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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Perceptual similarity and member functioning in exercise groups Dunlop, William


This study explored the relationships between perceived intra-group similarity, cohesion, and adherence among exercise group members. Participants (N = 402) from 46 registered health and wellness courses in a large city in Western Canada completed a questionnaire assessing their perceived level of similarity with the other group members and cohesion three times during the first eight weeks of their course. Data were collected following the second, fifth, and eighth classes (this coincided with the second, fifth, and eighth week of each course). Participants’ initial perception of the proportion of group members that were similar to themselves was found to significantly (and positively) predict program adherence. In contrast, early measures of class cohesion did not predict program adherence. A secondary aim of this study was to apply a theoretical framework developed within the domain of organizational psychology to understand some of the contextual determinants of cohesion in group-based exercise programs. This framework had been used to explain the emergence of cohesion within work groups through the consideration of (a) similarity among members’ surface- and deep-level attributes, and (b) the relative stage of group development (i.e., combined amount of time the group has spent together). Dimensions of task and social cohesion were predicted by both surface- and deep-level similarity perceptions. Findings are discussed in relation to theory development, measurement, and the application of group dynamics principles to behavioral medicine research.

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