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Sex differences in conformity: Status and gender role interpretations

Author(s): Eagly AH, Chrvala C

Abstract

The experiment examines status and gender role explanations of the tendency for women to conform more than men in group pressure settings. Subjects believed they were assigned to groups containing two males and two females in addition to themselves and received these other group members' opinions, which were represented as deviating from the opinions that subjects had given earlier. Subjects then gave their opinions with the other group members either having or not having surveillance over these opinions. In addition, subjects were required to form impressions of each other's likability or expertise. The findings indicate that subjects' sex and age affected the extent of their conformity. Among older (19 years and older) subjects, females conformed more with surveillance than without it, whereas surveillance did not affect males' conformity. Among younger (under 19 years) subjects, surveillance had no effects. Analysis of sex differences revealed that older females were significantly more conforming than older males when under surveillance as well as when subjects formed impressions of one another's likability. Among younger subjects, there were no sex differences. These findings are discussed in terms of the theories that (a) both sex and age function as status characteristics and (b) gender roles determine conformity.

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