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Expectation states theory and gender Research Paper

Overview of the expectation states theory

In the society, people seek to accomplish tasks or goals that are set. They do these in different formations or hierarchies. Therefore, the Expectations States theory explores how states hierarchies emerge in different societal situations where actors are seeking to accomplish goals collectively.

The theory seeks to explain how different factors affect the accomplishment of goals by the actors. It also explains how the different states of the actors affect the expectations as they orient themselves towards the task which they are handling.

Task orientation and collective orientation are the key foundations of the conditions on which the theory bases. Differences in performance among actors are derived from status characteristics, which are the social attributes of individuals who are performing the task.

Among the most notable status characteristic, is gender. Different characteristics are likened either male or female. Status features can be either diffuse or specific.

Diffuse status characteristics bear generalized expectations, which are integrated on the expectations for any level of competence in a specific task. Certain status characteristics bear cultural expectations for specified competences; competencies assigned to the performance of specific tasks (Delamater, 2006).

A lot of social psychology experiments have been performed which have subjected the expectations states theory to empirical evaluations. Most of the empirical studies have been focusing on how the status characteristic especially gender plays out in group roles. Competences about the tasks to be performed in groups are affected by perceptions on gender (Delamater, 2006).

Gender has been cited as one of the best examples of diffuse status characteristics. Cultural believes on gender which is widely shared carry the expectations that men are more competent in doing most things.

There are also widely shared assumptions; that men do perform better in certain tasks like mechanical work while women do better in other tasks for instance nurturing. All these status characteristics play out in different group roles which are assigned to groups bearing all the genders.

Status beliefs results in stereotyping of groups. The behaviors of individuals in groups are affected by beliefs on status characteristics, which are transformed to performance expectations. This forms the basis of the status generalization theory which is one of the min sub-theories of the expectation states theory (Delamater, 2006).

Gender differences impact on interpersonal behaviors in different ways. This has been explored in many social researches. Many relatively ancient theories expounding on gender differences in performance of groups have been basing on theories related to sex roles.

However, according to the research that was done differences in gender is not consistent in task groups as has been explained in different sex role approaches. The evaluation and the characters of actors of a similar gender often pay out differently when the actors are subjected to differing situations.

The behavior of males as well as females ranges with the social circumstances facing them. The evaluation of both males and females are the same when they are both subjected to a similar situation. Males and females portray unilateral forms of behavior when they are exposed to similar social circumstances. Status characteristics theory is a fairly recent explanation of gender differences in different tasks and roles (Delamater, 2006).

Gender in interpersonal task roles

The argument behind the primary status characteristic is that evaluation and behavioral task differences have to be observed mostly when gender is considered a diffuse status feature. The supportive argument is that gender differences in performance expectations have to result to variations in behavioral profiles between men and women in mixed-sex groups.

Behavior can be treated as being a function of performance expectations is impacted upon by the nature of the task that is being performed. This is because tasks are identified as either being masculine or feminine with only a few tasks being considered to be neutral; they can be performed by either gender (Wagner & Berger, 1997).

Each gender has a task advantage when working on tasks that are deemed to fall under the. Therefore, the assumption is that the gender with the task advantage has to be seen as being more competitive compared to the other gender.

This means that the opposite of this is true where the gender that is working on a task deemed to belong to a different gender is disadvantaged. This brings about discouragement of different genders to perform certain tasks with competition only prevailing in the natural tasks.

Many cultures still confer high status on the male gender when they are working that tasks that are considered to be natural (Wagner & Berger, 1997).

Gender wage gap and expectations in the labor industry

Gender expectations also play out in the labor industry; job expectations. Gender wage gap in the labor industry can to a wide extent attributed to gender perceptions. Different genders make different choices, which affect their performance on the job.

Different genders have different chores, which affect their expectations on work and off work. The expectations of workers can be a very significant determinant of gender gaps. There is a model which was developed basing on the Bayesian updating.

For each gender in this model, the corresponding parent gives information that is basis upon which children make expectations. Therefore, the past differences in choices and preferences over cross gender occupations have an impact on the belief of the prevailing generation and may pose even more adverse effects.

Even though, men and women may have similar preferences, their choice of careers often varies. In discharging work roles, the expectations of discrimination are eminent and will often have long-run impacts on the gender that feels discriminated against. Most often, women are on the receiving end when it comes to gender discrimination in labor with only few cases applying tom men (Filippin & Ichino, 2005).

Therefore, it is evident that the expectations of men and women at work are a force behind the performance in their work roles. More often than not, women have lower expectations on the performance or discharge of duties which is the reason why they come lower in performance ranks.

Therefore, the status of female when it comes to jobs is mostly low because of they set their expectations lower. This is aggravated by other factors like gender discrimination further bringing down the status of the feminine gender.

This is supportive of the empirical outcomes of the expectation status concept. The expectations of different genders over work begin when they are in the universities where men set high standards of work expectations than women.

Therefore, men end up advancing more on jobs than women. This is not an obvious case as there are exceptions. A number of women are sensitized by the empirical outcomes of status expectations thence end up setting high expectations, which propel then to greater heights in the labor industry (Filippin & Ichino, 2005).

Gender, Hierarchy in Leadership

Gender stereotypes have been, for a long time, argued to be a substantial barrier of excellence performance women in strategic leadership posts in the society. Gender expectations affect the ability and the urge of different gender groups in accessing or ascending to leadership.

The rising of women into high leadership position in both the private and the public sectors has been raising questions over the long held outcome of status expectations theory. The 21st century has seen the number of women rising and assuming bigger leadership positions in different public positions.

Women have been influenced socially by the resurgence in the number of feminine movement and activists. These have helped to position women by boosting their motivation and expectations and thence their status (Carli & Eagly, 2001).

Gender disparities are still playing an active role in social development patterns. There is a wide gap in the ration of men to women in leadership. The expectations of women are still ranked low by the society because of the low held opinion and expectations of them.

The hierarchies in power are still favoring the men more than women. Women are classified as a weaker sex; a factor that enhances to inferiority attitude in them (Carli & Eagly, 2001).

Expectation states and influence networks

Efforts have been made to link the attitude change theory, social influence network theory and the effect control theory to the status expectations theory. Both theories link up in one aspect, which are performance expectations.

The interpersonal relations in task groups are affected by sentiments and attitudes of the gender groups. The attitudes of group members in the status expectations theory are not consensual. The expectations are shaped by pre-formed attitudes of the individual members in group tasks. The attitudes of men are often similar.

The same case applies to the attitude of women. Even in situations where there is consensus in group tasks, men and women will have internal differing attitudes about the situation.

The sentiments of different group members arise from interpersonal influences, which arise from the sentiments from the members of a task group. Gender plays an important role in the process (Friedkin & Johnsen, 2003).

Gender roles in social influence

Research in social influence patterns has shown that men have more influence as compared to women. This influence of gender in social influence is nonetheless dependent on a number of moderating factors. Influent ability in social influence is impacted, by the way, in which women and men are influenced in social relations.

The exerting of social influence has varying degrees depending on gender. Men are deemed to have more influence in social issues as they are more assertive. The composition of different genders in interactions helps in moderating gender differences in groups.

The expectation states theory posits that the effects of gender on interactions depend on gender salience as well as status characteristic. Women are often ranked low in status as well as expectations (Carli, 2001).

Therefore in social interactions, men are usually graded higher in terms of resistance levels. The resistance of the male gender to the female influence is usually higher. This is because of the status of men in the society.

Men are boosted by the expectations on them. All these accord power to men and help them in maintaining their status in the society. Gender is thus a strong status feature as explored in the expectations status theory. Task competence affects social influence ability of both men and women but in varying degrees (Carli, 2001).

Gender stereotypes and social roles

Gender stereotypes are also influenced by the emotional vulnerability of different gender groups. The societal culture has held the view that men are different from women. Women and men end up conforming to stereotypes that are gender born because of emotional vulnerability.

Emotional vulnerability results in conformity to stereotypes because of normative expectations. This can easily be tested in relationships. The social role theory is more proactive in the explanation of conformity trends to gender stereotypes.

Women and men behave in certain gender-typed ways. This is because the social roles that are performed by each of the gender group are linked to different expectations and calls for different skills. Because of the social roles that they play, women seem to be more emotional. Examples of these tasks include caring for children.

In situations which do not involve the stereotyped roles, men and women are argued to behave in a similar manner. Women are more proactive in mentoring relationships as opposed to men because of the position they occupy in the discharge of most social roles (Vogel, Wester, Heesacker & Madon, 2003).

Gender, expressive traits and parenting expectations

As individuals grow, they are continuously socialized into certain ways of behavior. This is done through parenting. When they reach the adulthood stage, there are expectations of them to be in a position to perform certain social roles. Therefore, expectations are nurtured from unusually early stages of growth of people.

Both boys and girls react differently to the nurturance by their parents. Men and women have different gender traits. These traits have an effect on the parenting expectations of both young men and women. Options and decision channels that are exposed to the teenagers end up affecting their expectations.

These may either solidify the expectations or they may disperse the expectations of orientation towards certain social roles and responsibilities. Women tend to view family roles as being central to them. Being a woman is likened to being a mother thereby the assumption of motherly roles begins this early.

Gender traits and changes in the societal view affect the expectations in the assumption of parenting roles. The roles of men and women are becoming more integrated and resulting in a shift in expectations on social roles of both genders (Yaremko & Lawson, 2007).

Gender evaluation in role groups

Women and men evaluate themselves differently. Girls have been argued to evaluate themselves highly in minor groups as compared to their self-evaluation in large groups. Women tend to be less confident in large groups and will usually have low expectations when in such groups.

Gender is likened to status and prestige and posited in the expectation status theory. Therefore, differences exist in the way women and men evaluate their power in the society.

As a result of the effects of the status theory, it can easily be observed that men are more powerful when it comes to group roles as compared to their female counterparts (Martinot, Désert & Redersdorff, 2008).

Men often take with them the gender privileges which have been awarded to them by the society. This explains why they perform better even in the seemingly female dominated professions. Even in groups with a majority composition of female, men are more proactive in attaining the outcomes of the group.

The status that has been accorded to men by the women has led to low self-rating of women by women themselves. Belonging to a minority class is likened to being put under a magnifying glass as in the glass ceiling concept.

Members belonging to the minority status do not only judge themselves but are also judged by others. Women often emerge with a low status in majority work or task groups (Martinot, Désert & Redersdorff, 2008).

Gender communication and expectation states

The tasks that are performed in the society are judged and evaluated differently depending on the gender of the actors. In leadership, women are usually evaluated on a lower scale. The scale depends on competence and the likeability.

In the evaluation of gender roles, different cues are used and are integrated with theory to bring out the results which help in bringing out the results. The results are further used in coining expectations of the actor. In work situations, women are given a favorable evaluation on promotion and hiring functions, but not on competence evaluation.

The cognitive abilities in the lens differ between genders. Gender assumptions affect the rating of actors basing on their traits. It encourages stereotyping which in most cases distorts the gender status roles on certain tasks.

It widens the status gap between men and women, which is sometimes too wide; which might not be the case. Constructive processes are more prevalent in gender perception, and they end up impacting on the expectation of genders when it comes to the discharge of roles (Koch, 2004).

Men and women have different aspirations, which all affect the formulation of expectations on both groups. This is evident in the role congruency theory which is a sub-theory of the status expectations theory.

According to the sub-theory, women have to be judged lower on aspects of likeability especially when a high visual dominance ratio is used. This is because women more often violate gender expectations.

Competence ratings do not post significant differences in gender rates as it is appearing in the empirical analysis of the expectation status theory (Koch, 2004).

Gender perceptions and status in technical disciplines

Males and females are argued to originate from different sets of experiences. Therefore, gender is a formidable force in the expectations and perceptions of both male and female. This is supportive of the societal structures and orientation which socialize men and women in different ways.

This ends up even affecting the choice of careers as has been seen in different learning institutions. The male and female students rate themselves differently when it comes to different technical courses. Males are rated higher in terms of attitudes on technical abilities and courses like computer knowledge and proficiency.

They even end up performing well in the technical subjects thereby upgrading their status and raising expectations. Women add to these expectations and status by depending on male students to help them out in these courses.

However, this is not always this is not always the case as it has been found that other surrounding factors like exposure to technology affect the perceptions and expectations (Adibifar, 2007).


Adibifar, K. (2007) “Students’ perceptions of the use of technology: Does students’ gender make a difference in their perceptions of using technology in teaching?”. Electronic Journal of Sociology, Iss. 1, PP. 1-11.

Carli, L. L. (2001) “Gender and Social Influence”. Journal of Social Issues, 57(4): 725-741.

Carli, L. L & Eagly, A. H. (2001) “Gender, hierarchy and Leadership: An Introduction”. Journal of Social Issues, 57(4): pp. 629-636.

Delamater, J. (2006). Handbook of social psychology. Berlin: Springer.

Filippin, A & Ichino, A. (2005) “Gender wage gap in expectations and realizations”. Labor Economics, 12: pp. 125–145.

Friedkin, N. E & Johnsen, E. C. (2003) “Attitude change, affect control, and expectation states in the formation of influence networks”. Power and Status Advances in Group Processes, 20, 1–29.

Koch, S. C. (2004). Constructing gender: A lens-model inspired gender communication approach. Sex Roles, 51(3-4), 171-186.

Martinot, D., Désert, M & Redersdorff, S. (2008) “When Girls Evaluate Themselves Better Than Boys in Minority Groups: Role of the Performance Context”. Current Research in Social Psychology, 13(20).

Vogel, D. L., Wester, S. R., Heesacker, M & Madon, S. (2003) “Confirming Gender Stereotypes: A Social Role Perspective”. Sex Roles, 48(11-12): pp. 519-528.

Wagner, D. G. & Berger, J. (1997) “Gender and Interpersonal Task Behaviors: Status Expectation Accounts”. Sociological Perspectives, 40(1): pp. 1-32.

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