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Stereotyping, Expectations for Competence, and Related behaviour

Sarah Ogilvie

The way in which this study proposed that stereotype and status theory would be related in an interpersonal, task-related setting is that stereotyping processes would combine with status organising processes to affect the participant's expectations for their partner's competence, which in turn would effect their behaviour toward their partner. To ascertain this relationship it was specifically proposed that automatic and/or controlled processes, assessed through implicit knowledge and explicit beliefs measures, would predict participant's competence-related behaviour (rejection of influence).

Firstly, an assessment of rejection of influence results revealed that the male participant's rejected influence of their female partner more than they accepted it (58% of the time); a finding in line with previous studies (60% of the time, Foddy & Smithson, 1996; 66% of the time, Foschi, 1996). Although it may be inferred that females also reject influence more than they accept it (impossible to ascertain in this study as only males were tested), these aforementioned studies have found this not to be case. Women have typically lower levels of influence rejection (47% of the time, Foddy & Smithson, 1996; 47% of the time, Foschi, 1996). In this study, as it was evident that participants rejected more than accepted the influence of their female counterparts it was concluded that gender was operating as a differential status characteristic. This fact was important given that establishing a relationship between status organising processes and stereotyping requires a status organising process to be operating.

After factor analysing results from a series of implicit knowledge and explicit beliefs measures into two factors assumed to be representing automatic and controlled processing components, these factors were tested for their ability to predict rejection of influence. As no predictive relationship was found it may be that stereotyping does not contribute to the way in which status-related behaviour operates within task settings.

However, it was also found that when stereotyping measures were used to predict expectations for competence, more variance was explained, thus suggesting that the effect of stereotyping upon competence-related behaviour is mediated by expectations for competence.

Moreover, when stereotyping measures were used to predict rejection of influence rates in participants who were exposed to the traditional subtype, one significant predictor emerged: the index of agreement with the stereotype as measured in the WrdTask. However, as this measure may or may not have been tapping automatic processing (its relationship with controlled processing measures would suggest not), it is difficult to ascertain whether this behaviour is the result of, as Berger et al. (1977) would contend, noncalculating unconscious cognitive processing.

Together these results suggest that stereotyping does play a role in the formation of competence expectations and in the resultant behaviour, however, as to the exact nature of this role, it is clearly yet to be determined. What is apparent, however, is that in order for status theory to extend its application, it needs to take into account the way an individual's implicit and explicit beliefs inform expectations for competence. Similarly, in order for stereotype research to determine the way in which the processing of stereotypic information can result in discriminatory behaviour towards others, behaviour needs to be more closely assessed. Combining these two areas of research can thus be seen to add to the application of each. While this study may shed light on the issue, further research is needed to better illuminate the implications that these two research areas have for one another.

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