Cultural Elements Emerge
From Dynamic Social Impact
Helen C. Harton
University of Northern Iowa
Martin J. Bourgeois
University of Wyoming
Imagine attending a small conference of relatively like-minded scientists. At the beginning of a talk, you're surprised to be handed a piece of paper. They apparently expect you to take a quiz! But you're a good sport, so you look down and circle your answer to the following analogy based on leaders in your field and quickly cover your paper: Serge Moscovici is to Stanley Schachter as Marilynn Brewer is to … (A) Donald Campbell; (B) Leon Festinger; (C) Chuck Kiesler; (D) Thomas Ostrom; (E) Judith Rodin.
Then the person giving the talk asks you to discuss your answer with the people sitting to your left and right for about a minute. You compare your answers with the others, explaining the logic behind your choice: Perhaps you chose Campbell because of research connections or Rodin because of gender. When the minute is up, you are asked to answer the question again. What would the end distribution of answers look like?
We asked this exact question in demonstrations at eight conferences (Harton, Green, Jackson, & Latané, 1996). What we found, we argue here, was a slice of culture, an example of how cultures can emerge and persist through discussion. What follows is the distribution of responses before and after discussion for two analogies presented at one conference: