Social Groups and Organizations

The Basics of Sociology. Editor: Kathy S Stolley. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2005.

The study and understanding of social groups is central to sociology. We live most of our lives within social settings, so sociology is actually a study of our experiences within groups. Sociologists devote much attention to groups of all sizes and characteristics. Much sociological study investigates “how individuals are shaped by their social groups, from families to nations, and how groups are created and maintained by the individuals who compose them” (Kimmel 1998, 7).

Social Groups

The term group has a specific definition in sociology that differs from everyday usage. In everyday language, almost any collection of people might be called a group. However, two or more people being in close physical proximity does not constitute a group in the sociological meaning of the word. Sociologically speaking, a group is a collection of people who interact regularly based on some shared interest and who develop some sense of belonging that sets them apart from other gatherings of people. They form a social relationship. This is sometimes referred to as developing a sense of “we-ness.” All groups share this factor of interdependence (Lewin 1948).

People who just happen to be in the same place at the same time are not a group. Rather, they are an aggregate. Individuals riding the bus or walking their dogs in a park are examples of aggregates. If these people interact and develop some sort of shared interests or sense of themselves as a group, then they become a group by definition. For example, the individual dog walkers might begin to talk with each other about their pets, start to walk their dogs on the same schedule, and even plan events together, such as an obedience class. Through these shared interests and interactions, the dog walkers may begin to identify themselves as members of a group. They might even adopt some sort of name to identify themselves. Another, albeit tragic, example of an aggregate developing very quickly into a group was on September 11, 2001, when hijackers flew airplanes into the World Trade Center and Pentagon. The passengers on United Airlines Flight 93 that crashed in Pennsylvania started as an aggregate and became a group when they joined together to fight the hijackers.

Another term that is often confused with group is category. A category refers to people who share some common characteristic or status. Categories are often used by sociologists and other researchers interested in studying social life. Age, race, gender, income level, religious affiliation, being a musician, owning a pet, or living in a apartment are all categories. People in a category do not necessarily interact or share any sense of belonging, and may not even know each other.

Researchers have also pointed out that sometimes categorizations are as basic in our minds as those groups with which we identify and feel a sense of belonging and loyalty, in-groups, and those with which we do not identify or toward which we may even feel animosity, out-groups. We also tend to develop a bias in which we favor our in-groups, perceiving them in a better light than those “others” (Sumner 1906). We often prefer our fraternity or sorority, our church, or people from our ethnic group, for example, over others for this reason.

This in-group/out-group distinction works to build group identity and solidarity. Groups use a variety of means to distinguish who is “in” and who is “out.” Rituals such as secret handshakes (Collins 1989) or symbols such as team uniforms, gang colors, or awards honoring member’s accomplishments are all ways to exhibit group identity and reinforce membership.

Conflict with another group (or groups) can also strengthen group solidarity (Coser 1956). The members of one group draw together to challenge a common enemy—the age-old idea of “us” against “them.” Thus, having an out-group to focus on can strengthen that sense of belonging and support the development of a sense of group identity as members tend to focus on differences between groups rather than any similarities (Coser 1956; Sherif 1966; Quattrane 1986). Street gangs or racist groups such as skinheads or the Ku Klux Klan illustrate this concept in action.

This group identity can even overpower and eliminate any previously existing relationships members held with those of the “other” group. Well-known research conducted by Sherif and associates demonstrate this process in their Robbers Cave Experiment. A number of boys participated in a camping trip during which they were closely observed by the researchers. The research team set up and manipulated various situations involving group membership and competition. After the boys had participated in camp activities and formed friendships for a week, researchers divided the boys into two competitive groups, purposely putting best friends into different groups. The resulting in-group/out-group conflict became stronger than the previous friendship ties (Sherif and Sherif 1953). A more recent example of this dynamic occurred in the former Yugoslavia, where an emphasis on in-group/out-group conflict led to horrible bloodshed between Serbs and Muslims, some of whom had individually been friends previously.

Reference Groups

Sociologists are also interested in how we use groups to judge ourselves and our attitudes, beliefs, behaviors, and actions (Hyman 1942; Hyman and Singer 1968; Singer 1981). The groups we use for this purpose are reference groups. Reference groups are those with which we compare ourselves. Any group can become a reference group if we use them to judge something about ourselves. Considering what best friends will think about your new boyfriend or girlfriend or how to dress to fit in with your new colleagues on your first day of work are both ways of using reference groups.

We can also have negative reference groups that we do not want to be like. Dressing in hip-hop, punk, or goth styles sets children apart from their parents and a conservative establishment. Reference groups do not even have to be real. Girls and women who judge their bodies against the apparently flawless, thin, air-brushed models shown on the cover of women’s magazines or advertisements are measuring themselves against a fictional, and unattainable, reference group (Kilbourne 2000). Children who compare their parents to parents on television sitcoms are making a similar fictional reference-group comparison.

Group Size

Group size influences the interactions that take place within the group. Sociologist Georg Simmel (profiled below) addressed the importance of this concept. Simmel notes that the smallest possible group is composed of two persons. This group of two is called a dyad. These are often our strongest, most intimate relationships, such as a marriage. The existence of the dyad depends on both people. If one leaves, the group ceases to exist. As Simmel says, “for its life, [the dyad] needs both, but for its death, only one” (1964, 124). Each person holds full responsibility for group accomplishment or failure, since there are no additional members to which to shift the blame or effort. Because of the importance of marriage to society and the instability of the dyad as a group, cultural, religious, and legal guidance are often provided to support marriages and enhance the dyad’s stability.

A three-person group is a triad. The addition of the third person changes the group dynamics considerably. The addition of just this one person also makes the group more stable. Simmel noted that this third person adds the possibility of mediator when two members disagree. If one person takes some attention away from maintaining group relationships, the group continues to exist with the effort of the other two members. However, the addition of the third person also adds the possibility of a coalition forming against one person. Another possibility is that this third person might instigate trouble between the other two for personal benefit.

Simmel also noted that as groups become larger in size, they generally become more stable and less intimate, with less required of each member. Larger groups can lose members and still exist. For example, owners regularly trade members of sports teams, and a military unit can lose members in battle but still exist. Although the relationships between individuals in the unit may have been somewhat intense, the lost members are replaced by new arrivals, and the unit continues to function. Interaction with members outside the group may also increase as the group gets larger (Blau 1977; Carley 1991). As groups become larger, they also tend to develop formal structures such as bureaucracies that are discussed later in this chapter.


Sociologists have also demonstrated the importance of our relationships that occur outside of defined groups in networks, the patterned relationships that connect us with those outside of our established groups. Network relationships are ever changing as people come and go from our lives. Sociologist Barry Wellman (profiled in chapter 8) offers a good illustration of networks when explaining that it would have been impossible to make a membership list of New York City gangs when he was growing up there during the 1950s: “My New York consisted of unbounded networks of friends and of friends of friends. When a fight was coming up, groups of friends would call each other and come together to be a gang for that night. On another night, when other friends would call, some of the same teens would become members of another gang” (1999a, 94). Although these network ties are weaker than those within our defined groups, they are nonetheless very important in our everyday lives (Granovetter 1973, 1982).

Social networks exist across society. They are important aspects of kinship ties (Lai 2001), providing advice (Cross, Borgatti, and Parker 2001), organized crime (Chambliss 1988), drug use and prevention of HIV/AIDS (Friedman 1999), finding a job (Lin, Ensel, and Vaughn 1981), and the deal making between business and politicians that takes place at social events (Domhoff 1974). Networks also form among Internet users in cyberspace (Wellman 1999b; Kendall 2002). Sociological research on how networks link people in diverse places (Milgram 1967; White 1970) was even the basis for the popular Hollywood movie Six Degrees of Separation.

Group Dynamics

An entire field of study known as group dynamics has developed around the scientific study of groups and group processes. Drawing from both sociology and psychology, group dynamics includes studying the influences groups have on our behavior (Johnson and Johnson 2000, 37-44; Forsyth 1990). Areas of interest include how groups form and develop, the socialization that takes place within groups, power structures, conformity to group ideas, conflict, leadership, and decision making. Kurt Lewin, profiled below, is generally considered the founder of group dynamics as a field of study.

Group Formation

Many groups are formed to accomplish some task. This requires that the members work together somewhat as a team. Groups coming together to design a military action, plan a golf tournament, or decide on annual fund-raising activities for the local school Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) all go through some group-formation process. Researchers have identified over 100 various models of group development (Forsyth 1990, 77).

Following on the work of Bruce Tuckman (1965), perhaps the best-known model depicts four stages of group development that are often termed forming, storming, norming, and performing. As groups come together and try to accomplish goals as a team, they evolve through each of these four stages. They come together, work out differences, get to work on the task at hand, and then get the task done. Some models of team development also add a fifth stage, called adjourning or mourning, during which the group disbands. These stages of team building apply to all types of groups.

When individuals are first together as a group, they enter the forming (or orientation) stage. They learn about the other members, explore the group goal, and share their backgrounds and expertise. As issues become contentious, the group moves into the storming (or conflict) stage. Members may express dissatisfaction, criticism, hostility, or even drop out of the group. Most groups do experience conflict at some point. Although it may at first appear destructive, this storming stage can actually be constructive if differences are presented and resolved openly. When members start to resolve their issues and work together, they are norming (or building cohesion). They begin to form a cohesive unit, establish rules and roles to get their job done, and start to think of the group as “we.” Then the group performs by “getting down to business” and working toward their goals. There may also be a dissolution stage, in which the group wraps up their tasks and terminates their roles. This stage can be planned, such as when the group accomplishes its goal (e.g., completing a fund-raising event), or spontaneous (e.g., a budget cut ends a project before its completion).

Donelson Forsyth (1990) uses the Beatles as an example to illustrate the applicability of this model to a familiar real-life group. When the musicians who would achieve world fame during the 1960s as the Beatles first came together as a band, they formed by getting to know each other and explore each other’s strengths and weaknesses. They experienced conflict as John and Paul argued over talent, the drummer changed, and tempers flared. The members began to settle their differences and norm by writing songs and working together. They performed, literally and figuratively; then, finally, they dissolved as a team amid controversies and rumors (as discussed in chapter 9).


Sociologists recognize the important distinction in groups that not all members have equal influence. Some members emerge as leaders, those who are able to influence others toward some future direction, event, goal, or purpose. However, all leaders do not lead in the same way or focus on the same goals. Some leaders take an instrumental approach, focusing on getting specific jobs done, while others take an expressive approach, concerning themselves with the emotional well-being of the group (Bales and Strodtbeck 1951). Groups actually have a need for both types of approaches. In meetings, for example, groups have to accomplish whatever task is at hand (e.g., deciding on next year’s marketing strategies) and also negotiate relationships between group members (e.g., people who may disagree or dislike each other have to remain civil enough with those others to make a decision).

Leaders also differ in regard to how they motivate others and what they seek to achieve. Transactional leaders are task-oriented and focus on getting group members to achieve goals(Jung and Avolio 1999). These type of leaders reward accomplishing routine goals but do not especially inspire performance beyond the routine. In other words, their group members accomplish their tasks but generally do not make extra efforts beyond those required. In an accounting department, for example, the billers would get the monthly invoices out as required but not do more (e.g., meet to develop ways to improve the invoicing process).

Another type of leader is transformational. These leaders encourage others to go beyond the routine by building a different type of organization that focuses on future possibilities (Kanter 1983). Transformational leaders use enthusiasm and optimism to inspire others. They encourage innovation and creativity. They exhibit characteristics that others can identify with, trust, and follow. Transformational leaders also focus on mentoring others as leaders (Hellriegel, Slocum, and Woodman 2001, 362-68). In an accounting department headed by a transformational leader, the staff might regularly meet to discuss more efficient ways to work or how to improve customer satisfaction, or devote time to testing new software that would help the department improve its efficiency.


Leaders have differential levels of power, the ability to influence others, even if those others resist(Weber 1947). Greater power also allows a person or group to better resist when others try to control them. Power is a relative term. It is measured in relation to another person or group.

French and Raven (1959) have shown that power can be rooted on one or more of five bases. First, when someone or some group controls the distribution of valued rewards or negative reinforcements, they hold reward power. A manager who has the ability to give pay raises holds reward power. Second, when someone or some group can punish others for noncompliance with their wishes, they hold coercive power. A school principal exercises coercive power when expelling a student for rule breaking. Third, those with whom someone wishes to identify or be like (in other words, their reference group), hold referent power. An example of referent power is a rock star whose dress, demeanor, and singing style is copied by an aspiring young singer. Fourth, those who have, or are perceived as having, some special expertise hold expert power. An engineer who has overseen the building of several bridges has expert power over a team of inexperienced junior engineers working on a similar project. Fifth, when someone or some group is recognized as having a valid claim to require compliance to their wishes, they hold legitimate power. This may also be referred to as authority. A police office holds legitimate power or authority.

An entire school of theory is based in how sociologists understand power. As noted in chapter 2, exchange theory focuses on the alternatives people have, or think they have, in various situations (e.g., Blau 1964; Homans 1974). This perspective is sometimes discussed as a variant of symbolic interactionism. Other theorists discuss it separately. Although there are several complex variations, a main idea is that a person does something they would rather not do because that is the best available choice they see. For example, a worker may put us with criticism from a supervisor because that option is seen as preferable to quitting or being unemployed. The worker recognizes the supervisor’s power. Peter Blau (1918-2002) and George Caspar Homans (1910-89) are two influential sociologists who have done much groundbreaking work on exchange theory. Both are profiled below.


Sociologists and their colleagues in fields such as social psychology have demonstrated that groups can shape members’ behavior in powerful ways. Groups may require members to conform, sharing certain norms, values, behaviors, and sometimes even opinions. Peer pressure to smoke (or not) or to dress a certain way to “fit in” are examples of this process. Enforcing conformity is the means through which groups survive.

Some classic experiments illustrate the power groups have in producing conformity. Solomon Asch (1952, 1955) was able to demonstrate that groups have such a strong influence on their members that individuals can be influenced to agree with group perceptions even when it is obvious that the other members are wrong. He used a simple series of cards, presented two by two, for his experiment. One card had a single vertical line drawn in the center. The second card had three vertical lines of varying lengths drawn on it. One of these three lines was exactly the same length as the single line on the first card. The members of the Asch’s experimental group were asked to identify aloud which of the three lines was the same length as the single line on the other card. Asch made the correct answer apparent to anyone without vision problems and found that most people could answer correctly when responding in individual settings.

In a group setting however, answers were frequently influenced by the responses of other group members. One at a time, members identified the correct line aloud. There were a series of cards presented so members had several opportunities to answer. Everyone in the group except the last person to answer was a collaborator with Asch on the experiment. These collaborators were instructed to answer incorrectly on several responses.

Asch’s results showed that, on average, over one-third of all the research subjects who were not collaborators conformed to the group opinion, giving the same incorrect responses as the rest of the group. He explains the results of his experiment: “Among the extremely yielding persons we found a group who quickly reached the conclusion: ‘I am wrong, they are right.’ Others yielded in order ‘not to spoil your results.’ Many of the individuals who went along suspected that the majority were ‘sheep’ following the first responder, or that the majority were victims of an optical illusion; nevertheless, these suspicions failed to free them at the moment of decision” (Asch 1955, 33).


Social psychologist Stanley Milgram (1933-84), a student of Asch profiled in chapter 10, performed a controversial set of experiments at Yale University during the early 1960s that have also become classics. Rather than focus on a benign question such as the length of lines, Milgram (1963, 1974) developed a series of experiments in which conformity could have real and potentially serious consequences.

Milgram told his participants that his experiment was a study of the impact of negative reinforcement on learning. Two research subjects were to participate: one “learner” and one “teacher.” The teacher would read a series of simple word pairs to the learner, who was supposed to learn the lesson and repeat it correctly at the teacher’s prompting. The teacher was instructed to administer increasingly severe shocks (the negative reinforcement) to the learner each time he answered incorrectly.

To conduct the experiment, the learner was hooked up to an elaborate “shock machine” that had a series of 30 switches marked from 15 volts (labeled “Slight Shock”) to 450 volts (labeled “Danger: Severe Shock” and “XXX”). The machine, however, did not actually administer shocks. The learner, who was Milgram’s accomplice, only pretended to be receiving jolts of electricity when the teacher engaged the switch. At predetermined points in the experiment, the learner complained of pain, protested, or refused to answer any further questions. If the teacher resisted administering any further shocks, a researcher wearing a white lab-coat would state that although the shocks could be painful, they were not actually dangerous and that the experiment must continue.

In Milgram’s initial experiment, over half of the teachers continued to administer shocks when told to do so by the researcher until the end of the experiment (i.e., when they reached the 450-volt level). Surprised at these findings, Milgram repeated his experiment with a number of variations to see what variables influenced the teacher’s willingness to conform to the directions of the researcher. In some versions, the learner complained of heart trouble or even feigned unconsciousness, yet some teachers still continued to administer shocks. Sometimes the teacher could confer with other “teachers” (all Milgram’s accomplices), who encouraged an increase in voltage levels. When conferring with others, many teachers administered shocks at higher voltages than those administered by lone teachers who had to decide on their own whether to continue participating.

Why did these ordinary people conform to orders by authority figures (i.e., the experimenters) and to group consensus (i.e., the other teachers)? Clearly they were not sadistically enjoying administering the shocks. Many were highly nervous, anxious, agitated, or angry; they verbally protested, sweated, trembled, stuttered, bit their lips, groaned, or dug their fingernails into their flesh. They also exhibited obvious relief when the experiment was over. Milgram explained their behavior as an agentic state. The teachers became “agents” acting on the orders of a more powerful authority. Through following the orders of the authority figure, they were relieved of responsibility for their actions. Their behavior became the responsibility of the authority. Because an agentic state is easier than being disobedient, disobedience occurred only when personal beliefs managed to overcome pressure to conform and obey.

Researchers have applied Milgram’s studies to a number of situations, including the Holocaust (Saltzman 2000; Blass 2002) and doctors’ orders to nurses (Krackow and Blass 1995). Kelman and Hamilton (1989) applied Milgram’s findings to an infamous event of the Vietnam War—the 1968 My Lai massacre. In that event, American soldiers found a village filled with noncombatants (old men, women, and children) where they had been told they would find Viet Cong fighters. As many as 500 of these villagers were killed by the soldiers. A subsequent trial depicted massacres that had taken place, generally organized and ordered by Lt. William Calley. Some of the men who followed Calley’s orders in the massacre did so under protest and even in tears. Calley himself used the defense that he was only following superior orders.

Milgram’s findings have even been applied to airplane crashes. According to Eugen Tarnow, “the role of the experimenter is taken by the captain, the teacher’s role belongs to the first officer, and the harm to the learner is the airplane crashing” (2000, 115). The authoritarian relationship that exists between the captain and first officer establishes a cockpit dynamic in which captains are either not questioned or hard to convince of mistakes being made. This situation leads to errors that may account for as many as 25 percent of all airplane accidents.

Group Decision Making

Irving Janis (1983, 1989, 1991) has shown that pressure to conform is also at work in group decision-making situations. By studying a number of military events and policymaking groups, Janis identified a phenomenon he calls groupthink. In groupthink, group members faced with making a decision focus so much on getting along, being seen as a “good” group member, and agreeing that they may not adequately evaluate the option they are considering. As one idea becomes the focus of group consensus, other ideas may be eliminated without careful consideration. Anyone who supports something other than the group consensus may be seen as a foe. This is especially a problem in groups with members who are close-knit, like and respect each other, and want to stay in good standing with other group members. Since group members do not want to start an argument or be seen as an outsider, they do not readily voice objections or criticize each other’s ideas.

Janis found that groupthink was a major factor in several historical events, including the European powers’ engagement in WWI, the British government attempting to appease Germany before WWII, the United States being unprepared for the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the U.S. participation in the Korean War, the escalation of the Vietnam War, and the 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion. In the latter event, the U.S. government under President John F. Kennedy sent a group of Cuban exiles into Cuba on a poorly planned mission to overthrow Fidel Castro. The mission failed, the exiles were captured or killed, Castro remained in power, and the United States was publicly embarrassed.

Griffin (1996: 235-37) and others describe the 1986 explosion of the space shuttle Challenger as an example of groupthink. The shuttle exploded less than two minutes after launch killing all the astronauts aboard and Christa McAuliffe, the first “teacher in space.” The explosion was caused by the failure of a rubber O-ring seal that allowed rocket fuel to spew out. Engineers had raised safety concerns about the integrity of the O-rings in the very cold weather during a teleconference the day before the launch. However, their concerns had been discounted by NASA personnel who ultimately pressured the engineers to change their “no-go” recommendation. Others (e.g., Schwartz and Wald 2003) also connect the 2003 Columbia shuttle loss with groupthink as well.

Many organizational leaders and corporate chief executive officers (CEOs) are concerned about groupthink in their organizations (Hambrick 1995). To avoid being caught up in groupthink, group members should actively work to develop group norms that encourage critical evaluation, input from outside experts, and careful attention to any signs that groupthink is developing. Janis showed this effort to overcome groupthink in another Kennedy administration event, the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis. When the United States discovered the Russians were moving offensive missiles into Cuba, President Kennedy and his advisors paid attention to their past groupthink mistakes. Almost the same group of men that had designed the disastrous Bay of Pigs invasion shortly before were able to handle this situation successfully using well-thought-out policies and contingency plans. The crisis was resolved in a matter of weeks without war or a nuclear exchange.

Institutions and Conformity

Another classic experiment demonstrated how social institutions impose conformity. In 1971, social psychologist Philip Zimbardo (1972, 2000; Haney, Banks, and Zimbardo 1973) conducted what has come to be called the Stanford Prison Experiment. Zimbardo set up a mock prison in the basement of a Stanford University building. He selected volunteers from among Stanford University students to participate, assigning them to the roles of guard or prisoner by the flip of a coin. The study began when prisoners were picked up by Palo Alto police, “booked” for their crimes, and taken to the Stanford University “prison.”

Zimbardo’s guards controlled the prison, setting rules for the prisoners and punishing those who violated those rules. The original plan was to study the groups’ interactions for two weeks. However, the experiment had to be called off after only six days.

During that short period, the students had so completely adapted to their roles that they seemed to have difficulty remembering they were only volunteers in an experiment and could have left the situation at any time. Several of the guards had become tyrannical and abusive. Prisoners were exhibiting depression and trauma. Even the researchers themselves had so conformed to their roles as prison warden and administration that they did not see that the experiment had become unnecessarily dangerous to the students involved. They only came to this realization when an outside researcher came into the “prison,” observed the situation, and pressed for an end to the experiment (Zimbardo 2000). The Stanford Prison Experiment is a powerful illustration of how institutions like prisons can enforce conformity and even alter our perceptions of who we are as individuals outside of that institutional setting. (Chapter 4 discusses socialization in total institutions.)

Formal Organizations

Sociologists are also interested in social organizations, those identifiable groups that have a specific purpose (Aldrich and Marsden 1988). Many of the social collectivities discussed earlier in this chapter take the form of informal organizations, because they do not involve formalized or rigorous rules, roles, and responsibilities. They may occur spontaneously and involve personal relationships. They are not especially designed for efficiency, but they work well in informal settings.

This informal organizational structure, however, does not work well in many areas of our lives. Governmental or corporate organizations require a different form. These entities are formal organizations, large, secondary social collectivities that are organized and regulated for purposes of efficiency by structured procedures. Formal organizations take a variety of forms, with people joining or participating for a variety of reasons. There are normative organizations, such as civic causes (political campaigns, religious organizations, Rotary Clubs, etc.), that people join voluntarily and without financial compensation because they believe the cause is worthy. Prisons constitute a form of coercive formal organization that people join involuntarily. Another form of formal organization, utilitarian organizations, are those people join to gain some material benefit. Taking a job at a bank or hospital constitutes joining a utilitarian organization (Etzioni 1975).


A specific kind of formal organization is a bureaucracy, defined by Randall Collins as “organizational control achieved by explicit rules and regulations and by specifying responsibilities for action in written records” (1999, 33; italics mine). Bureaucracies are a large part of our modern lives. School, work, and services such as banks, medical clinics, and day-care centers are all examples of the types of bureaucratic structures most of us deal with on a daily basis.

Max Weber, profiled in chapter 2, was the first sociologist to examine bureaucracies (1946). His interests included the structure and operation of largescale enterprises such as governments, religions, and economies. As part of his analysis of capitalism, he developed a concept of rationalization. To Weber, rationalization meant an ongoing search for increasing efficiency, or looking for the most efficient means of doing things. In capitalism, increasing efficiency could lead to increasing profits. Since increased efficiency, or rationalization, is the reason behind bureaucracies, Weber used bureaucracy as a major case in his analysis.

Weber developed an ideal type of bureaucracy composed of several elements that typify bureaucracies.

  • Hierarchy. A hierarchical structure exists with clear lines of authority. When depicted in organizational charts, this hierarchy takes a pyramid shape, with a smaller number of people at the top of the pyramid having authority over an increasingly larger number of people lower in the structure.
  • Formal rules and regulations governing the organization. Written rules and regulations govern administration and conduct. These rules and regulations ensure consistency, standardization, and that people within the bureaucracy do not make up rules as they go along.
  • Written documentation. This documentation (the “files”) encompasses the policies that are to be followed in the organization.
  • Specialization. A formal division of labor is set forth in bureaucracies, with positions organized on the basis of the duties assigned to each position. Every member of an organization has certain functions to perform, meaning that members may be required to be experts in their areas.
  • Technical knowledge. Members of a bureaucracy should meet all the required qualifications to competently fulfill the duties of their position. By fitting skill sets to positions, rather than designing positions to fit the skills of individual workers, bureaucracies create a situation in which members who leave a position can be replaced by someone with the same qualifications and the organization can continue to operate.
  • Impersonality. Organizational members are required to follow procedures and deal with all clients on the basis of policy rather than personal relationships or opinions.
  • Career employment. Career advancement is through achievement-based promotion. Promotions should be determined by such prescribed factors as seniority, job performance, or increased training, not on factors such as being the supervisor’s relative.
  • Salaried positions. Compensation for work performed is assigned on the basis of the position. It is not determined by personal factors (for example, how physically attractive a worker is or how much the supervisor enjoys his or her jokes).
  • Separation of “official” and “private” income and duties. The “office” is separate from the sphere of private life. Official monies and property of the organization are not intermingled with members’ private funds or interests.

Although he felt they were inevitable, Weber saw enormous difficulties with the establishment of bureaucracies. Bureaucracies can suffer from inefficiencies and problems. The bureaucratic emphasis on following the rules can lead to inflexibility and something called bureaucratic ritualism (Merton 1968) and trained incapacity (Veblen 1967). In other words, bureaucrats get so involved in following the rules that they are unable to respond creatively when a unique situation arises that is not in their written guidelines. Cases that do not fit within established guidelines can be problematic because the process (i.e., the “ritual”) that bureaucrats are directed to follow is not designed to accommodate them. The workers themselves are not trained or allowed the latitude (the “capacity”) to respond in other than established ways. Elderly people whose birth was not recorded on any formal government record have faced this problem when applying for social services that require a birth certificate for age or citizenship documentation. Problems arise when their documents (e.g., perhaps a notation in a worn family Bible) do not meet written bureaucracy requirements (e.g., a government-issued birth certificate).

This emphasis on treating everyone as a “case” based on specific rules rather than as an individual can also be dehumanizing to both the bureaucrat and the customer. However, in many instances, an informal bureaucracy arises in which individuals learn to circumvent rules (Crozier 1964). Informal guidelines also develop that may circumvent bureaucracy guidance. In production jobs where productivity is measured and management’s expectations are based on existing productivity, employees may deal informally with “rate busters” to keep their production in line with established rates (Ackroyd and Thompson 1999). Taken together, these problems can lead to waste and incompetence.

An additional problem with bureaucracies is a loss of personal privacy. Think of all the people who have access to your medical record after an annual medical checkup: receptionists, nurses, doctors, lab technicians, billing clerks, transcriptionists, and insurance-company personnel. You may even be asked in a public waiting room to state why you are there.

Rationalization, or efficiency itself, can also raise new problems (Weber 1946). It can lead to goal displacement meaning that the emphasis becomes the survival of the bureaucracy rather than any service that the organization was designed to provide. Frank Elwell (1999) illustrates this problem with the example of the Chevrolet Corvair. The Corvair came on the American market in 1960. It was marketed as a sports car even though Chevrolet’s own premarket tests had demonstrated an engineering design problem that could result in vehicle rollover. When accidents occurred and the problem was exposed, General Motors attempted to cover up prior knowledge of the problem rather than face the facts head-on. Although none of the executives involved would have individually set out to build a car that would hurt people, the bureaucratic structure that embraced sales and profits enabled this to happen (Elwell 1999, 63). Ford Motor Company made a similar decision resulting in as many as 500 burn deaths when evidence showed that the gas tanks on Ford Pintos were prone to rupture when the cars were hit from the rear (Dowie 1977). Unfortunately, news stories continue to appear in the press routinely that suggest similar problems in other organizations.


Robert Michels (1876-1936), a contemporary of Weber profiled below, also took a pessimistic view of bureaucracies. Michels’s conclusions were drawn primarily from his study of the socialist parties of Europe and, in particular, the prewar German socialist party. Michels is perhaps most famous for the Iron Law of Oligarchy, or rule by a few. According to Michels (1962), every bureaucracy would invariably turn into an oligarchy. This is an “iron law.” Michels gave three reasons. First, he felt human nature involves an innate tendency to seek power. Second, the nature of political struggles leads to oligarchy as groups struggle for position. Third, the structure of large-scale organizations gives rise to oligarchies because they need people with special skills. Leaders tend to be educated and have expertise; thus, they tend to be oligarchs. Michels felt that the masses were apathetic and incompetent, and in need of strong leaders. He concluded that, since leadership is necessary for organizational survival and organizations cannot check the power of leaders, organizational structure (including the search for efficiency and the division of labor) leads to a ruling elite, even in Democratic organizations.

Whether powerful bureaucracies in democracies do become oligarchies is a matter of debate. Michels’s ideas have influenced research on trade unions and political parties. Some observers point out corporate scandals and abuses as examples of Michels’s fear. Others argue that bureaucracies are held accountable in democratic societies. Another argument against the inevitability of oligarchy comes from the trend toward democratization in the eastern European countries formerly in the Soviet orbit.

The McDonaldization of Society

Sociologist George Ritzer, profiled below, has coined the term McDonaldization to refer to how the principles used in fast-food restaurants to achieve maximum efficiency “are coming to dominate more and more sectors of American society as well as the rest of the world” (2000b, 1; italics mine). Restaurants have long existed, but the search for efficiency led to new types of restaurants, including diners, cafeterias, and drive-ups. By looking at the hamburger as an assembly-line product comprised of a number of component parts, Ray Kroc (the founder of McDonald’s) and his associates were able to optimize the efficiency with which each part could be prepared. They separated and presliced buns. They changed the shipping materials and packaging for buns and meat, even designing the wax paper between the frozen patties to make the patties quicker to separate and get onto the grill. The later addition of the drive-through window added a new dimension to this concept of efficiency.

This quest for rationalization has spread far beyond fast food. As Ritzer (2000b) points out, we now routinely seek quicker, more efficient options throughout society. Microwave ovens are commonplace and resulted in the associated development of microwave foods. Large freezers were a development that allowed the introduction of the ever-efficient TV dinner. Diet plans offer prepackaged diet meals as part of an entire quick weight-loss system including books, centers, and counselors. Health clubs with various exercise machines designed to maximize workout time also often provide radios and televisions to maximize entertainment or news gathering. Shopping malls bring many stores, food, and entertainment options together in one location. Further efficiencies in shopping are provided by catalogs, television shopping networks, and ecommerce. Video rentals, pay-per-view cable options, and picture-in-picture television sets all make movie watching more efficient. Package tours in which large numbers of people are bused between sites to see as much as possible in the allotted time maximize travel time. Computer-graded tests allow faster exam grading. We can achieve efficiencies in studying or recreational “reading” by listening to books-on-tape (many of which are abridged to reduce “wasted” time listening to “insignificant” parts). Even religion is designed for efficiency when offered on television.

The outcomes of these processes are not only efficiencies. Human contact becomes minimized and impersonal. High employee turnover means customers and staff do not get to know each other well, and interactions are often short, through a window, or not even face to face (as in Internet shopping). Staff training often focuses on efficiency and key phrases rather than making conversation. These processes may also result in a dehumanization of the worker and the customer (as in the case of fast-food restaurants where workers are required to have or use minimal job skills and customers move through lines to buy food waiting in a bin). Although Ritzer, like Weber before him, hopes that we will resist this rationalization, he sees it instead growing.

Another concern that Ritzer shares with Weber is about the possibility of escaping the press of bureaucracies in our lives. Weber feared that the future would be an “iron cage” of vast, impersonal bureaucratic structures. Ritzer also talks about the “iron cage of McDonaldization,” a situation in which McDonaldization comes to dominate ever more sectors of society, making it increasingly impossible to avoid (2000b, 143). He acknowledges, however, that many see the future as a “velvet cage,” because they are comfortable with McDonaldization. Others may see it as a “rubber cage” in which they bounce from disliking some aspects of McDonaldization and finding others appealing (e.g., predictability, impersonality, speed, efficiency).

Globalization and the Internet

In the area of organizations, globalization includes academic networks, foundations, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and some governmental and intergovernmental agencies that often promote ideologies and lifestyles including human rights, feminism, and environmentalism (Berger 2002, 4). Even the large humanitarian relief organizations that provide international refugee relief find themselves mired in bureaucratic structures and requirements. They are also faced with the need to attract resources for their cause. This distracts from their efficiency in delivering their service, because it forces them to devote considerable time and attention to fund raising and soliciting donations. In a tense world with many demands on these organizations, they are increasingly forced to try to find even more ways to improve rationality and efficiency (T. Waters 2001).

Globalization can be a threatening concept to those around the world that fear it means American economic, political, and cultural dominance, as well as to American organizations that fear lost profits and jobs to worldwide corporations (Berger 2002, 2). Rosabeth Moss Kanter (profiled below) focuses on how business and community leaders can use globalization to their own advantages. Although a business professor, Kanter’s concepts incorporate many sociological tenets, such as examining and teaching how global, corporate, national, community, and individual interests are intertwined. In World Class: Thriving Locally in the Global Economy (1995b), she argues that American organizations must embrace globalization, address negative attitudes and prejudices, and expand their multicultural understanding to compete. She cites three areas (Boston; Spartanburg-Greenville, South Carolina; and Miami) as examples of areas that provide models that other areas can follow.

Information and collaborative technologies that make information sharing easier, more convenient, faster, and often real-time are changing organizations in a number of ways and contributing to globalization. These types of technologies include the Internet and intranets, video conferences, desktop computer cameras, computer whiteboards, and special software packages. They are used to complement traditional face-to-face ways of communicating and working. One of these changes is the creation and existence of virtual teams. Virtual teams allow members to work on a project from more than one location (Lipnack and Stamps 1997; Townsend, DeMarie, and Hendrickson 1998). They also extend globalization by allowing people to work together from anywhere in the world if they have compatible technology. The use of these technologies is changing the dynamics of business operations and decision making (Sproull and Kiesler 1991; Wellman et al. 1996; Konicki 2002) and allowing new ways to bring diverse and widely dispersed parties together to tackle social issues such as teen violence and terrorism (Hasson 2002).

These technologies can also help information flow and cut down on bureaucratic red tape. Increasingly, internal organizational functions are computerized for efficiency—for example, by implementing Internet-based time cards, reports, and evaluations. These technologies, however, can also make bureaucratization even stronger. Computer programs that monitor e-mail or Internet activity allow surveillance of employee activities by previously unavailable means. Telecommuting allows workers to work longer hours at home via the Internet. Although organizations implement specific technology strategies to achieve certain goals, they are generally applied to pursue strategies and directions that managers have already selected (DiMaggio et al. 2001).

Recognizing the complexities and challenges presented by globalization and these technologies, Kanter expands her perspectives on organizational globalization by studying hundreds of companies around the world to better understand how the Internet will alter future business practices. Her findings (2001) suggest that human attitudes, rather than technology, are the greatest impediments to finding ways to work in the new digital culture.


Peter M. Blau

Peter M. Blau (1918-2002) was born in Vienna, Austria. By his own account (1995), Blau’s life took a “circuitous path” to, and through, his career. As a teen, he attracted police attention by publishing articles in opposition to the government. He was convicted of treason when he was 17 years old and sentenced to 10 years in prison. Blau was released after an agreement between Austria and Germany freed a number of political prisoners. He was captured, imprisoned again, and tortured when attempting an escape across the Czechoslovakian border.

Blau ultimately did get to Prague, leaving when Hitler invaded the country on the last train before the borders were closed. He then spent time in a French labor camp before making his way to the United States. He arrived at a Elmhurst College through a chance meeting with graduates of the school who were in Europe offering a scholarship to a Jewish refugee. Blau lost touch with his parents after arriving in America. He learned years later that they had died in the Auschwitz concentration camp the month he received his bachelor’s degree (Blau 2002). Blau served in the U.S. army and won a Bronze Star (“Blau, Peter Michael” 1981, 55).

Blau completed his doctorate at Columbia University in 1952. His academic career included positions at Wayne University (now Wayne State University), Cornell, the University of Chicago, and Columbia University, where he remained a professor emeritus after his retirement while also holding a distinguished professorship at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. Blau’s professional accomplishments include being named Fellow of the National Academy of Sciences, Fellow of the American Philosophical Society, and Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He was editor of the American Journal of Sociology from 1961 to 1967 and president of the American Sociological Association in 1973 (Blau 2002; “Blau, Peter Michael” 1981).

Blau authored hundreds of articles and 11 books. His first book, The Dynamics of Bureaucracy: A Study of Interpersonal Relations in Two Government Agencies (1955), began as his dissertation. In a quarter-century, it had been cited over 6,500 times in other scholarly work (Merton 1990, 56). Bureaucracy in Modern Society(1956) was translated into Japanese, Korean, Arabic, Spanish, Italian, and Danish in just over a decade. Formal Organizations: A Comparative Approach (1962) began as coauthor W. Richard Scott’s dissertation and was also soon translated into several other languages. Other books by Blau include Exchange and Power in Social Life (1964), called “one of the most important books in sociology” (Cook 2002); The American Occupational Structure (1967), coauthored with Otis Dudley Duncan, winner of the American Sociological Association’s Sorokin Award; and Inequality and Heterogeneity: A Primitive Theory of Social Structure (1977), winner of the American Sociological Association’s Distinguished Scholarship Award.

George Caspar Homans

George Caspar Homans (1910-89) was born in Boston, Massachusetts, and grew up in the prestigious Beacon Hill and Back Bay areas of the city. His ancestors on both sides were prestigious and well-known New Englanders. Homans attended Harvard, as had his maternal and paternal ancestors since the 1700s. He spent his entire academic career there.

Homans entered in Harvard in 1928, the year Pitirim Sorokin went to Harvard to found the Sociology Department. He became involved in the hierarchy of Harvard social clubs that, in many ways, determined a student’s status and networking opportunities. Homans was eventually elected as a member of the Spee Club, the same club that John F. Kennedy would be elected to during his undergraduate years. He credits his family background, Boston’s many different ethnic and class groups, and the hierarchy of the Harvard club structure as important factors in his development of a sociological class consciousness (Homans 1984).

As an undergraduate, Homans studied English rather than sociology. When an anticipated newspaper job evaporated as a result of the Depression, he became coauthor with Charles Curtis of a book about sociologist Vilfredo Pareto (An Introduction to Pareto, 1934). Homans was subsequently elected to the Harvard Society of Fellows as a sociologist.

During World War II, Homans was a naval reserve officer called for active duty. His service included minesweeping, antisubmarine escort, and submarine chasing variously in the Caribbean and the Pacific theaters (Homans 1984).

After the war, Homans returned to Harvard as an associate professor. Two of his major publications were The Human Group (1950) and Social Behavior: Its Elementary Forms (1974). His theoretical orientation emphasized small-group behavior. This perspective also led him to oppose theorist Talcott Parsons’s concept of functionalism. In his autobiography, Homans reports that when Parsons asked him to read and criticize the manuscript later published as The Structure of Social Action, “I conscientiously read it, but did not criticize it, I hated it so much … Rarely did it make contact with actual human behavior. In such a book it is easy to claim one has demonstrated whatever one wants to demonstrate. Social science bulges with books of this sort” (1984, 323). His critique added that, although Parsons would hail new “breakthroughs” in his own work, “the more breakthroughs he made, the more his theory remained essentially the same” (324).

Homans never earned a doctorate. However, he became a well-known and important figure in sociology. He saw himself as “far more the observer than the experimenter” (Homans 1969, 21). Of his life’s work he wrote, “My great interest and pleasure in life is bringing order out of chaos … I see this trait in the long weekends I have spent on my fifty-four acres of land at Medfield, Massachusetts … For years I have tried to organize this abandoned farm, now grown up to blueberry pasture and second-growth trees, on soil thin and full of rocks at best, into what I call a walking woods, clear enough of dead branches and fallen timber so that I can stroll about … This effort has been characteristic of my work in sociology from the beginning” (13).

At Harvard, he chaired the Committee for Undergraduate Education. He also served as the president of the American Sociological Association, using his presidential address to criticize functionalism (Homans 1964), and earned that Association’s Distinguished Scholarship Award.

Rosabeth Moss Kanter

Rosabeth Moss Kanter (1943-) is currently the Ernest L. Arbuckle Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School. She became a member of the Harvard Business School faculty in 1986. Kanter is also a strategy consultant for business and government interests in the United States and internationally, engaged in projects such as her work with IBM’s Reinventing Education initiative, which targets elementary and secondary schools. Her current focus involves leadership of turnarounds (when business fortunes change for the better or worse) and leadership in the digital age. Of the United States’ competitiveness in the global marketplace, Kanter says, “Cheap labor is not going to be the way we compete in the United States. It’s going to be brainpower” (1995a).

Among Kantor’s numerous accomplishments, she served several years as editor of the Harvard Business Review. She is a Fellow of the World Economic Forum and serves on the U.S. Secretary of Labor’s Committee on Skills Gap of the 21st Century Work Force Council. Among her numerous awards, she received the 2001 Academy of Management’s Distinguished Career Award and the 2002 World Teleport Association’s Intelligent Community Visionary of the Year Award. She is also the recipient of 21 honorary doctoral degrees and over a dozen leadership awards. Kanter has also been named on lists of the 50 most influential business thinkers in the world, 100 most important women in America, and the 50 most powerful women in the world.

She has authored or coauthored over 200 articles and 15 books. Kanter’s insights have informed many disciplines. Sociologists have found some of her work to be particularly useful. For example, Men and Women of the Corporation (1977) examines gender issues in the workplace, and the spin-off A Tale of “O” (1980) simply and effectively explains the impact of tokenism in the workplace and beyond (Kanter, “Business: The Ultimate Resource”; “Kanter, Rosabeth Moss” 2002).

Kurt Lewin

Kurt Lewin (1890-1947) was one of the “founding fathers” of social psychology. Lewin earned a Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of Berlin in 1914. He taught there for 12 years after completing his degree. Originally from Prussia, he immigrated to the United States in 1933 and became an American citizen in 1940.

In the United States, he taught at Stanford, Cornell, and Iowa, as well as being a visiting professor at the University of California-Berkeley and Harvard. In 1944, he established the Research Center on Group Dynamics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the Commission on Community Interrelations (CCI) of the American Jewish Congress (Marrow 1969).

Among his many notable achievements and contributions to our understanding of the social psychology of group dynamics, Lewin authored several works, including A Dynamic Theory of Personality (1935), Principles of Topological Psychology (1936), and Frontiers in Group Dynamics (1946). He also served a term as president of the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues. Today, one legacy of Lewin’s work is the Kurt Lewin Institute (KLI). This center for graduate training and research has members from six Dutch universities. The center’s activities are focused on stimulating interest in the field of social psychology, analyzing the psychological factors contributing to social behavior, and the applications of the perspective.

Robert Michels

German sociologist Robert Michels (1876-1936) was born in Cologne. After serving in the army and studying in England and at the Sorbonne, he obtained his Ph.D. in history from the University of Halle. Michels joined the Italian Socialist Party (ISP) in the early 1900s. He resigned his membership a few years later, but continued his studies of socialist organizations and politics.

Michels is widely known for his work Political Parties: A Sociological Study of the Oligarchical Tendencies of Modern Democracy (1962, orig. 1911). In it, he discusses the Iron Law of Oligarchy that is associated with his name. However, Michels’s interests extended well beyond this issue. He gave more attention to politics of the working class than did many of his contemporaries. Additionally, he wrote about topics they were largely uninterested in, including eugenics, feminism, sex, and morality (Kandal 2001).

In a far lesser-known work, Sexual Ethics: A Study of Borderland Questions, Michels focused on gender issues, describing power and conflict in gender politics. His discussion included ties between sex-role inequality and unhappiness, advocacy for family planning (although not abortion), and an argument that feminists “must not cease to protest against all those external forms of public life which imply a depreciation of woman, or a lower estimation than man” (quoted in Kandal 2001, 64).

George Ritzer

George Ritzer (1940-) was born in New York. He earned a Ph.D. from Cornell University in 1968. Ritzer is Distinguished University Professor of Sociology at the University of Maryland. In Ritzer’s own words, he “became a sociologist because sociology offers me a variety of intellectual tools that allow me to better understand the wonderful complexity of social life” (quoted in Henslin 2001a, xxvii). As evidence that he passes on his enjoyment of sociology to his students, Ritzer has been named Distinguished Scholar-Teacher and won a Teaching Excellence Award from the University of Maryland. Ritzer received a Fulbright-Hayes fellowship. He also received the American Sociological Association’s (ASA) Distinguished Contributions to Teaching Award in 2000. Ritzer has chaired the ASA section on Theoretical Sociology and the section on Organizations and Occupations.

Ritzer has authored a number of books, several of which focus on sociological theory. He is also editor of The Blackwell Companion to Major Social Theorists (2000a). Ritzer has published well-known and influential work on consumerism and rationalization. These books include Expressing America: A Critique of the Global Credit Card Society (1995) and Enchanting a Disenchanting World: Revolutionizing the Means of Consumption (1999). Ritzer’s The McDonaldization of Society (2000b) has already been translated into more than a dozen languages. He is also a co-founding editor of the Journal of Consumer Culture (Ritzer, “George Ritzer”; “Ritzer, George” 1987).

Georg Simmel

Georg Simmel (1858-1918) was born in Berlin, Germany. He studied philosophy at the University of Berlin, receiving his doctorate in 1881. Four years later he became a privatdozent there (an unpaid lecturer dependent on student fees) and remained in that position for 15 years. He was then granted the honorary title of Ausserordentlicher Professor. Simmel was a popular lecturer, teaching courses on a range of topics, including logic, ethics, social psychology, and sociology. He may have been the first to teach sociology in a German university (Frisby 1984, 13).

Simmel was friends with many notable academics and intellectuals of his day. He was well published, with several books and numerous articles translated into English, French, Italian, Polish, and Russian. However, prewar anti-Semitism, his eclectic interests that defied disciplinary boundaries, and his originality and intellect, which some academics found threatening, led to poor treatment by some universities (Coser 1977, 195-96). Simmel did not achieve a full professorship until 1914, when he moved to the University of Strasbourg. He remained there until his death of liver cancer in 1918.

Simmel was an outstanding essayist and prolific writer on a wide range of themes. Over the course of his lifetime, he authored over 200 articles and 15 major works (Coser 1977, 198). Nine of his pieces were translated and appeared in the American Journal of Sociology between 1896 and 1910. The inaugural issue of Emile Durkheim’s journal L’Annee Sociologique had a piece by Simmel as its second article. Together with Ferdinand Toennies (profiled in chapter 8) and Max Weber (profiled in chapter 2), he was one of the three original executive members of the German Sociological Association, formed in 1909 (Frisby 1984, 14-15).

As Simmel scholar David Frisby summarizes, Georg Simmel was “one of the first sociologists in Germany to establish sociology as a circumscribed, independent discipline … [offering a] wealth of insights into social life … general theory of modernity and a sociology of modern life (especially metropolitan life) … everyday life (mealtimes, writing a letter) … social types (the stranger, the adventurer) … [and a] master of the analysis of psychological states (pessimism, the blasé attitude, etc.)” (1984, 18). This richness of intellectual work has led Peter Hamilton to summarize succinctly that Simmel was “the thinker who first developed so many concepts we now take for granted” (1984, 9).

Philip G. Zimbardo

Social psychologist Philip G. Zimbardo (1933-) is largely known to sociologists as the creator of the Stanford Prison Experiment. His body of work is, however, expansive and covers a range of diverse areas including shyness, madness, violence/evil, persuasion, hypnosis, and teaching. His body of work also addresses terrorism. He has been a professor at Stanford University since 1968, where he is currently professor emeritus. Zimbardo offers large and popular lecture courses in introductory psychology with an average course size of 300 students (Zimbardo, home page).

He has leveraged the media to educate students and the public with his PBS-TV series Discovering Psychology and a video documentary on the Stanford Prison Experiment. Zimbardo has also collaborated on using scenarios from the classic television show Candid Camera to design a video and accompanying teaching materials that illustrate basic psychological themes and principles. (Candid Camera was a television show that set up unusual and unanticipated situations and filmed people’s reactions with a hidden camera. These scenarios were edited into a series of short, often humorous clips.)

Zimbardo has authored or coauthored over 300 publications. These works include scholarly articles, publications, reports, scholarly books, trade books, edited readers, almost two dozen textbooks, and a similar number of workbooks and manuals. He has also served as the president of the American Psychological Association. Work that began in Zimbardo’s laboratory in the mid-1970s has now grown into The Shyness Clinic that promotes shyness research and the treatment of adult and adolescent shyness (Zimbardo, home page).