The size of a group is one of its most important features. Interactions are more personal and intense in a small group, a collectivity small enough for all members to be acquainted with one another and to interact simultaneously Sociologist Georg Simmel (1950/1902-1917) suggested that small groups 'have distinctive interaction patterns that do not exist in larger groups. Accoring to Simmel, in a dyad-a group composed of two members-the active participation of both ~l1embers is crucial for the group's survival. If one member withdraws from interaction or "quits; the group ceases to exist Examples -of dyads include two people who are best friends, married couples. and domestic partnerships. Dyads provide members with a more intense bond and a sense of unity not found in most larger groups.
When a third person is added to a dyad. a triad, a group composed of three members, is formed. The nature of the relationship and interaction patterns changes with the addition of -the third person. In a triad, even if one member ignores another or declines to participate. the group can still function. In addition. two members may unite to create a coalition that can subject the third member to group pressure to conform. A coalition is an alliance created in an attempt to reach a shared objective or goal. If two members form a coalition. the other member may be seen as an outsider or intruder. Like dyads. triads can exist as separate entities or be contained within formal organizations. As the size of a group increases beyond three people. members tend to specialize in different tasks, and everyday communication patterns change.
For instance. In groups of more than six or seven people. it becomes increasingly difficult for everyone to take part in the same conversation; therefore. several conversations will probably take place simultaneously. Members are also likely to take sides on issues and form a number of coalitions. In groups of more than ten or twelve people. it becomes virtually impossible for all members to participate in a single conversation unless one person serves as moderator and guides the discussion.when the size of the group increases. the number of possible social interactions also increases. Although large groups typically have less social solidarity than small ones. they may have more power. However. the relationship between size and power is more complicated than it might. initially seem. The power relationship depends on both a group's absolute size and its relative size (Simmel, 1950/1902-1917 Merton, 1968). The absolute size is the number of members the group actually has; the relative size is the number of potential members. For example. suppose that three hundred people (out of many thousands) who have been the victims of sexual harassment band together to "march on Washington" and demand more stringent enforcement of harassment laws. Although three hundred people is a large number in some contexts. opponents of this group would argue that the low turnout demonstrates that harassment is not as big a problem as some might think. At the same time. the power of a small group to demand change may be based on a "strength in numbers' factor if the group is seen as speaking on behalf of a large number of other people (who are also voters). Larger groups typically have more formalized leadership structures. Their leaders are expected to perform a variety of roles, some related to the internal workings of the group and others related to external relationships with other groups.