Consensus and the creation of status beliefs

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Citation: Cecilia L. Ridgeway, Shelley Joyce. Correll (2006) Consensus and the creation of status beliefs. Social Forces (RSS)
Internet Archive Scholar (search for fulltext): Consensus and the creation of status beliefs
Tagged: Sociology (RSS) status (RSS), experimental (RSS)


Ridgeway and Correll offer a model for the way that status groups can be formed around visible categories or membership if visible groups. They argue that is a salient social difference is shown consistently linked with particular status rankings, that individuals will form an opinion that links status and the category.

In their description of status beliefs, the authors argue that status believes in-group favoritism in that everyone agrees that, in general, the low status group is seen as less competent, that status beliefs are generalizations about groups or categories of people, and that these beliefs are a type of social reputation. This final point is key in that it focuses on second order and third beliefs. Second order believes would be what one thinks another would believe while a third order belief would be what a generalized other will think.

Ridgeway and Correll ask, "what could cause people to form generalizations about whole groups of people?" Ridgeway and Correll suggest that "inter-category encounters" lead to these beliefs when they present a member of an outside category with persistent and consistent information on that social category. Their offer the formal hypothesis:

"Participants will form strongly differentiated status beliefs from encounters in which an enacted association between a categorical difference and markers of status and competence is consensually accepted. In otherwise similar encounters in which such an enacted association is challenged, however, participants will form weaker, less differentiated status beliefs about the social difference" (p. 437).

The authors tested their experience by using a Klee vs. Kandinsky group status. Individuals were put in four person teams and asked to do a group task where each person was in a separate room. They had a taped confederate who was labeled as part of their category interacting with a person who was not in either a deferential or assertive way that was connected to status beliefs.

Users were then asked how most people would rate the competence or status of the person they interacted with. The results showed that individuals in supportive consensus based environments were clearly associated with picking up the status-belief of the group but in comparable non-supportive environments, respondents beliefs were much weaker. Personal beliefs were closely related to the status beliefs. That said, a break in consensus encouraged people to form their "own" views (i.e., first-order views that were different than third-order views).

Theoretical and Practical Relevance

Ridgeway and Correll's article is not widely cited, but has been used by a number of higher-profile papers looking at status and the role that audiences play.