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The 'work group': Redressing the balance in Bion's experiences in groups

French, Robert B.; Simpson, Peter

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Robert B. French


The intention of this article is to explore and develop Wilfred Bion's theory of groups, and to contribute to its wider application across the social sciences. Bion suggested that groups operate simultaneously in two strictly contrasting ways, based on distinctive mental states, which he called 'basic-assumption mentality' and 'work-group mentality'. He believed that these mentalities determine a group's capacity to achieve its purposes. However, the development of these ideas has tended to focus on the regressive tendency in group functioning - on basic-assumption mentality. This article attempts to redress the balance by ascribing equal importance to the notion of work-group mentality. First, it extends Bion's framework, developing the concept of the 'work group' in parallel with the 'basic assumptions'; second, it considers the dynamic relationship between these two mentalities, in order, finally, to explore the application of Bion's ideas via a case example. © The Author(s) 2010.


French, R. B., French, R., & Simpson, P. (2010). The 'work group': Redressing the balance in Bion's experiences in groups. Human Relations, 63(12), 1859-1878.

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date Dec 1, 2010
Publicly Available Date Mar 18, 2016
Journal Human Relations
Print ISSN 0018-7267
Electronic ISSN 1741-282X
Publisher SAGE Publications
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 63
Issue 12
Pages 1859-1878
Keywords basic-assumption group, Bion, emotion in organizations, group conflict, work group
Public URL
Publisher URL


BION-THE_WORK_GROUP_-_final_resubmission_September_2009.doc (142 Kb)

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