Kurt Lewin is universally recognized as the founder of modern social psychology, but his work started way before that.

As many others before him, Lewin began by studying the individual’s behavior, but as his research was evolving, he’d rather study the group phenomenon itself and its behavior. He saw the individual psyche from a structuralist perspective, in which, each person is part of an environment that happens within a group.

He had many influences from the Gestalt School, so Lewin believed that “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts” which, of course, influenced his work.

So, in his theory, he choose to pick some physics concepts (such as tension, valency, strength, force field, barrier, etc.) as a way to explain what tends to happen inside a group. Below, I present some key concepts, that will hopefully help you understand his theory a little more.

Group Dynamic Key Concepts, according to Lewin


This is an important concept within a group, is the force that keeps its elements together and fights the opposite forces, that are trying to disintegrated it. At this point is where the relationship between “me” and “us” appears.

Group’s Communication

There are several instances of communication present within the group and among different groups, pressed by social reality and natural evolution of the group.

Group’s Decision

This is what we call social status quo. It’s a dynamic process that goes through many phases: the changing desire, the difficulty found in its realization (since the behavior that should be changed is too settled in the whole group), and, in the end, the relative efficiency of the changing.

It’s really important in many fields of action, such as, for example, trying to change eating habits.


Lewin defined 3 styles of leadership and it had practical repercussions in the way some groups are commanded, such as, school or within some companies.

The three styles are the autocratic leader (you have an authoritarian leader, that makes all the decisions by himself, without consulting the group), the liberal leader (a person who doesn’t give much guidance to the group and is generally very permissive) and, finally, the democratic leader (he doesn’t command the group, instead working with all of the elements, trying to find the best option going towards the greater good of the group).

Group’s Functioning

Here stand the phenomenons of interaction and interdependency within the group, latter one being sort of the ‘energy and forces’ system that actually makes the group act.

Each member does not really see himself as a motor for change to occur, which is in fact a way of defending himself and minimizing the impact of his actions. This is the main point to work on, when we actually do need to change something.


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