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Intra-group conflict is an aspect of group conflict in which in which select individuals a part of the same social group are in conflict with one another.

Sources of intragroup conflictEdit

Task Conflict: Task conflict arises when intra-group members disagree on issues that are relevant to meeting shared goals. Effective groups and organizations make use of these conflicts to make plans, foster creativity, solve problems and resolve misunderstandings. However, people who disagree with the group do so at their own peril, even when their position is reasonable. Dissenters often receive a high level of animosity from other group members, are less well-liked, assigned low-status tasks, and are sometimes ostracized.

Process Conflict: Process conflict refers to disagreement over the methods or procedures the group should use in order to complete its tasks. It occurs when strategies, policies, and procedures clash. For example, some group members may suggest discussing conflicting ideas, while other group members prefer to put conflicting ideas to a vote. In essence, during procedural conflicts, group members disagree on how to disagree. Situations of procedural conflict can be preemptively minimized by adopting formal rules (e.g., bylaws, constitutions, statements of policies) that specify goals, decisional processes, and responsibilities[1].

Personal Conflict: Personal conflicts, also known as affective conflicts, personality conflicts, emotional conflicts, or relationship conflicts, are conflicts that occur when group members dislike one another. Personal dislikes do not always result in conflict, but people often mention their negative feelings toward another group member when complaining about their groups. Also, there is evidence that a large proportion of group conflicts are indeed personal conflicts. One study of high level corporate executives revealed that 40% of disputes were due to "individual enmity between the principals without specific reference to other issues" (Morrill, 1995, p. 69). Criticism, when one person evaluates another, or his/her work negatively, is one common cause of personal conflict[2].


Opinion is divided about the merits of infighting in political movements. Whereas 'the majority of scholars view infighting as sapping political potency', others argue that 'infighting's value lay in its potential to generate strategic possibilities and promote...acountability', and that (at least with respect to identity politics) 'infighting is a key site for culture...concretizes cultural conversations'.[3]

Among extremists 'threatened by the existence of anyone else, unless that other person's views seem identical to his own', however, infighting and group fissions become the destructive norm: 'they're all splitting up so fast...they seem to attack each other more than they attack their "real enemies" on the other side of the political spectrum'.[4]

Small groupEdit

Within small goups, the same dichotomy exists. Granted that both constructive and destructive conflict occurs in most small groups, it is very important to accentuate the constructive conflict and minimize the destructive conflict. Conflict is bound to happen, but if used constructively need not be a bad thing.

Using constructive conflict within small groups by bringing up problems and alternative solutions (while still valuing others) allows the group to work forward.[5] While 'conflict may involve interpersonal as well as task issues', keeping a window open for dissent can prove very advantageous, as where a company 'reaped big benefits because it did not simply try to suppress conflict, but allowed minority influence to prevail'.[6]

On the other hand, there is evidence that an organizational culture of disrespect unproductively 'generates a morass of status games and infighting..."it's made people turn against each other"' - so that for example 'sexual harassment becomes a chronic accompaniment to broader patterns of infighting'.[7]



Lacan saw the roots of intra-group aggression in a regression to the 'narcissistic moment in the subject', highlighting 'the aggressivity involved in the effects of all regression, all arrested development, all rejection of typical development in the subject'.[8] Neville Symington also saw narcissism as a key element in group conflict, singling out 'organizations so riven by narcissistic currents that...little creative work was done'.[9] Such settings provide an opening for 'many egoistic instinct-feelings - as the desire to dominate and humiliate your fellow, the love of conflict - your courage and power against mine - the satisfaction of being the object of jealousy, the pleasures derived from the exercise of cunning, deceit and concealment'.[10]

Nevertheless, for all their insights, psychologists have not been able to evade the constraints of group conflict themselves: 'Envy, rivalry, power conflicts, the formation of small groups, resulting in discord and intrigue, are a matter of course' in the psychoanalytic world, for example, with institutions being 'caught up in the factionalism of the ...struggle between the ins and the outs'.[11]


René Girard saw 'collective violence as sacred...[as] the great remedy for communal life'.[12] He saw the violence directed at the group scapegoat as 'absorbing all the internal tensions, feuds, and rivalries pent up within the community...a deliberate act of collective substitution'.[13]

His view parallels the Freudian approach, rooted in Totem and Taboo, which considers that 'transgression... is at the origin of a higher complexity, something to which the realm of civilization owes its development'.[14] Freud saw violence as standing at the root of the social bond - 'what prevails is no longer the violence of an individual but that of a community'[15] - and thus 'politics made out of delinquency...the social contract establishes corporate virtue as an asylum for individual sin'.[16]

Girard concluded therefore that regression and 'the dissolution of differences encourages the proliferation of the double bind...spells the disintegration of social institutions',[17] to reveal the group conflict latent at their core.

See alsoEdit


  1. Houle, Cyril O. (1989). Governing boards: Their nature and nurture, San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
  2. Ilgen, D. R., Mitchell, T. R., Fredrickson, J. W. (1981). Poor performers: Supervisors' and subordinates' responses.. Organizational Behavior & Human Performance 27 (3): 386–410.
  3. Amin Ghaziani, The Dividends of Dissent (2008) p. 15-20
  4. R. Skinner/J. Cleese, Families and how to survive them (1994) p. 132-3
  5. Engleberg, Isa N.; Wynn, Dianna R. (2007) (In English). working in groups 175–193 (4th ed.). Boston New York: Houghton Mifflin Company.
  6. Smith/Mackie, p. 448
  7. Randy Hodson, Dignity at Work (2001) p. 215 and p. 218
  8. Jacques Lacan, Écrits: A Selection (1997) p. 24
  9. Neville Symington, Narcissism: A New Theory (1993) p. 10
  10. Clemens J. France, in J. Halliday/P. Fuller eds., The Psychology of Gambling (1974) p. 151
  11. Janet Malcolm, Psychoanalysis: The Impossible Profession (1988) p. 106 and p. 65
  12. René Girard, Job (1987) p. 29 and p. 150
  13. René Girard, Violence and the Sacred (1977) p. 7
  14. Jacques Lacan, The Ethics of Psychoanalysis (London 1992) p. 6
  15. Freud, p. 351
  16. Norman Brown, in John O'Neill, Sociology as a Skin Trade (1972) p. 47
  17. Girard, Violence and the Sacred p. 188 and p. 127
[[Category:Social interaction]
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