ISSN 0439-755X
CN 11-1911/B

Acta Psychologica Sinica ›› 2013, Vol. 45 ›› Issue (11): 1283-1294.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1041.2013.01283

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Effects of Stigmatized Identities on Interpersonal Influence and Social Distance

ZHAO Delei   

  1. (College of Humanities and Social Sciences, Harbin Engineering University, Harbin 150001, China)
  • Received:2012-12-19 Published:2013-11-25 Online:2013-11-25
  • Contact: ZHAO Delei


In order to reveal the processes through which status differentiation and stigmatization occur in daily interactions between migrant workers and out-groups, the present study investigated the effects a stigmatized status characteristic had on influence in the interaction and on the social rejection suffered during this process. This is a multiple site experimental study. Participants were 151 undergraduate students from freshman to senior level. The participants included seventy three male students and seventy eight female students in YanTai. In the experiment, the participants cooperated with a fictitious partner through a local area network to answer questions described as measuring “contrast sensitivity ability.” On the task, participants had the opportunity to be influenced by the partners. Participants then chose partners for the next period task. In accordance with the different identities of the partners, the study has five conditions that differentiated the participants’ partners (all partners were in fact fictitious). In the control condition, the partners are described as male college students just like the participants. In two conditions, the partners are high school students with either a low or high score on an initial contrast sensitivity task. In the remaining two conditions, the partners are migrant workers with either low or high initial test scores. In the study, influence and social distance were the indicators of social status and the degree of stigmatization respectively. Influence was measured as how often participants switched answers to correspond to answers provided by partners, and social distance was measured by whether participants selected the same or a new partner for the future session., The study expects to find out that education level and task ability are status markers that affect influence. It also predicts that migrant workers identity will act as a status marker and stigma, affecting both influence and social distance. The study also predicts that the influence effects of task ability can imply a strategy to decrease the legitimacy of the existing status order. The status measurement results turned out to be that, ① in cooperative tasks, participants in the migrant workers partner group were more inclined to underestimate the partners’ performance and were less influenced by them than the participants in control group and low education partner group, ② the participants who found out that their partners were migrant workers and the partners’ score were higher than them, referred to the partners’ answers more frequently than those who were only informed of their partners’ migrant worker identity. The stigma measurement results indicated that, ① participants in the migrant workers partner group obviously intended to keep longer social distance with the partners, than the participants in control group and low education partner group, ② emphasizing partners’ significant skills in the task did not decrease the social distance that participants sought from migrant workers. The results indicate that “migrant worker” is a status characteristic and a stigmatized identity that indicates a person’s inferior position in the social hierarchy. The low performance expectation and weak influence brought about by status characteristics can be counterpoise and changed by introducing new status characteristics of the partners. However, this method did not attenuate the social distance that accompanies stigma.

Key words: performance expectation, social status, status characteristics, social distance, migrant workers in construction and decoration industry