Advances in Group Processes: Volume 18


Table of contents

(10 chapters)

List of contributors

Pages vii-viii
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Editorial policy

Pages ix-xi
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This paper draws on two theoretical perspectives — expectation states theory and Goffman's theory of the self and social interaction — to analyze the interactional dynamics by which status hierarchies are maintained. In accounting for the conservative tendencies of social hierarchies, I argue that the two perspectives rely on different principles. For expectation states theory, cognition — particularly performance expectations — is key. Established hierarchies tend to be preserved, according to this perspective, because group members believe that higher-status members are more competent than lower-status actors and act on these beliefs in ways that make them self-fulfilling. In Goffman's theory, actors' attachment to images of self and the normative pressures they feel to affirm others' images of self and to preserve an orderly flow of social interaction, are the primary motivational bases of actors' commitment to established social hierarchies. Whereas expectation states theory holds that hierarchies in task-group interaction express actual or expected inequalities of competence among group members, Goffman's analyses suggest that interaction in group processes may be more about affirming or defending established hierarchies that might otherwise rest on tenuous ground. I distinguish between “rational” and “irrational” bases of commitment to established hierarchies. The former refers to hierarchies in which the high status members are believed by most group members to be the most competent, the latter refers to hierarchies in which beliefs about the relative competence of group members have little bearing on members' standing within the group, but instead the maintenance of the hierarchy is driven more by norms, identities, and emotions.

Social exchange theories posit that people engage in diverse forms of exchange to enhance their own interests. Knowing whom to exchange with and what to exchange, however, requires an understanding of other people's wants and needs. Gaining such an understanding requires skill at perspective taking: assessing what other people's preferences are and how they differ from one's own. We discuss a systematic bias in interpersonal perspective taking that can limit people's ability to reap the benefits of social and economic exchange. People systematically overestimate the similarity between their own perspective and that of other people who are in different psychological situations from their own. We show that such “egocentric empathy gaps” occur in transactions between buyers and sellers. Owners are subject to the endowment effect, valuing their possessions more simply because they own them. Non-owners fail to appreciate the psychological impact of endowment and thus make imperfect choices when interacting with owners. We describe how difficult it is for people to learn about the psychology of endowment and explain how misunderstanding that psychology can lead to enmity and perceptions of unfairness. We discuss the broader relevance of egocentric empathy gaps for social policy and pluralistic ignorance.

Autism results in an asocial mind, and hence, is a disorder worthy of the attention of social psychologists, sociologists and economists. Work in developmental psychology and neuroscience reveals that autistic individuals have a faulty theory of mind and cannot take the attitude of the other. The “mindblind” have a disablement of the neurally-based sympathetic system: they manifest deficits in imitation, in emotional contagion, in understanding the thoughts, desires and plans of other people, in pretending and in conversation. The same intertwined set of deficits is present when, on occasion, non-autists lose their mindseeing abilities. A theory of mind and sympathy are shown to be critical to a variety of forms of social interaction.

We try to provide a broader view on the factors that influence the decision to trust and honor trust. Using the “Trust Game” as our experimental paradigm, we consider three classes of factors that may be related to trust issues. The first one considers individual differences with regard to the probability to trust others (and honor trust of others), or disposition factors. Which kinds of people are more likely to trust? Second, we examine who is more likely to be trusted (anticipation factors), focusing on the appearance of the person who is to be trusted. And third, we analyze the circumstances under which trust is more likely to evolve (situation factors). Trusting is easy if there is not much at stake, but if the stakes and the risk increase, then how does that affect the willingness to trust? In short, we consider the decision to trust to be dependent on who you are, on who it is that has to be trusted, and on the specific situation. Moreover, we analyze which of these three classes is more important, using a set of experiments designed to measure the impact of disposition, anticipation, and situation factors. The data suggest that disposition factors play a minor role; the differences between people with regard to their likelihood to trust are relatively small. Anticipation factors, operationalized by varying alter's appearance, had a larger but somewhat paradoxical effect. Those with a trustworthy appearance are indeed trusted more easily, but they do not actually behave more trustworthy. By far the strongest influences were found among the situation factors. Both the payoffs and the structure of the game have a large impact on trust and honoring trust.

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While structuralism and network theory have been enormously successful empirically, they have not been able to explain the origins of social structures and networks. I contend that the emerging field of evolutionary psychology can help us explain how some social structures and networks emerge. I illustrate my point with a persistent empirical puzzle in the social networks literature (why women have more kin in their personal networks than men do), and provide an evolutionary psychological explanation for this phenomenon. I test two implications of this explanation with the 1985 Social Networks module of the General Social Survey. The data provide support for the evolutionary psychological explanation of women's kincentric networks.

This experiment investigates the development of performance expectations in status-homogeneous task groups. The issue of central interest is whether or not gender is a factor in expectation formation when group members are of the same sex and work on a gender-neutral task. Male and female undergraduates, participating in same-sex dyads, worked first individually and then as a team on a novel, visual perception task. Apart from the feedback they received from the experimenter at the end of the individual performance phase, participants were given no information with which to form differentiated expectations about self and partner for this task We investigate effects from both sex of dyad and level of feedback on: (a) influence behavior during the team phase, and (b) selected variables obtained through self-reports. Rejection of influence data show statistically significant effects from feedback only. Self-reports, on the other hand, reveal significant results from both feedback and sex of subject across several assessments of self's and partner's competence, and from sex of subject in some of the items concerning perceptions of the experimenter's status. Different conditions for the emergence of such effects in behaviors as opposed to self-reports are identified and discussed.

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More than three decades ago, Santo F. Camilleri and Joseph Berger carried out a set of experiments on decision making and social influence. In their experimental setting, two subjects worked together on a task. The dependent variable was whether a subject would accept or resist the other's influence, given a disagreement between them. One independent variable involved a subject's ability compared with that of her or his partner, a second involved the subject's responsibility for the team's final decisions. Then, researchers did not have access to the statistical and computational technology available today, so Camilleri and Berger (1967) did not analyze their experimental data rigorously in terms of their model. Doing so reveals surprisingly supportive results, especially after some fine tuning based on more recent work. Perhaps most importantly, this suggests what may be a promising approach to contemporary questions about sentiment and task-group processes.

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Advances in Group Processes
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Emerald Publishing Limited
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