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The four modes of coexistence in psychology and group dynamics

Helmut Nechansky (Engineering Efficiency, Vienna, Austria)


ISSN: 0368-492X

Article publication date: 7 March 2016




The purpose of this paper is to show how behavioral descriptions in psychology and group dynamics can be related to four goal-setting processes and to four mode of existence.


Some person A can approach a person B with an inclination to realize one of four goal-setting processes: (1) A sets goals for B; (2) A sets no own goals; (3) A pursues own goals alone; (4) A and B develop mutual goals. Depending on their choice of inclinations an interaction of A and B can lead to four modes of coexistence: (1) Conflict – A and B fight; (2) Hierarchy – A submits to B; (3) Independence in niches – A and B do not interact; (4) Cooperation – A and B work together. The paper investigates how these theoretical options – four inclinations for different goal-set processes and four modes of coexistence – show in behavioral descriptions in psychology and group dynamics.


Psychic states studied in psychology (e.g. by Freud, Berne, Horney) can be related to one of the four inclinations. Interaction patterns studied in group dynamics (e.g. by Steiner, Schindler, Bion) describe aspects of the four modes of coexistence.

Practical implications

Behavioral descriptions of various schools of psychology and group dynamics can be classified according to theoretically derivable basic options of goal-orientated behavior.


The paper shows the application of a theoretical framework covering all options of goal-orientated behavior available in the behavioral sciences.



Nechansky, H. (2016), "The four modes of coexistence in psychology and group dynamics", Kybernetes, Vol. 45 No. 3, pp. 371-392.



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