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Cognitive Style Effects on Sex Status in Student Work Groups NIE

Lockheed, Marlaine E.
Publication Year:
Report Number:
ETS Research Bulletin
Document Type:
Page Count:
Subject/Key Words:
National Institute of Education (NIE), Adolescents, Cognitive Style, Decision Making, Leadership, Performance Factors, Sex Differences, Social Behavior


The observed greater activity, influence and task orientation of males in mixed-sex work groups is analyzed as an educational problem, having particular relevance for coeducational schooling. Following Berger, Cohen and Zelditch, this investigator analyzed greater male power and prestige as a consequence of the activation of the diffuse status characteristic "sex" under specific task conditions. The purpose of this study was to determine whether activation of a diffuse status characteristic would systematically vary according to the perceptual or cognitive style of group members. Four person mixed-sex groups of adolescents, homogeneous as to cognitive style, were videotaped while engaged in a group decision-making task. Videotapes were coded for individual rates of activity and influence; group members were asked to rate other group members on who had the "best ideas," and who did the most to "guide and direct" the group, and to identify the overall leader. It was found that field dependent groups displayed male dominant interaction, while field independent groups displayed equal status interaction. Males were significantly more likely than females to be identified as leaders by their peers in all group types. Behavioral data show that the activation of the diffuse status characteristic "sex" was a function of individual differences in sensitivity to environmental cues, while self report data reflect a bias toward perceiving males as group leaders. (26pp.)

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