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The Effects of Competition on Status Differentiated Groups
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Previous research using status characteristics theory illustrates how stereotyping is activated and maintained in small task-oriented group interactions. This occurs when group members reference their and other’s observable characteristics to form expectations about task performance and to ascribe status that then corresponds with expected performance outcomes. This impacts group members’ behavior by generating an interactive process that benefits group members with higher status compared to those with lower status. Researcher have primarily focused on developing intervening strategies to prevent these disparate outcomes and change the effects of inequality as a result of stereotyping. However, there have been fewer investigations of how context or institutional rules can affect inequality, even though these aspects are easier to change than individual characteristics. For this study, I examine how the context of the group task can change the dynamics between status differentiated group members and consequently change inequality. I conduct a two condition laboratory experiment with groups composed of one non-Hispanic Black and two non-Hispanic White females to manipulate the presence of intergroup competition and determine whether competition operates as a mechanism that increases inequality. I predict that groups in the competing condition will activate racial stereotypes more than non-competing groups for the sake of “doing well.” As a result, White group members overall are predicted to have significantly more opportunities to contribute to the group task compared to Black group members, especially in the competitive condition. I further predict that group performance will worsen in the competitive compared to the non-competitive condition. Lastly, I predict that groups in the competitive compared to the non-competitive condition will report better performance evaluations and affective measures for their peers and group overall. The results provide support for predictions of increased inequality and partial support for predictions of performance evaluations and affective measures. No support was found for predictions of group performance. Overall, the findings from this study suggest that changes to the context of the task can negatively affect small group interactions and generate greater inequality between status differentiated group members.
Murphy, Chantrey Joelle (2016). The Effects of Competition on Status Differentiated Groups. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A & M University. Available electronically from