The Formation of Group Ties in Open Interaction Groups

Shane Thye, Edward J. Lawler, Jeongkoo Yoon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


We examine how task jointness and group incentive structures bear on the nature and strength of the affective and cognitive ties that people forge to a group. The argument is that affective group ties have stronger effects on social order than cognitive group ties. There are two general hypotheses. First, joint tasks generate stronger cognitive and affective ties to groups, whereas group incentives generate cognitive but not necessarily affective ties to the group. Second, affective ties more effectively solve two fundamental problems of social order in groups: (1) sustaining membership (also known as stay behavior) and (2) generating the joint gains of further collaboration (cooperation). The theoretical logic is that joint tasks promote a sense of shared responsibility, and this leads members to attribute their individual emotions to the group as an object, whereas alignment of individual and group incentives does not produce such effects. The theory and hypotheses are tested experimentally in four-person open interaction groups, manipulating task jointness (high, low, none) and incentives (individual based vs. group based). The results generally support the hypotheses underlying the theoretical logic. Affective ties to groups are based primarily on levels of task jointness, and such tasks have stronger effects than incentives on the capacity of groups to retain membership and induce cooperation in social dilemmas.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)158-181
Number of pages24
JournalSocial Psychology Quarterly
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Jun 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The order of authorship is random and does not reflect differential contributions. This material is based on work supported by the National Science Foundation under Collaborative Grant Numbers SBR-9817706 and SBR-9816259 to the University of South Carolina and Cornell University. We thank Ashley Harrell, Will Kalkhoff, Jennifer McLeer, and Mostafa Mobli for comments and suggestions on an earlier draft.

Publisher Copyright:
© American Sociological Association 2019.


  • affective ties
  • cooperation
  • emotion
  • group ties
  • social order


Dive into the research topics of 'The Formation of Group Ties in Open Interaction Groups'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this