Wednesday, 12 August 2015
Contemporary Social Psychological Theories,
Ed. Peter J Burke, Stanford University Press, 2006,
Chapter 12 "Expectations" (pp. Status and Behaviour), page 272
Joseph Berger and Murray Webster Jr. write about the way in which behaviour is influenced or determined by status, status that establishes expectations. In particular, they comment about the way in which groups experience inequality generated by (real or perceived) status differences between the group members. The application to our area of research is obvious, particularly to anyone who has observed the little negotiation dances greeting any newcomer to the group.
Status characteristics are pregiven cultural elements that frame any particular situation of action. They are part of the larger social (or global) framework of taken-for-granted social categories and cultural beliefs within in which actors operate, and they initially structure and particular encounter for the actors involved.
Berger and Webster point out, for example, that the normal gender bias favouring males (however politically incorrect, that is not the point of their contention) can be routinely overriden by the expectations raised by status. A largely male group, which might otherwise ignore or suppress the input of a female group member, can be observed to be showing deferrence and taking seriously female input if the group believes that the person concerned has a status (such as an expert in the field) that benefits the mission or task of the group.
Established diffuse status characteristics such as those involving race, ethnicity and gender already exist in the social framework, becoming information structures for actors when those characteristics become salient.
We don't individually create these characteristics - they just exist within our worlds, all around us. It is why, to take a particular example, many Jewish believers in Yeshua find themselves being held up as experts in Old Testament scholarship and Jewish interpretation, even if they have been careful not to express any such skills, regardless of whether they have them or not. It is simply an expectation created by their perceived status.