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Expectations for Competence and Competence-Related Behaviour

Sarah Ogilvie

In status characteristics theory it is assumed that expectations for competence will be demonstrated through behaviour that occurs in task-related settings (Foddy & Smithson, 1996). This type of behaviour is commonly measured through a paradigm known as the standardised experimental setting (Pugh & Wahrman, 1983), and essentially involves the creation of a disagreement in an ambiguous task between two people. In this, an individual can resolve the disagreement in favour of themselves (rejection of influence) or in favour of their task partner (acceptance of influence). If differential characteristics are displayed by the two partners, then the assumption is that the partner with the higher status, will reject influence more than they accept it, and the partner with the lower status will accept more than reject influence.

While expectations for competence are typically measured through competence-related behaviour (Wagner & Berger, 1997), certain testing procedures enable individuals to indicate their ability relative to their partner's, and in this way reveal their expectations for competence of their partner relative to self (Foddy & Smithson, 1996). However, it must be noted that direct self-reports of perceived competence may not necessarily capture the way the expectations operate in a status organising process, especially if expectations for competence are actually generated in an unconscious and nonclaculating manner (Berger, 1977).

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