Group Formation Theory at Multiple Scales
There is a wealth of psychological theory regarding the drive for individuals to congregate and form social groups, positing that people may organize out of fear, social pressure, or even to manage their self-esteem. We evaluate three such theories for multi-scale validity by studying them not only at the individual scale for which they were originally developed, but also for applicability to group interactions and behavior. We implement this multi-scale analysis using a dataset of communications and group membership derived from a long-running online game, matching the intent behind the theories to quantitative measures that describe players’ behavior. Once we establish that the theories hold for the dataset, we increase the scope to test the theories at the higher scale of group interactions. Despite being formulated to describe individual cognition and motivation, we show that some group dynamics theories hold at the higher level of group cognition and can effectively describe the behavior of joint decision making and higher-level interactions.