Thursday, July 12, 2012


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Many of us believe that we have sole power over our mind and body. We do not conform unless we choose to and we do not change unless we want to. We remain still as individuals both alone and in a group. The reality is that we continue to live in an essentially structured society with roles, rights and rituals to differentiate its members. We are all bound to certain societal groups that influence who we are, how we feel, and what we do. We are often unaware of the gradual evolution of our attitudes and behaviors as we interact within the groups to which we belong. Yet, the impact of these structured groups on its members is significant and worthy of discussion and analysis.

In this paper, we will focus our attention on one organization and show how the organization influences the attitudes and behaviors of its members through various structural variables. Applying the massive body of researchgroup or another group. The results showed that “subjects exposed to a message regarding the in-group position showed a significant change in attitude toward the advocated position….Subjects included a marginally greater number of recalled arguments from in-group messages as compared with the other-group messages in their cognitive response protocols” (Mackie 814-815). The study suggested that the content of the messages from the in-group were given more scrutiny than messages from other groups and the message advocated by the in-group had a greater persuasive impact on the subjects.

Another interesting study, “Knowledge of the Advocated Position and the Processing of In-Group and Out-Group Persuasive Messages”, published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, presented similar conclusions. This study observed the processing consequences of receiving non-membership-relevant persuasive messages from in-group members versus out-group members. Subjects were given messages from either an in-group or out-group source. The study demonstrated that prior knowledge of the in-group position produced acceptance of the in-group position regardless of message quality, while out-group messages produced almost no attitude change even with strong arguments (Mackie 148-150). These observations suggested that regardless of the quality of the arguments, persuasive messages from in-group members produced changes in the attitudes of the subjects in favor of the in-group position.

Now let us apply these research findings to our case study. Again, we should mention that no member had ever attempted to ask for a re-slate. Sarah was not only granted a re-slate by the chapter, but also the position itself; thus, taking away from what was originated offered to Rachel. As was mentioned before, while Sarah was a high-status member and a part of the in-group in the sorority, Rachel was not a member of the in-group. According to Mackie’s studies, it is now understandable why the chapter had changed its vote. Because Sarah was a member of the in-group, the chapter paid more attention to her arguments regardless of its quality. Even if Rachel’s rebuke were effective, her message would still have little influence on the chapter. Thus, the persuasive power of the in-group (Sarah and her coalition) was so strong that the attitude of the organization was shifted in favor of the in-group’s position, despite breaching several structural variables. This is an example of how a relatively small group is able to affect the attitude and behavior of the members in the organization.

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We can also explain the change in chapter-orientation by groupshift, the phenomena when “the discussion leads to a significant shift in the positions of members toward a more extreme position in the direction in which they were already leaning before the discussion” (Robbins 4) Note that before the slating had even occurred, members discussed their expectations for the slate (an implicit norm). The general consensus over who should receive this particular office was Sarah. After both Rachel and Sarah and her coalition had made their speeches, the floor was opened to further discussion. According to Mackie’s research and the general consensus, the chapter was already leaning towards Sarah’s proposition for a re-slate, which is extreme in the sense that it was significantly outside of the norm. Groupshift took effect by amplifying this initial tendency allowing it to reach the extreme position. The chapter granted the re-slate and voted in favor of Sarah.

The slating conflict had a critical impact on the sorority. All of the structural variables of the organization were affected by this conflict and it crippled the organization for very long time. The president of the sorority was forced to resign because the chapter blamed her for not handling the situation the way she should have, that is, she did not meet her role expectations. The president had also broken the trust between her and the chapter by secretly negotiating with the two candidates, offering Rachel another position if she agreed to pass on her position to Sarah. Because “trust is a primary attribute associated with leadership; and when this trust is broken, it can have serious adverse effects on a group’s performance” (Robbins 7), leadership failed and the organization’s performance declined.

We have also mentioned that norms were breached and status was made inequitable by the slating conflict. Two members deaffiliated, decreasing the size of the organization, and the members were emotionally farther apart than ever. After the event, the chapter had noticeably divided into many subgroups. In an article, “Structure and sentiment Explaining emotional attachment to group”, published in the Social Psychology Quarterly, Pamela Paxton and James Moody attempted to study how the level of overall attachment to the larger group changed after an introduction of subgroups. The research study found that “overall attachment declines when subgroup relatio

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