The effect of severity of initiation on liking for a group...
November 03, 2003
Thanks to Matt Webb, I've got my hands on an abstract for a paper about difficulty of initiation into groups. According to Aronson, E. & Mills, J. (1959). The effect of severity of initiation on liking for a group. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 59, 177-181. there's a direct correlation between how difficult the process of initiation is and how much people will like the group once they have entered it.
This clearly could have implications for the maintenance and creation of online groups - and I'd be particularly interested in seeing if this kind of approach could limit the problems that so often emerge in online communities. Perhaps simply dramatically raising initiation requirements could create stronger, more heavily-bonded communities that required less in terms of overt moderation. It's particularly interesting to me because as an approach it still means that membership is still effectively open. The particularly approach they took - however - may not be easily replicable (or desirable) online. Here's an excerpt from the abstract:
Participants were undergraduate women who volunteered to participate in a study on the psychology of sex. The study testing their hypotheses was an experiment. The conceptual independent variable was the degree of severity of initiation into a group discussion. Participants were either in a severe initiation condition where they had to read 12 obscene words to an experimenter, a mild initiation condition where they read five words related to sex but were not obscene, or a control condition where no initiation was required.
After undergoing either the severe, mild, or no initiation, participants listened to a discussion by the group that they anticipated that they would be joining. After listening to the group the dependent variable of liking for the group was assessed. The experimental dependent variable was their rating of the discussion group and their rating of the participants in the group on 14 different evaluative scales (e.g., dull-interesting, intelligent-unintelligent, etc.) on scales ranging from 0 to 15.
The results for the study indicated a general pattern such that people in the severe condition liked the group and participants more than those in either the mild initiation and no initiation condition.
The paper itself is not online (but there are a number of references to it online). Should anyone have a copy that they can send to me electronically or snail-mail to me, then I'd be extremely grateful.