The Effects of an Existing and Eliminated Affirmative Action Policy on Intergroup Tension

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Title: The Effects of an Existing and Eliminated Affirmative Action Policy on Intergroup Tension
Author: Norton, Gillian Anne
Advisors: Rupert W. Nacoste, Committee Chair
Samuel Pond, Committee Member
Jim Luginbuhl, Committee Member
Abstract: The claim has been made that the policy of affirmative action has caused intergroup tension and evaluations of unfairness, therefore, the policy should be eliminated. The present investigation examined how characteristics of an existing affirmative action procedure and the elimination of affirmative action influenced evaluations of the procedure, self, other, team, and behavior of target and nontarget group members. Based on the theories of procedural justice (Thibaut & Walker, 1975, 1978; Lind & Tyler, 1988), interdependence (Kelley & Thibaut, 1978; Thibaut & Kelley, 1959), and procedural-interdependence (Nacoste, 1996), the level of procedural voice in an affirmative action policy and the method of policy elimination would have main and interaction effects on evaluations and behavior. Level of voice refers to the amount of input an individual has in a selection decision. Voice was operationalized as either high voice, the majority of the decision-making weight was applied towards one's qualifications and a marginal amount of weight toward membership in a traditionally underrepresented group, or low voice, a disproportionate amount of the decision-making weight was applied towards group membership as compared to the amount of weight applied toward one's qualifications. Method of policy elimination refers to the state of affirmative action. Abrupt elimination was operationalized as immediate policy elimination, whereas gradual elimination involved policy elimination over time. Both independent variables had control conditions, with no existing and /or eliminated policy information. Participants included 270 North Carolina State University undergraduates (134 males and 135 females). The laboratory sessions consisted of triads. Participants were informed that a role decision would occur followed by a task of manual dexterity. Affirmative action information was given in the guise of new legislation. Participants were randomly assigned based on the manipulated condition to the roles of leader, follower, and observer. The leader told the follower to complete the task under timed conditions, whose performance was assessed by the leader and observer. Upon task completion, all participants completed a questionnaire to assess evaluations of the procedure, self, other, team, and demographics. Behavioral measures included task completion time and the number of mistakes made during the task. All analyses were conducted within an ANOVA framework with post hoc tests. Participants' evaluations of the fairness of a high and low voice affirmative action policy did not differ statistically. However, having no affirmative action information led to negative policy evaluations and lower evaluations of the other participant. The influence of a high versus a low voice policy did emerge in participant behavior. In the face of low voice versus high voice information, participants made almost twice as many mistakes and required more task completion time. In addition, the team was evaluated more positively only when high voice affirmative action was given. The features of the existing affirmative action policy and the method of elimination did influence ratings of tension in the self and other. Procedural tension for the self was associated with the gradual elimination of a high voice policy due to the loss of one's voice and a longer period to contemplate the implications. General tension for the other was associated with the abrupt elimination of a low voice policy due to a self-protection need and a lack of time to accommodate. In conclusion the features of an existing policy and the method of elimination influence how people evaluate the policy, self, other, team, and behavior. These findings highlight the practical implications for the method of policy implementation and the future state of the policy.
Date: 2004-01-16
Degree: MS
Discipline: Psychology

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