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Sense of Community

Psychology (Year 12) - Culture and Values

Jessica Pratt

A community is a group of two or more people that share something in common, where members are readily available and can form mutually supportive and dependable networks.

There are two main types of communities:

  • territorial and geographical notion - neighbourhoods, towns, cities, etc.

  • relational notion - quality of character relationships without reference to location.

The term “Sense of Community” refers to the perception of similarity and an acknowledged interdependence.

McMillan & Chavis

Have defined the term “Sense of Community” as “a feeling that members have of belonging and mattering to one another and to the group, and a shared faith that needs will be met through commitment to be together”.

Elements of a Sense of Community

McMillan & Chavis identified four elements that contribute to a Sense of Community:

  • Membership

  • Influence

  • Integration & the Fulfillment of Needs

  • Shared Emotional Connection


A feeling of belonging or a shared sense of personal relation within a group, consisting of five attributes:

  1. boundaries - the difference between the in- and out-group that indicates belonging, e.g. a dress code.

  2. emotional safety - a willingness to reveal true feelings.

  3. sense of belonging and identification - an expectation or faith that a member belongs and is accepted.

  4. personal investment - working for the community leads to feelings that you have earned membership.

  5. a common symbol system - a means of identification.


A bidirectional relationship between the community and its members that occurs simultaneously. Group members are empowered to have influence over the group’s actions.

Integration & the Fulfillment of Needs

Feeling as though the member’s needs will be met by the resources received from having community membership. Rewards received from continuous reinforcement for participation may include networks, support systems and inspiration. It allows for an

incentive to contribute to the community.

Shared Emotional Connection

Members will have a shared history and a future of experiences. This facet has seven important features:

  1. contact hypothesis - more interaction = closer relationship.

  2. quality of interaction - requirement of greater positive interaction between members of the community.

  3. closure to events - ambiguous interaction and unresolved tasks lead to inhibited cohesion.

  4. shared valent event hypothesis - importance of a shared event increases bond.

  5. investment - more effort = greater significance.

  6. effect of honour and humiliation - increased attraction due to rewards, decreased attraction due to humiliation.

  7. spiritual bond - intangible connections between members.

The Benefits of Understanding a Sense of Community

  • the components are easily identified and accessible.

  • it allows for the understanding of the individual’s connection to the community.

  • it is a well-developed instrument that can measure the construct of communities.

  • the key elements are seemingly consistent regardless of age, gender or location.

  • psychological studies of communities can assist in developing and enhancing our understanding of a sense of community in actual communities.

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