INCONSISTENT STATUS CHARACTERISTICS IN DETERMINING FEMALE LEADERSHIP IN MIXED-SEX PROBLEM-SOLVING GROUPS

DEBORAH S KEZSBOM, Fordham University

Abstract

Expectation states theory deals with the role of individual group members' status attributes on the emergent power and prestige order of the small, task-oriented group. The theory explains how the power and prestige order of a newly-formed, task-oriented group parallels the societal evaluations of the members' status attributes regardless of relevancy to the group task.^ Theoretical research in expectation states has involved predominately adolescent populations. No empirical investigation of the theoretical formulations has yet been conducted with an adult sample population.^ The purpose of the present study was to determine if the characteristic of sex functions according to expectation states theoretical formulations and determines the status order of professionally and academically achieving adults. The theoretical assumption was tested by investigating decision-making behavior in problem-solving situations similar to the basic experimental conditions used to test previous formulations of expectation states theory. An experimental attempt was made to alter the status order and promote equal status exchange; this was accomplished by assigning low status members superior task ability.^ The subjects were 51 men and 51 women enrolled in a part-time graduate program at an urban university. Subjects were assigned randomly to one of four experimental conditions composed of mixed-sex dyads. Each of the four conditions differed with respect to the amount and nature of the status information subjects received.^ The experiment consisted of two parts. In the first part of the experiment, subjects either received task-relevant status information or they did not. In the second part, subjects were required to resolve a series of controlled disagreements with one another.^ Task-related ability was manipulated in two experimental conditions by administering systematically either the fictitious Meaning Insight Ability Test or the fictitious Relational Insight Ability Test to pairs of subjects. The subjects were publicly assigned scores that demonstrated either equal task ability or superior female task ability. Subjects were then required to work as a team on the related Contrast Sensitivity Task. The task consisted of 30 slides during each of which subjects had to decide upon the correct answer to an ambiguous problem in the face of almost constant disagreement with their partners. Rejection of influence, referred to as the stay response, was taken as an index of status differentiation within the group.^ Analysis of the data provided no evidence with which to support the theoretical assumption that for men and women who had achieved professional and academic status, the characteristic of sex determined the status order and interactions of the task-oriented group. The diffuse status characteristic sex was not activated in any of the four experimental conditions.^ In their professional and educational pursuits, these men and women may have learned to evaluate the relative status of each group member not on the basis of the characteristic of sex but on the specific value of the information each member is perceived as contributing toward successful completion of the group goal. Contrary to present theoretical formulations, the present study suggested that the burden of proof lies with either the man or the woman to demonstrate that the characteristic of sex does indeed relate to successful completion of the goal, rather than to demonstrate that it does not.^ Recommendations were made for future research to determine how a variety of adult populations combine and evaluate global characteristics to produce desirable behavioral outcomes. ^

Subject Area

Social psychology

Recommended Citation

KEZSBOM, DEBORAH S, "INCONSISTENT STATUS CHARACTERISTICS IN DETERMINING FEMALE LEADERSHIP IN MIXED-SEX PROBLEM-SOLVING GROUPS" (1981). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI8119777.
http://fordham.bepress.com/dissertations/AAI8119777

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