Worchel’s cyclical model: the 6 stages of group formation

Groups are groups of people who share common characteristics and / or goals. Group psychology, within social psychology, deals with the study of these groupings, as well as the relationships and processes that occur within them.

In this article we will know the cyclic model of Worchel, A psychological model which explains, in 6 steps, how groups are formed. We will explain what is meant by group (characteristics and types), as well as the characteristics of each stage proposed by the Worchel model.

    What are groups?

    In social psychology we find the branch of group psychology. This “sub-discipline” or variant of psychology has as its object the study of groups: thus, it tries to study how these are formed, how they dissolve, what characteristics define them, and so on.

    Before we get to Worchel’s cyclical model, we need to be clear about what is meant by a group. There are many definitions for him, but some of the most important emphasize that he is “a group of people who have a collective perception of oneness and who act together”.


    As for the characteristics of a group, we see that there is mutual satisfaction of members, in addition to the interdependence of the same common goals or goals. On the other hand, there is also a mutual influence among its members.


    In addition, there are different types of groups, depending on a number of parameters (we will only see a few here).

    Depending on their size, groups can be small (considered small if they have less than 20 members) or large (from 20 members). As for their degree of formality, they can be formal (for example a work team) or informal (a group of childhood friends).

    Groups can also be references (Volunteers), i.e. members join them voluntarily (for example, as part of a particular political party) or as members (for example, gender, being male or female). wife).

    Worchel’s cyclical model: what is it?

    Stephen Worchel is the author of the so-called Worchel cyclical model (1996), and we find it in social psychology, specifically in the field of group psychology. It alludes to the process of group formation, i.e. it explains how groups are formed and how they develop, and divides this process into 6 steps.


    Regarding the characteristics of Worchel’s cyclical model, we find that the process represented by this model includes the formation and development of the group, does not have a predetermined duration, and moving from one stage to another depends on reaching the appropriate level in the previous stage.

    Also, as the name suggests, this is a cyclic model, where all 6 steps can end and start over. Finally, Worchel’s cyclical model also foresees the possibility of setbacks in previous stages.


    The 6 stages in which the cyclic model of Worchel is divided are as follows (with its characteristics):

    1. Step 1: period of dissatisfaction

    In this first step proposed by Worchel, the subjects feel dissatisfied and powerless in their group of origin; in other words that is to say, a period of dissatisfaction and dissatisfaction arises for various reasons.

    In this first phase, the dropout rate of group members is high. Outraged, members of the same do not participate much in the tasks of the group (Those who have a common goal, which involve and require the participation of all).

    Another notable feature is that occasional acts of vandalism appear and quietness.

    2. Step 2: trigger event

    The second stage of Worchel’s cyclical model arises from a precipitating event that triggers it. At this stage, a signal precipitates the formation of a new group and the abandonment of the previous one. In a way, this step represents a kind of “symbol” of all the negative aspects of the old group.

    In short, here are separated members who are engaged in a break up of the group (by forming a new one), those who want to stay in the initial group. Sometimes members of the previous group (especially those in power) may carry out retaliation or some repression against members leaving the group.

    3. Step 3: identification with the group

    The third step is the most important of Worchel’s cyclical model. It is the phase in which more conflicts appear.

    This stage is characterized by the fact that the new group begins to take shape, begins to consolidate. Strong barriers are created against other groups (exogroups) and any divergence within the group is prosecuted or censored. On another side, all these conduct of compliance with group standards are reinforced, And public displays of loyalty to the group are encouraged, which is expected.

    Finally, a competition arises from the new group and exogroups (including them as “the other groups”, different from the group itself or to which one belongs).

    In addition to appearing in this contest, he is also encouraged once he appears. On the other hand, belonging to and being part of one’s own group (in-group) greatly influences individual identity.

      4.Step 4: group productivity

      In the fourth step of Worchel’s cyclical model, the productivity of the group (obtaining results and benefits) appears. In other words, the group’s goals become relevant. At this stage, all group members fight in unison to achieve these goals.

      The hallmark of this phase is the emphasis on equality; this is why cooperative relations with other groups (“exogroups”) are allowed as long as this allows the benefit of the group itself.

      5. Step 5: individualization

      The fifth stage is characterized by individualization; this implies that the achievement of individual goals becomes important. In other words, that is to say it doesn’t matter anymore the “group” but also “the individual”, Who wants to feel recognized (without wanting to break up or leave the group).

      At this stage, sub-groups appear within the group and equity is emphasized; this implies providing each member with what he deserves, according to his conditions, merits or contributions.

      Another characteristic of the fifth stage is that it cooperation with exogroups is actively sought (More than at the previous stage, rather than being sought, these cooperative relations were authorized). In addition, the fact of belonging to exogroups is valued here, which had never happened in the previous stages.

      6. Stage 6: decline of the group

      The sixth and final step of Worchel’s cyclical model is the group decline phase. At this stage doubts and mistrust appear Concerning the group itself (in-group) and its value. In addition, the fear of rejection from the group is lost and fights between subgroups may even appear.

      When is it some group members start to give up the same, Especially those whose skills are valued by other groups (exogroups). This causes the group to decline and the group to break up (the group “dies”), allowing the cycle to start over and return to step 1, beginning the whole process of group formation.

      Bibliographical references:

      • Hogg, MA (2010). Social psychology. Vaughan Graham M. Panamericana. Posted by Panamericana.
      • Marín, M. (2012). Social psychology of group processes. Pyramid.
      • Morales, JF (2007). Social psychology. Published by SA McGraw-Hill / Interamericana de España.

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