The effect of clarity and ambiguity of procedural expectations upon their acquisition : an extension of expectation states theory

Johnson, David B.
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This research was profoundly influenced. by the Expectation States Theory of Joseph Berger and associates and by Lynn Brody's work on procedural expectations and violations of procedural expectations. The Berger and associates' influence was concerned with the concepts of status characteristics, diffuse status characteristics, and performance expectations. In the present study Brody's conceptualization of procedural expectations is extended to include rules of the game. Here, as in Brody's work, performance expectations are assumed to precede the assignment of and are related in degree to procedural expectations. The present study also extended Brody's theory to include the conception of acquisition of procedural expectations, acquisition being the extent to which an actor (P) adopts another actor's (0) procedural rules as his own. It was posited that where P and O's procedural rules (or expectations) concerning a task differ, P will be more apt to acquire (or adopt) O's rules in preference to his own if P holds relatively higher initial performance expectations v for a than P' (himself) and, conversely. Another conception introduced in this work was the clarity or ambiguity of procedural rules. The theory predicted that under conditions of clarity, in which the procedural rules for the task are stated explicitly, little difference between P's and O's perception of the rules would occur. Under conditions of ambiguity, in which the procedural rules are communicated implicitly, within the context of task interaction, disagreement between P and a concerning the procedural rules is more probable. The actors are assumed to be motivated to resolve the difference between their procedural rules and in order to do so refer to their initial relative performance expectations. The differences in their rules are predicted to be resolved in favor of the actor who is seen as being initially more capable at the task. A laboratory experiment was designed and executed in order to test the theoretical derivations. There were three independent variables, performance expectations (high and low), confirmation/non-confirmation of initial relative performance expectations, and clarity or ambiguity of procedural expectations. The dependent variables were the acquisition of procedural expectations and agreement or difference between P's and O's procedural expectations. There was a net of twenty subjects randomly assigned to each of the four experimental conditions. The subjects were introduced to a high or low status confederate at the beginning of the experiment. Their task was to playa word game with their opponent. Half of the subjects were explicitly told a word-size rule and half were not. Those told the rule operated under a condition of clarity, and those not told the word-size rule operated under a condition of ambiguity of procedural expectations. Disagreement between the subjects and the confederate occurred when they used different word-size rules to construct words and/or to score each other's words. The proportion of task trials in which the subject used the confederate's word-size rule was a measure of acquisition of the confederate's procedural expectations (word-size rule). Following the experiment, subjects were interviewed to determine their initial relative performance expectations for themselves and their opponent. There is a discussion of the serendipitous findings, interpretation of unexpected data and some suggestions for future changes in the experimental design and extensions of the theory. The data generally supported the predictions derived from the theory. The following conclusions seem justified: 1) The differential performance expectations that P holds for P' and O produce an observable difference in P's acquisition of O's procedural expectations. 2) The differences in acquisition of procedural expectations between the conditions are substantial and are in the predicted direction. 3) Conclusions 1) and 2) apply under conditions of ambiguity of procedural expectations but not under conditions of clarity.
Thesis (Ph. D.)--University of Hawaii at Manoa, 1978.
Bibliography: leaves 121-126.
xi, 126 leaves ill
Expectation (Psychology), Social psychology
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Theses for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy (University of Hawaii at Manoa). Sociology; no. 1147
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