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Applying expectation states theory to social media (white paper)

Expectation states theory as developed by Correll and Ridgeway (2003) offers an approach to study social inequality and the impetus for social change.  This theory seeks to explain the processes in which group members assess each other according to task-specific and diffuse status characteristics.  These characteristics are decoded explicitly and implicitly by group members through their early social interactions and have the effect of an emergence of a group hierarchy that determines the performance outcomes in accomplishing group goals in four specific ways; the persuasive influence of members during participation, the opportunities allotted for member participation, the assessment of member performance, and objective performance of members.  Previous research has demonstrated how diffuse status characteristics can diminish the optimal level of group performance because ordering of a group hierarchy becomes dependent on non-task oriented status-based factors.   As applied to the study of social action through computer-mediated communication, this study posits that computer-mediated communication offers a medium to facilitate a reduction of awareness of the diffuse status characteristics within task-oriented group users therefore focusing the groups’ attention on the task-specific characteristics.

The further development of performance expectation states (Correll & Ridgeway, 2003) identifies three distinct processes that contribute to the group process and create a systematic model for predicting the relative influence of the individual members of the group (Rashotte, et al., 2007); (1) the socially significant characteristics of the individuals in the group, (2) the social rewards delivered by the group to its members, and (3) the behavioral interchange patterns of the group members within the group process.

Group formation based on task-specific characteristics.

The first of these processes is that of the socially significant characteristics of the individuals leading to the formation of an (albeit informally) agreed upon group hierarchy (Berger, Rosenholtz, & Zelditch, 1980).  As Berger indicates, when a problem-solving group assembles around a specific task, they do not create a social organization ”de novo,”  but rather maintain many of the external social status differences inside the group.  This system then became the pervasive pro quo of the group defining a power and prestige order of importance, reliance, and accountability within the group based largely on these social characteristics which act to maintain the status of the individuals.  Correll and Ridgeway (2003) identify two key variances in the defining characteristics of group members; task-specific and diffuse characteristics.

Specific characteristics carry with them identifiable expectations about one’s ability regarding a specific task and their perceived competence towards providing assistance to the group regarding that specific, and perhaps narrow task (Correll & Ridgeway, 2003).  These can be limited in nature, but provide a point of reference for group formation based on each individual’s ability to add value to the group based on task completion.  Diffuse characteristics carry a much more general expectation of performance for the individual based on widely shared cultural beliefs[H1] .

Based on the development of the group hierarchy around these sets of characteristics, an informal understanding of group expectations is formed (Correll & Ridgeway, 2003).  Individuals of higher authority within the group are not only given, but also expected to contribute more to the group process.  In addition, their input to the group process is more readily received by the group and receives less scrutiny by the group in general.  In opposition, group members with lower perceived status characteristics are not allowed to offer as much input to the group process, are often ignored or interrupted in the group process and their submission to the outcome of the task often come under great scrutiny.

Traditional group theory indicates that [H2] the inherent weakness in task-oriented groups is the fact that group orientations, hierarchies, and expectations are developed often based largely on diffuse characteristics of the individuals.  However, in social media, I propose that these diffuse characteristics are often either muted or ignored in group formations allowing the group to develop primarily around task-specific characteristics that each individual holds within the group.  Furthermore, because the group members are likely all associated with the group based on some personal interest, it is likely they there is a higher resemblance among group members and much more involvement based on the much broader spectrum of these task-specific characteristics when compared to the somewhat superficial diffuse characteristics.  This creates an improved group with more involvement as it is likely that members are more allowed to be actively involved based on their specific characteristics rather than being held at bay for adverse diffuse characteristics such as gender.

Social rewards in the group.

Performance expectation states theory argues that this social hierarchy of expectations is further reinforced by the unequal distribution of socially significant rewards (Correll & Ridgeway, 2003).  In other words, an individual’s expectation for rewards within the group is based largely on their expectations for performance, essentially, their position within the hierarchy (Berger, Fisek, Norman, & Wagner, 1997).  Members near the top of the hierarchy are expected, and expect to receive greater rewards, whereas members lower down on the hierarchy are expected, and expect to receive lesser rewards thus reinforcing the notion of rewards based on status in the hierarchy while simultaneously reinforcing the hierarchy and the expectations therein.

However, in CMC social rewards can become viral in nature, being extended to everyone within the group regardless of status and reinforcing increased involvement rather than one’s position within the hierarchy[H3] .

Behavioral interchange patterns.

Behavioral interchange patterns occur within the group between two or more individuals when one actor engages in “assertive, high-status behavior (pg. 39) such as offering suggestions upfront, initiating a conversation, or resisting change in the face of adversity that are responded to by ensuing actors with  lower-status behaviors such as hesitating in speaking, agreement, and offering a positive evaluation of the first actors argument (Fisek, Berger, & Norman, 1991).  While this does not play a prominent role in the development of my theoretical perspective, it no doubt maintains an influence over the group formation process in computer-mediated communications.


Leadership Theory

Leadership theory: Jeremy Shearer
Over nearly a century of academic leadership investigation, more than 65 differing understandings and views have been developed to explain what exactly leadership is (Fleishman, et al., 1991; Stogdill, 1948). Overtime, however, a few key threads of study have emerged as the common realms of thought in leadership.
One of the earliest attempts of a concise theory amongst leadership scholars was that of the great man theory (Northouse, 2007). Under this perspective, the overarching belief was that leaders were made, rather than born. This focus on leadership utilizes a very strong trait perspective and holds the assumption that leadership is a very restrictive position and is only given to a very elite group of individuals (Bass, 2008). Obviously, this focus of theoretical development focused largely on the study of great political, social, religious, and military leaders in order to identify the traits that they were born with, which led them to become the great leaders that they were (Bass, 2008; Jago, 1982; Northouse, 2007). However, after this theory was challenged in a 1948 (Stogdill) review, many academics conceptualized the importance of the situation that the leadership was manifest in and instead, chose to identify the traits of the leader relative to the situation they were in (Northouse, 2007). However, in more recent studies of trait leadership, the theory has once again shifted back to the physicality of the traits of those who seem to become leaders (Bass, 2008).
Another important thread in the leadership literature was developed by those who believed that leadership was about the skills that the leader possessed (Northouse, 2007). Much like the trait approach to leadership study, this very leader-centered approach focused on the skills and the abilities that the leader possessed, rather than the traits they exhibited (Bass, 2008). While this thread of leadership studied had been long established (Bass, 2008), it wasn’t until the classic article by Katz was published in 1955 that this thread of study hit the mainstream. In his study, Katz(2009) for the first time, sought to identify the set of measurable and developable skills that managers utilize in leading their departments. Since that study, trait research has attempted to outline a series of skills that a leader must possess and continue to develop in order to be effective at solving complex organizational problems (Fleishman, et al., 1991; Mumford et al., 2000; Yammarino, 2000). These skills, originally identified by Katz (2009) and later advanced by numerous researchers (Mumford, et al., 2000; Zaccaro & Klimoski, 2001), focused on both individual attributes, such as general and crystallized cognitive ability, motivation, and personality, as well as competencies of the leader such as problem-solving skills, social judgment skills, and knowledge (Northouse, 2007).
The behavioral approach to leadership study continued the thread of leader centered study as researchers sought to identify what leaders do and how they act (Blake & McCanse, 1991; Blake & Mouton, 1986, 1994). This approach, although still not focused on the various dynamics of leadership involved, did seek to explore what made the process of leadership happen. While many of the findings of this tread of study were much more focused on the topic of management (i.e.: the Blake & Mouton management grid), the findings from a group of researchers at the University of Michigan began to understand this perspective of leadership in terms of the leaders effect on small groups (Cartwright & Zander, 1960; D. Katz, 1951; Likert, 1961, 1967). This focus on the leaders’ actions within the group would lead to a stronger upsurge in the study of team leadership.
The study of team leadership brought with it a new perspective in leadership studies; rather than being leader-centered in nature, this perspective identified the importance of the group dynamic including the leader and the followers (Kogler-Hill, 2007). Although group dynamics have been studied in the social sciences since about the 1920’s (Klein, 1956), it wasn’t until sometime around the 1950’s and 1960’s that the focus of groups dynamics shifted to developing the team through leadership effectiveness (Day, Gronn, & Salas, 2004; McGrath, Arrow, & Berdahl, 2000; Pittinsky & Simon, 2007; Zaccaro, Rittman, & Marks, 2001). Perhaps the most effective component to the team perspective of leadership is that it starts with the leaders’ mental model of the current situation (Zaccaro, et al., 2001). This focus allows for the understanding of the knowledge, skills, and abilities of the leader, as well as their cognitive ability much like the earlier skills model (R. Katz, 2009). In addition, this model includes an awareness and understanding of the situation (Blanchard, Zigarmi, & Nelson, 1993) by the leader prior to making leadership decisions. Taking these two perspectives into account, the leader then follows a common decision model to determine what is best for the group. One of the commonly accepted models as developed by Hill (2007) is presented in Figure 2. This model creates an outline for the leader in understanding how leadership is best established within the group process. As Hill points out, the leader must first make a decision as to the need for active leadership within the group, whether the focus of that active leadership should be task related or relationship related, and whether the actions need to focus on the internal issues of the group or the external environment of the group. In all, the focus of team leadership is in identifying the overall team effectiveness as it evolves from the decisions of the leader.
One of the current approaches to the study of leadership is the transformational leadership originally conceptualized by the political sociologist James McGregor Burns (1978). In his classic work, Burns offered an important leadership approach that distinguished two key types of leadership: transactional and transformational. An effective model of the transformational approach was advanced by Bass and Avolio (1994) (see Figure 3), which covers the full range of leadership from laissez-faire to the five I’s of transformational leadership; individualized consideration, intellectual stimulation, inspirational motivation, idealized behaviors, and idealized attributes (Antonakis, Avolio, & Sivasubramaniam, 2003).

Figure 3: Full range of leadership model

A model for leadership analysis
While there are undoubtedly many and varied explanations to the study of leadership, perhaps an effective definition is offered by Northouse (2007). Through his analysis of the various threads of leadership, Northouse has identified leadership as “a process whereby an individual influences a group of individuals to achieve a common goal (p. 3).” The importance of this definition is that it identifies leadership as a group process that involves influence in order to achieve goals, while all the time, not viewing the leader as being better than the followers. That being said, the focus of this study is, how do these theories have the potential to play out in online scenarios? Perhaps understanding the various conceptualizations of leadership through the Hegelian perspective of thesis plus antithesis equals synthesis will make the analysis of on-line leadership easier.
One method of defining leadership is to compare the trait perspective to the process perspective. In this method, we can use a mixture of different classic and contemporary theories to identify and define leadership in terms of who the leader is, what they do, or some mixture of the two. From the trait perspective (Stogdill, 1948), we directly assess the leader by the physical features, personality features, ability features, intelligence, self-confidence, determination, integrity, and sociability. As Stogdill points out, one of the commonly cited weaknesses of this perspective is that it fails to consider the situation, the followers, or the outcomes of leadership, all of which are vital pieces to the leadership puzzle. Through the balancing of this theory with the addition of a process perspective (Jago, 1982) we can associate the leader themselves, with the context, time, people, and situation involved in leadership (Northouse, 2007). Within this perspective, we would also consider the group context (part of the situation) and the dynamics that occur within the group through the context of the leadership dynamics.
Another method of analysis of the leadership concept would be to understand the leadership dynamic by comparing assigned versus emergent leadership. Through this method of analysis, the goal is to identify how the leader came into their position. As Northouse (2007) identifies, assigned leaders are those leaders placed into their position within a formal hierarchy because of some type of response from either their subordinate or their superordinate. However, other leaders obtain their position because of some response from the potential followers, these individual emerge as leaders because of some dynamic in the situation/trait method that has allowed the followers to identify them as an appropriate and perhaps necessary leader in the context of that time and space (Hogg, 2001). While the assigned leader is a clear-cut position that can be understood in terms of organizational politics, the emergent leader is much more difficult and must be understood through the use of some theoretical perspective. Some of the common theoretical perspectives of emergent leadership include communicative emergence (Fisher, 1974), gender-biased emergence (Eagly, 1987; Eagly, Baron, Hamilton, & Kelman, 2004; Eagly, Beall, & Sternberg, 2004; Eagly & Carli, 2007), and the social identity theory of leadership emergence (Hogg, 2001). As Fisher (1974) points out, the communication behaviors that lead to emergent leader success include being verbally involved, being informed, seeking others’ opinions, initiating new ideas, and being firm but not rigid.
Because we know that leadership involves influencing others, a third method of analysis is to understand the power and coercion process involved in that influence (Northouse, 2007). Power can involve either position-given power such as legitimate power, reward power and coercive power, or personally-derived power such as referent or expert power (Raven, 1992). As Northouse (2007) indicates, this perspective of understanding power pays attention to how the leader works with the followers in achievement of the common group goals. This allows for an analysis of the leaders use of power in terms of the transformational/transactional continuum (Avolio & Bass, 1988; Bass, 2008) which identifies the leaders actions from management processes through transformational influences. Coercion is a very specific type of power that is often identified in the literature in order to ensure that it is not included in the many studies of leadership. Coercion involves the leaders’ use of some type of force to elicit the change that best suits their personal goals often at the cost of their followers’ needs and aspirations.

Fogg and the Stanford persuasive tech lab back again…

Another great post from Fogg…I am glad to see the Stanford PT program coming back to life on the net…

Test blog

This is just a test of my blog upload setup…

Starting back up…

many of you have been waiting for me to post some of my research and writings…so I am starting this blog up as an open forum for your discussion, critiques, additions, and deletions of my work. I would have started this over the summer, but I was incredibly busy with other things…

see you soon…


Great video

Direction of Persuasive Technology Research

The advent of more mainstream computing technologies has no doubt become a new medium for persuasion. Much like the print media, radio, and television of the past, designers of computing systems and software can harness the potential for persuasion. While none of the concepts explored in this paper offer a new theory to persuasion, they do demonstrate the uniqueness of computing technology to combine so many elements into one mode of persuasion. It remains unclear to this author whether or not new theories of persuasion will develop from the use of technology, however, the unique combination of scale, speed, simplicity, and social integration (specifically through social networking software) could lead researchers to new understandings of how to apply persuasion in the new millennium.

Fogg (2009c), recognizing the many research failures in persuasive computing, has identified an eight-step process to aid new researchers in finding new breakthroughs. Fogg argues that the principle problem leading to failure in research of persuasive computing is that the researchers (predominantly new to the field) have a tendency to take on behaviors that are incredibly difficult to change (i.e. smoking). Fogg points out, to increase the odds of success in this field of exploration; targeted behaviors should be simple (to start with) and be focused on a receptive audience. This dyad allows the researcher to emphasize the study methods and theories in an open environment (that is, an environment lacking too many barriers). With this starting point in mind, Fogg contends that a simple process based on his theory to overcome the behavioral obstacle can be carried out. As the researcher understands the process of persuasive design better, larger objectives can be attempted.

As research in this field continues, one key component of persuasion that has yet to be strongly addressed is the changing of attitudes. Based on this researcher’s analysis of the literature on persuasive technology, all experimental applications have focused on behavioral change in their subjects. As the theories of design and implementation strengthen in persuasive technology, more advancements will be made attitudinal change through technology. This is perhaps the ultimate goal of Fogg’s world peace through persuasive technology initiative at Stanford, a concept that perhaps seems far too large to fathom at this time, but certainly warrants an open mind.

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