This year I’m co-organizing the 24th Annual Group Processes Conference – a mini-conference that takes place the day before the ASA meetings in Denver. I know there are lots of options for pre-conference conferences, but I’m going to spend some time convincing you that this is the gathering to attend.
Oddly enough, I’ll begin by telling you about my book club.
I belong to a book club here at Notre Dame. It took a while for my neighbor to convince me to join. It wasn’t just a book club, it was a “Great Books Book Club.” As someone who read few of the great books that had been assigned to me in high school and college, I had a difficult time imagining myself reading them for pleasure. To make matters worse, this book club had designated discussants, an entire list of rules, and the median age of the members hovered around 75. It was also affiliated with the faculty wives’ club. Although I’m technically a faculty wife, I imagined I’d have a hard time fitting into this group.
I finally gave in when my neighbor was hosting. “Come on over, even if you haven’t read the book (which is not a violation of the rules, it turns out, as long as I didn’t speak until coffee/desserts are served post-discussion),” she said. “You’ll love the women.” She was right. It turned out to be the most fantastic group of people I’d met in South Bend. The first woman to get tenure is a member, as is a woman who was at home caring for her children when her husband read the Feminine Mystique in the 60s and subsequently convinced her that she had to get out of the house and pursue her dreams of college teaching (which she still does today). The women have wonderful stories to tell, a deep understanding of academic life and our community, rich histories that they are more than willing to share, and a genuine love of books. To be quite honest, I seldom read the books (I’m trying to get tenure, after all). But I still go to meetings – albeit sporadically – just to be a groupie, to experience life among these extraordinary women.
What does this have to do with group processes, you ask? I’m here to convince you that, while it’s not for everyone, group processes might be just the party you’d like to crash* – even if you haven’t read the book, so to speak.
For those of you unfamiliar with group processes, we’re a productive – and occasionally feisty – bunch who run the gamut as far as research interests are concerned. Most of us identify as social psychologists, but there are certainly many who don’t. We have those who do laboratory research, others who prefer surveys, and even some who use qualitative methods.
There are pioneers in the field of group processes in our ranks, people who have been at this for years. Like the women in my book club, they attend not to look down their noses at those who haven’t been at this as long, but to encourage us newbies in our work. They love to see people apply their theories, refute their findings, or push them to think outside the box. They also love to share their wisdom and insight with the rest of us.
You might not realize this, but there are scholars whose work you love – who you cite, assign, and tout as some of the best work out there – who”do” group processes. For example, the most widely-cited AJS article of the last five years – Correll, Benard, and Paik’s, “Getting a Job: Is There a Motherhood Penalty” – is a group processes paper. The current president of the ASA – Cecilia Ridgeway – is a proud member of the group processes cadre. Robb Willer – oft cited by the electronic media and perhaps even appearing in your Facebook feed (I’m on Facebook hiatus, so can’t put a screenshot up here) – is as well. My friends, this is the party that you wish you’d been at all these years.
We’re interested in all kinds of topics – trust, inequality, generosity, emotion, and identity, to name a few – and work in a variety of substantive areas. Last year, for example, I presented my work on family alongside others who are exploring health care, religion, business networks, and tax structures.
Most importantly, though, for me as a young scholar, group processes is an inclusive and supportive group. It has been a great place to network and to present my work. The groups people – myself included – would love to hear more about what you’re doing that might relate to group processes or just to have you along to hear more about what we do. If this sounds like something that interests you, check out our website for more information, a call for papers, and registration information. While you might have been hesitant to check us out, like the book club, we just might surprise you.
* By “crash” I mean register for and attend even if you don’t adopt the “groups” identity, not arrive unannounced just in time for a “free” lunch.