4
PEER GROUPS AND REACTIONS TO POWER FIGURES 1

EZRA STOTLAND

Multiple group membership is a phenomenon found in every aspect of life. One important type of multiple group membership arises in groupings of peers at the same level in a power hierarchy. Each individual is a member of two groups, the group of peers and the group consisting of himself and those above or below him in the power hierarchy. A common example would be an informal group of workers in a factory, each of whom also is a member of a group consisting of himself and his foreman. The problem then arises, What is the relationship between a person's memberships in these two groups? This problem may be narrowed to a study of the effects of membership in a group of peers (subjected to similar power) on behavior in the hierarchical power group. Or, it may be narrowed to the effects of the hierarchical group on behavior in the peer group. In the present study, the first focus of the problem will be the primary but not only concern. Also, the problem will be limited to groups of low-power people.

The literature on this problem is not extensive. Wright (5) and Thibaut (4) studied reactions of people with little power to those with high power under conditions where the former acted or could have acted as a whole group. These studies, however, did not examine in detail the ways in which relations in one group affect, and are affected by, relations in the other. The work of Kelley (3) on communication in hierarchies provides a closer approach to this problem. In this study each low-status person was paired with only one highstatus person and could not act in concert with other low-status people. Kelley found that the low-status people tended to be more attracted to each other than were people in a control group. From these findings, it is not unreason

____________________
1
This report is based upon a dissertation submitted to the University of Michigan in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy. The author is deeply indebted to Dr. Alvin F. Zander, who directed the dissertation, for his many valuable suggestions and criticisms. This investigation was supported by a grant-in-aid (M-325 (C)) from the Institute of Mental Health of the National Institutes of Health, Public Health Service.

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