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Explanations of Group Behaviors: Jointly-Acting Groups and the Folk Framework

Faculty Supervisor:
Paul Lewis
Year of Project Completion:
Matthew N. Stucky


People often explain behaviors performed by groups (i.e. "Why did the psychology department hire the new professor?"). Two social psychological frameworks have advanced the study of group behavior explanations. One sees groups as entities and the other sees them as agents. The latter, based on the folk framework, holds more predictive power in that it acknowledges the importance of intentionality. The present study examined explanations of group behaviors using the predictions of both frameworks but while emphasizing the folk framework in analysis. It investigated the characteristics of jointly-acting groups, or groups that deliberate, decide and act together, to understand why people view them as more rational and deliberate than individuals. In the study, 52 participants filled out surveys containing six behaviors followed by "Why?" questions and open-ended prompts. Results of statistical tests suggested, albeit rather weakly, that joint deliberation may lend jointly-acting groups their sense of deliberateness. However, results did point to several important conclusions about the predictive strength of the folk framework and directions for future research. Finally, the study generated theoretical and practical implications in the fields of media analysis and the law.

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As the first Mennonite college founded in North America, Bethel College celebrates a tradition of progressive Christian liberal arts education, diversity within community, and lifelong learning.