Monday, April 23, 2007

The social power of groups regulates their variability

Here is the slightly edited abstract of a recent talk at the Univ. of Wisconsin by Markus Brauer, University de Clermont-Ferrand, "Social Power and With-Group Variability: The Mediating Roles of Disinhibition and Pressure to Conform."
People's perception of a group as rather homogeneous or heterogenous determines their tendency to apply stereotypes to that group. For this reason, many social scientists have been interested in "group variability," and the extent to which members of social groups are different from each other.... I present a series of correlational and experimental studies showing that members of high power (advantaged) groups are more different from each other than members of low power (disadvantaged) groups: they report more diverse preferences, they engage in more diverse behaviors, and ­ according on naive observers' judgments ­ they have more diverse character traits. In addition, I present data suggesting that the effect of social power on group variability is mediated by "pressures to conformity" and "disinhibition." We have shown that a norm transgressor in a high power group is reacted to less negatively by fellow in-group members than a norm transgressor who belongs to a low power group. Members of high power groups also behave in a more disinhibited manner in that they are more relaxed and are more willing to engage in potentially embarrassing activities. ... our work suggests that the need for affiliation is more salient for members of low power groups, whereas the need for differentiation is more important for members of high power groups.

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