, Volume 22, Issue 11-12, pp 679-691

Maintaining social identity in a mixed-gender setting: Minority/majority status and cooperative/competitive feedback

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Abstract

This study tested the applicability of Tajfel and Turner's (1986) Social Identity Theory (SIT) to cooperative behavior in a mixed-gender setting. SIT suggests that as a “socially subordinate” group in a male-dominated society, women, when their gender is in the numerical minority, will engage in social competition in an attempt to enhance social identity. However, gender-based socialization may encourage men toward competition and women toward cooperation, regardless of group gender composition. In this study, male and female subjects were assigned to a six-person mixed-gender group in which their gender was either in the numerical minority or majority, and performed an interactive task under either cooperative or competitive feedback. An interaction of sex and feedback showed males in the cooperative feedback condition responded more competitively than did males in the competitive feedback condition, while females were equally cooperative in both feedback conditions. Feedback also interacted with the numerical ingroup/outgroup gender balance. While competitive feedback elicited little variation in subjects' responses across the ingroup/outgroup balance variable, the cooperative condition elicited greater competition from subjects in the numerical minority and greater cooperation from those in the numerical majority. Results were interpreted as partial support for SIT, while stressing the need for further investigation into gender as a unique influence on intergroup behavior.

This research was supported by an intramural faculty grant from the University of California, Riverside.