Wilfred Bion's observations about the role of group processes in group dynamics are set out in Experiences in Groups where he refers to recurrent emotional states of groups as basic assumptions. Bion argues that in every group, two groups are actually present: the work group, and the basic assumption group. The work group is that aspect of group functioning which has to do with the primary task of the group - what the group has formed to accomplish; will 'keep the group anchored to a sophisticated and rational level of behaviour'. The basic assumption group describes the tacit underlying assumptions on which the behaviour of the group is based. Bion specifically identified three basic assumptions: dependency, fight-flight, and pairing.When a group adopts any one of these basic assumptions, it interferes with the task the group is attempting to accomplish. Bion believed that interpretation by the therapist of this aspect of group dynamics would result in insight regarding effective group work.
In dependency, the essential aim of the group is to attain
security through, and have its members protected by, one individual. The
basic assumption in this group culture seems to be that an external
object exists whose function it is to provide security for the immature
individual.The group members behave passively, and act as though the leader, by
contrast, is omnipotent and omniscient. For example, the leader may pose
a question only to be greeted with docile silence, as though he or she
had not spoken at all. The leader may be idealized into a kind of god
who can take care of his or her children, and some especially ambitious
leaders may be susceptible to this role. Resentment at being dependent
may eventually lead the group members to "take down" the leader, and
then search for a new leader to repeat the process.
In the basic assumption of fight-flight, the group behaves as
though it has met to preserve itself at all costs, and that this can
only be done by running away from someone or fighting someone or
something. In fight, the group may be characterized by aggressiveness
and hostility; in flight, the group may chit-chat, tell stories, arrive
late or any other activities that serve to avoid addressing the task at
hand. The leader for this sort of group is one who can mobilize the
group for attack, or lead it in flight.
The final basic assumption group, pairing, exists on the
assumption that the group has met for the purpose of reproduction - the
basic assumption that two people can be met together for only one
purpose, and that a sexual one'.
Two people, regardless the sex of either, carry out the work of the
group through their continued interaction. The remaining group members
listen eagerly and attentively with a sense of relief and hopeful