This September special issue of Group Dynamics presents six articles that address aspects of how group dynamics and processes have been impacted by, and have the potential to impact, the SARS-CoV-2 or COVID-19 pandemic. This issue of Group Dynamics is open access, which means that all of the articles may be freely downloaded from the journal, and will be highlighted on the APA COVID-19 page.
The introduction to the special issue by Craig Parks provides a summary of each article. Parks concludes that the pandemic has made it clear the need for a broad scholarly and professional investment in the understanding and use of groups, since in many ways, groups were a way for the pandemic to spread in the population and groups represent a way out of the pandemic for many of us. This point is made cogently in the first paper by Cheri Marmarosh, Doneslon Forsyth, Bernhard Strauss and Gary Burlingame: “The Psychology of the COVID-19 Pandemic”. In it the authors provide a review of the research literature on the natural inclination of people to congregate in groups that both exacerbate the spread of the virus and can provide solace during these times of stress. In the second paper, Forsyth reviews research on the concept of groupthink that may explain the seemingly irrational rejection of public health measures among some in society. He draws compelling links between historical anti-mask movements of the early 20th century and today’s anti-mask and anti-vaccine protests. The third paper by Holtz and her colleagues on “Virtual Team Functioning” is an empirical study on an emotional management intervention that might help virtual work groups to perform better. This is the type of research that may help work teams not only to manage but to flourish while working virtually. In the fourth paper, Brown and colleagues’ research shows that today’s virtual work environments require group members to have a common understanding of the technologies they are using. Their findings suggest that virtual group members may perceive their environment as being little different from a face-to-face group, and that such a perception can foster high-quality virtual groupwork. The fifth paper by Mueller and Antoni called “Distancing Ourselves From Geographic Dispersion” is another empirical study showing that how members perceive their virtual environment could affect the quality of their groupwork. Today’s virtual group environment requires group members to have a common understanding of the technologies and congruence in their beliefs that these technologies are at least appropriate for the task at hand. The last paper “Online Group Psychotherapy” is a Practice Review by Haim Weinberg. In it he provides a review of the research and practice of virtual group psychotherapy and reports that it is effective, but we need more research to understand how it works when delivered in an online format.
This special issue of Group Dynamics gives researchers and practitioners on groups much to think about. These are dangerous times, but also times for understanding the impact, both positive and negative of group dynamics on virtual work and health. The articles highlight implications for practice, research, and engagement in public health policy in the era of COVID-19. This special issue will spur further interests in groups, including virtual work groups, therapy groups, and the impact of groups on public health and on social well-being.