Advances in Group Processes: Volume 36

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(9 chapters)

Status, which is based on differences in esteem and honor, is an ancient and universal form of inequality which nevertheless interpenetrates modern institutions and organizations. Given its ubiquity and significance, we need to better understand the basic nature of status as a form of inequality. I argue that status hierarches are a cultural invention to organize and manage social relations in a fundamental human condition: cooperative interdependence to achieve valued goals with nested competitive interdependence to maximize individual outcomes in the effort. I consider this claim in relation to both evolutionary arguments and empirical evidence. Evidence suggests that the cultural schema of status is two-fold, consisting of a deeply learned basic norm of status allocation and a set of more explicit, variable, and changing common knowledge status beliefs that people draw on to coordinate judgments about who or what is more deserving of higher status. The cultural nature of status allows people to spread it widely to social phenomena (e.g., firms in a business field) well beyond its origins in interpersonal hierarchies. In particular, I argue, the association of status with social difference groups (e.g., race, gender, class-as-culture) gives inequalities based on those difference groups an autonomous, independent capacity to reproduce themselves through interpersonal status processes.


Many everyday situations involve the performance of a task and the inference of competence from the results. Here, we focus on situations in which two or more persons who differ on status (e.g., sex category, skin tone) perform a valued task with equivalent, objectively judged results, and yet are not granted equal competence. We examine the conditions under which such a conclusion derives from the use of different standards for each status level.

We review and assess the findings of all the 17 social psychological experiments completed to date and designed to investigate the hypothesis that the lower a person’s social status is perceived to be, the stricter the competence standard applied to him or her.

We find substantial support for this hypothesis, but there are also factors that either moderate (e.g., qualifications level) or even reverse (e.g., participant’s sex category) such link. Of particular interest among those factors is whether competence is measured directly or indirectly. For example, we found overall that the specific question about competence often restrains the use of double standards, whereas the wider questions (e.g., about suitability) are more likely to allow that practice to emerge.

We also identify and expand interventions from three different research traditions designed to deter bias, and propose ways of applying them to block double standards in the assessment of equivalent performances. The interventions involve (1) increasing assessor’s accountability, (2) increasing similarity across the performers, and (3) disrupting the often taken-for-granted association between higher status and good performance – as well as the corresponding link between lower status and poor performance.


This project tests two mechanisms for controlling and reversing unwanted status effects of the characteristic gender. Previous interventions have been developed regarding a number of status characteristics and have been tested and implemented to varying degrees. Theoretically based interventions, such as those I am testing here, hold great promise in alleviating status-based disadvantages faced unequally by different groups within society.

An experiment is described using the standard experimental setting for expectation states and status characteristics theory testing.

Results indicate that the theory’s predictions about reversing gender’s status effects are correct. The theory explains 87% of the variation in the observed data.

This work extends prior analytic work in developing and assessing theoretically guided interventions to overcome status disadvantages.


Uncertainty-identity theory serves as our guiding theoretical framework to explore subjective uncertainty, especially uncertainty about self and identity, and the ways in which communication within groups provides valuable social identity information to group members as a means to manage subjective uncertainty.

We review and synthesize research in communication science and social identity theory, specifically uncertainty-identity theory, to compare diverse understandings of uncertainty and the identity-shaping function of communication within groups.

Uncertainty inherent in dyadic interactions has received extensive attention in communication science. However, the identity-defining function of communication that flows within and between groups as a means to resolving uncertainty about subjectively important matters has received little attention in both social psychology and communication science.

We explore how communication that flows from in-group sources (e.g., leaders) serves to shape a shared reality and identity for group members while providing a framework for self-definition. We propose an agenda for future research that would benefit from an articulation of the importance of communication in the shaping and management of identity-uncertainty.

Uncertainty arousing rhetoric by influential in-group sources, such as leaders and the media can have serious implications for intergroup relations, as uncertain individuals seek distinctive and tight-knit groups and autocratic leaders under conditions of heightened uncertainty. The role that communication plays in shaping clear and distinct identities as a panacea for identity-uncertainty has implications for the intragroup normative structure of the group and for intergroup relations.


We examine whether self-stigmatization may affect the everyday social interactions of individuals with a diagnosed, affective mental health disorder. Past research demonstrates self-stigmatization lowers self-esteem, efficacy, and personal agency, leading to the likely adoption of role-identities that are at the periphery of major social institutions. We advance research on self-stigma by examining the likely interactional and emotional consequences of enacting either a highly stigmatized self-identity or a weakly stigmatized self-identity.

Using affect control theory (ACT), we form predictions related to the interactional and emotional consequences of self-stigmatization. We use the Indianapolis Mental Health Study and Interact, a computerized instantiation of ACT, to generate empirically based simulation results for patients with an affective disorder (e.g., major depression and bipolar disorder), comparing simulations where the focal actor is a person with a mental illness who exhibits either high or low levels of self-stigma.

Self-stigma is predicted to negatively influence patients’ behavioral expression, leading the highly self-stigmatized to enact behaviors that are lower in goodness, power, and liveliness than the weakly self-stigmatized. Their corresponding emotional expressions during these types of interactions are similarly negatively impacted. Even though these likely interactions are the most confirmatory for people with high levels of self-stigma, they lead to interactions that are behaviorally and emotionally more negative than those who have been better able to resist internalizing stigmatizing beliefs.

This piece has implications for the literature on the interactional and life course challenges faced by psychiatric patients and contributes to the self-stigma literature more broadly. This work will hopefully inform future research involving the collection of non-simulation-based data on the everyday interactional experiences of people with mental health problems.


In this study we aim to examine a Durkheimian solution to the problem of social cooperation. Drawing on relevant literature on rituals and social solidarity, we make a case that both synchronous and complementary ritualistic acts can promote social cooperation by strengthening solidarity.

We used a lab experiment in which participants performed either synchronous, complementary, or uncoordinated group drumming. After the drumming, they self-reported their positive affect, feeling of being in the same group and trust. Then they played a five-round public goods game in which their levels of cooperation were observed.

We found both synchrony and complementarity help sustain group cooperation. Participants who drummed synchronously or complementarily contributed more to the public good than those in the baseline condition, especially in later rounds of the game. Individuals in the synchronous and complementary conditions also showed stronger feelings of being in the same group. Mediation analysis confirmed that the effects of ritual performance on cooperation are partially mediated by feelings of same-groupness.

Results of our study imply that ritual performance based on either members’ similarities or complementary differences can promote group solidarity and cooperation.

The study supports the classic Durkheimian solution to the problem of social cooperation. Consistent with recent research, we find the causal effect of synchrony on cooperation. Moreover, our new test of the effect of complementarity shows that being different but mutually supportive can effectively enhance solidarity and cooperation as well.


When subordinates violate a policy, authority figures have to decide whether to be strict and make them face the consequences or be lenient and not enforce the policy. In this chapter, we argue that when an authority figure treats a subordinate leniently, that subordinate is more likely to develop an elevated sense of entitlement, which then has various negative consequences for the authority figure and the subordinate’s group members. Drawing on the literature on the sources and consequences of psychological entitlement, we put forward propositions relating to authority leniency and subordinate entitlement. In summary, we propose (a) that single acts of leniency may lead subordinates to feel entitled to future leniency, (b) that repeated leniency may lead subordinates to develop a general sense of entitlement, and (c) that leniency and the resulting entitlement can have many negative consequences such as increasing group conflict and causing low performance. We report preliminary results in support of some propositions. For example, we show that leniency that can be attributed to something external to the subordinate may prevent the subordinate from feeling entitled. Last, we call for additional research. We hope that our chapter will cause authority figures to consider the consequences of treating subordinates leniently, including the possibility that the subordinates will subsequently feel entitled.

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Advances in Group Processes
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Emerald Publishing Limited
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