design of a brief peer assessment instrument informed by the Pillars, called Pillar-PP, that assesses a respondent’s peer’s perceptions. The chapter concludes with a recommendation to validate Pillar-PP, while also attempting to identify inter-rater bias between respondents.
Chapter six (published)
To investigate the universality of PILAR, Chapter six attempts unification of two divergent literatures, one positivist and one constructivist. Regarding the positivist literature, it was postulated that should PILAR accurately represent the small group, its Pillars may be able to categorise industrial and organisational psychology (IOP) constructs, since organisations are constituted by (albeit, hierarchical) teams. Regarding the constructivist literature, AI is action research that facilitates the formation of egalitarian team to undertake ad hoc projects.
Chapters seven (published) and eight (submitted)
These two chapters develop an evolutionary story behind a postulated baseline model. Chapter seven contends that sub-group level selection (sGLS) selected for pre-verbal anthropological prosociality. Chapter eight extends sGLS by considering how hominins and modern humans moderate their engagement as hierarchy steepness varies.
Chapter nine (submitted)
Assesses to extent to which Pillars are represented within a systematically selected set of constructs used for group research. It is found that approximately 80% of constructs conceptually align with one Pillar, which suggests that PILAR constitutes a baseline model.
Chapter ten (published)
Applies PILAR to two growing societal problems, mental health and precarious employment. I develop a model that connects the five Pillars with wellbeing via constructs associated with positive psychology. Each Pillar is postulated as only being reliably achievable when a member possesses the respective dimension of psychological capital (PsyCap). Furthermore, that participation in the team delivers the member each of five basic psychological needs (BPN). When examined in the context of low-status, precarious, employment, a novel public policy for increasing population wellbeing is presented.
The conclusion summarises the sequence of postulates developed through the course of the thesis. Policy and theory implications were then explored, followed by chapter-specific limitations that are potentially significant in aggregation. The thesis ends with a contention that a unique methodology allows deeper insights than ordinarily possible in a dynamically complex problem space.