The generation and effects of a stigma in small groups: a formal theory and test



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Drawing from the vast literature on stigmas, theories of status generalizations and affect, this study employs a formal framework to delineate among different kinds of stigmas and different processes by which they might operate. This study then considers the case of a particular type of stigma, a behavioral stigma, a label that is obtained from past behavior. The formalization distinguishes how knowledge of a particular type of stigma operates through group members who then cast an ?other? into a stigmatized role with special attention to affect and behavior of the stigmatized individual and the other group members. Additionally, I am able to study the developmental process of stigma because, in the particular theoretical case I consider, the stigmatized individual is initially unaware of the stigma. The findings indicate that stigma were created and did have an effect on individuals and groups. While the observable power and prestige effects were much more pronounced for measures of content versus measures of amount of interaction stigmatized groups were characterized by more disapproval, fewer agreements and more interruptions than were nonstigmatized groups. Further, those who were stigmatized had less influence than other group members. In terms of feelings, there was support for the hypotheses suggesting that stigmatized individuals rate both themselves and their groups more negatively than do nonstigmatized group members. Also, those who were not stigmatized rated the stigmatized person more negatively than others. While there were no significant differences between Stigmatized and Control groups relative to happiness or group cohesion and efficiency, those in the Control groups were more committed to their groups than were those in the Stigmatized groups. This study contributes to the large literature on stigma by examining one kind of stigma. It also contributes to several established literatures in social psychological theory. This study has implications for the power of the social construction of stigma and consequently for the power of social construction in the dismantling of stigma.