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LEA, C. -. (2002). Attitudes and Perceptions About Sorority Women and Stereotype Usage. National Undergraduate Research Clearinghouse, 5. Available online at http://www.webclearinghouse.net/volume/. Retrieved October 6, 2022 .

Attitudes and Perceptions About Sorority Women and Stereotype Usage

Sponsored by: MUKUL BHALLA (bhalla@loyno.edu)
The stereotypes used in association with Greek sorority women were investigated. The participants circled adjectives from a list that described a woman in a photograph. They viewed one woman that was associated with a Greek organization and one woman who was not associated with a Greek organization. No evidence was found to support the hypothesis that sex of the participant or age of the participant had an effect on the adjectives circled. However, there was support for the other hypotheses that Greeks would use more positive stereotypes than non-Greeks. The results from the analysis did not indicate that there was a marked difference in stereotypes used in classifying Greek versus non-Greek women however, the particular woman represented in the photograph did influence the adjectives used. The data followed similar patterns as other published research. The data provided no real insight into stereotype usage.

Fraternities and sororities were founded in the late 1800s as organizations to foster the literacy and good morals of youth (Peters and Lutovsky, 2001). They were meant to be the leaders of society and form a better community. Their bonds of brotherhood and sisterhood were meant to bind the individuals together and guide their children to become the next leaders of society. The members of the Greek Letter Organizations were supposed to be the best of the best and represent the most prestigious level of students on campus (Scott, 1965). However, the current image of sororities and fraternities has drastically changed from when the organizations were first founded. The current image of sororities and fraternities coincides with “the Animal House perception of what fraternity and sorority organizations should be” (Peters and Lutovsky, 2001). This image is maintained by the division between those who are Greek and those who are not Greek. Many people tend to view out-groups (groups that they don’t belong to) as less variable than their own groups (Ryan & Bogart, 1997). In the study done by Ryan and Bogart (1997), the researchers followed the membership season of 84 pledges and asked them to rate the in-group variability. The researchers surveyed the new members four times throughout their new member season, once at the beginning, after three months, after six months, and after nine months. The new members were initiated between the sixth and the ninth months. They found that as time went by, the more familiar the new members of the sororities became with the individual older members, the more the group was perceived as variable. As a member of the group, you tend to know more about the group and are less likely to perceive the group along stereotypical lines (Cokley, Miller, Cunnigham, Motoike, King & Awad, 2001). This would point to people who are not as familiar with sororities to judge them along stereotypical lines more often than the people who were members of the sorority. In another study done by Ryan and Bogart (2001), the researchers looked at the accuracy of the in-group and out-group stereotypes. They found that new members looked at the sorority in a highly idealized way and judged them to be more stereotypical. As the new members’ knowledge of the older sorority members grew, their use of stereotypes diminished. Another effect of joining the sorority was that the new members started to use more stereotypes in describing others that were not part of the sorority (Ryan and Bogart, 2001). It seems that the more that an individual identified with one group, the more likely that the individual was to stereotype the out-group. Members of an in-group also tend to base their self-perceptions on the value of being in that group and are more likely to ascribe positive characteristics to the in-group and negative characteristics to the out-group when confronted with an out-group that they perceive as of higher status than their own (Ellemers, Van Rijswijk, Roefs, & Simons, 1997). In their study, Ellemers et al. set up two groups with similar goals and activities but called one progressive and one traditional. The group that was perceived to be of higher status was the progressive group. The members of the traditional group used more positive stereotypes when describing themselves than the progressive group did. They also used more negative stereotypes when describing the progressive group and said that, overall, the progressive group was more stereotypical than the traditional group (Ellemers et al.). This helps to make the point that people who do not belong to a Greek Letter Organization are going to be more likely to use negative stereotypes when describing sorority women because the non-Greeks are an in-group of their own and all in-groups classify themselves in a more positive way than an out-group (Ellemers et al.). The out-group, in general, tends to hold a more negative view of the in-group due to the fact that there is a visible distinction. Members of the out-group tend to be more derogatory towards members of the in-group because of the perceived difference (Noel, Branscombe, & Wann, 1995). In the study done by Noel, Branscombe, and Wann (1995), a member of the out-group was shown to be more derogative of the out-group when they were presented with the possibility of becoming a member of the in-group. When the in-group denied them, the individual became more derogative of the in-group in an effort to become part of the out-group once again. When an individual belongs to an in-group, they improve their perception of an in-group and necessarily stereotype the out-group to make their own group look better (Ryan and Bogart, 1997). The gap between the out-group and the in-group tends to create hostility from the out-group and validate the in-group’s self image (Cokley et al, 2001). When an in-group feels threatened, the image that the in-group has grows stronger and the members think that the image is necessarily better than the out-group. This validation by the in-group only causes the out-group to confirm the negative stereotypes that they use in classification of the in-group. Another aspect of belonging to a Greek Letter Organization, the in-group, is that the officials of the University expect a higher standard out of the Greeks (Whipple and Sullivan, 1998; Shonrock 1998). Greeks are expected to be the leaders of the University and are held to higher standards by both the faculty and other officials. This distinction between Greeks and non-Greeks further divides the two groups and perpetuates more stereotypes. In addition to the high standards set by the University, there is also considerable pressure on the sorority women to be well-rounded students as well as to conform to the feminine stereotypes of society (Kashubeck, Marchand-Martella, Neal, & Larson, 1997). A sorority girl must be the perfect student as well as being attractive and feminine. In the study done by Kashubeck, Marchand-Martella, Neal and Larson, the researchers studied the likelihood of sorority women being bulimic. In their study, they found that sorority women were significantly more likely to be bulimic than non-Greek women due to the pressures of conforming to the feminine role and the expectations of the University. The stereotypes that others ascribe to them make the sorority women feel stress and tension, which leads them to relieve the tension by becoming bulimic, which in turn becomes yet another stereotype applied to sorority women. In addition to the prevalence of eating disorders, more Greeks have also turned to alcohol in order to deal with the pressures of college. In a study done by Danielson, Taylor and Hartford (2001), the alcohol consumption by Greeks has gone up. One explanation is that the pressures to be the best have made the Greek members more prone to drinking. This increase in alcohol consumption only leads to the stereotypes being confirmed in the eyes of the out-groups. Greeks on campus form a unique in-group that the majority of the students cannot belong to. This marks Greeks as a highly stereotyped group, as out-groups tend to classify the unknown- in this case Greeks- in a more stereotypical manner. Also, since the members of the out-group try to justify not belonging to the in-group, they view the in-group in a more negative manner (and themselves in a more positive light). In this study, we examined the frequency of negative stereotypes used by participants when describing sorority women. We did this by the average of negative adjectives circled when the participants viewed two photographs. It was predicted that the more negative the stereotypes, the more likely that the participant was not a member of a Greek Letter Organization. We also predict that male, non-Greek members who are older will have more negative stereotypes about women in sororities because the males are out-groups to females in every sense (being both different in gender and non-affiliated versus the girls in a sorority).

ParticipantsWe used a convenience sample of 80 participants, with 60 females and 20 males, which consisted of undergraduate students from the Loyola campus ranging from 18-23 years of age. However, one male participant was thrown out due to failure to read the directions on the survey and tasks. The final sample consisted of 79 total participants, with 60 female and 19 male. There were 21 freshmen, 25 sophomores, 15 juniors and 18 seniors. There were 66 non-Greeks and 13 Greeks among the participants. The participants were recruited by using the Psychology Department’s Human Subject Pool, by announcing the study in classes, and by directly approaching various groups. The Subject Pool was used by posting a sign-up sheet on the board near the Psychology Department offices and consists of the freshmen psychology majors. The researchers also announced the study in their other classes and asked for participants for the study. Participation was on a voluntary basis but the freshmen from the Human Resource Pool received class credit, according to the professor’s guidelines.

Materials The test packet consisted of two informed consent forms, one for their records and one for the investigators. The task consisted of two pictures with two women (See Appendix A). One woman was associated with a sorority (meaning that she wore a jersey with Sorority letters) while the other woman was not (meaning that she did not wear a jersey with Sorority letters). In the photographs, the woman was depicted as standing with two other women looking at her. In one photograph, she wears a jersey, but in the second photograph, she wears a plain shirt. In the third photograph taken, a different woman wears a jersey and stands in the same position as the first woman. The last photograph showed the second woman without the jersey and dressed in a plain shirt. The first woman had her hair down while the second woman had her hair in pigtails. Each woman was roughly the same build and weight. Below each picture was a list of adjectives, which the participants were allowed to choose from to describe the female in the photograph. The list of adjectives comes from the Meyers-Briggs Traits Inventory website (www.recruit-china.com/Career/MBTI) and describes personality traits. The Intro to Research and Statistics & Methods combined class was also asked to submit adjectives. The adjectives from the class were solicited via email and each student was asked to submit stereotypes, both positive and negative, in the form of an adjective list. There were 5 participants from the class that generated a mostly negative list of stereotypes (such as “snobby” and “fake”). The website contained mostly positive adjectives. The final adjective list contained a positive, neutral and negative version of a characteristic, such as Selective (positive), Exclusive (neutral), and Elitist (negative). The adjectives were the same for each photograph. After completing the task, the participants turned it in to the researchers and received the second part of the packet that consisted of a survey that covered the attitudes and perceptions about sorority women (See Appendix B). The survey consisted of questions rating sorority women on a Likert scale (where a 1=strongly disagree and a 5=strong agree) with questions asking to rate things like the compassion of sorority girls to attractiveness, for example, most sorority girls are attractive. They were also asked to rate the characteristics of sorority women. Questions ranged from rating sorority women on a continuous scale of an adjective, like talkative (1) to not talkative (5). The scale scores were computed into mean scores with Cronbach’s alpha equal to .7108. The second part also consisted of demographic questions with specific questions concerning the affiliation of the participant with Greek Letter Organizations, like whether or not they were in a sorority or fraternity and why or why not.

Design and ProcedureThis was an experimental study within groups where the independent variable was whether Greek membership affected the dependent variable, perception of the females by the participants. Two women were photographed in similar situations but with one associated with a sorority and the other not. The two photographs, age, sex, and Greek identity (either yes or no) of the participants were the independent variables. The dependent variable was the set of adjectives used in describing the women in the photograph. The pictures that the participants received were randomized and counterbalanced so that one person might see Female A as a sorority woman and Female B as non-sorority and the next might see Female A as non-sorority and Female B as a sorority woman. A sorority woman was defined as a woman that had chosen to be in a Greek Letter Organization and showed this choice by wearing a jersey with her sorority letters on it. The participants arrived at the classroom where the testing was to take place and given two informed consent forms. After reading through the form, they signed it if they desired to participate and gave one copy to the researchers. They were reminded that they had the option of withdrawing consent at any time during the study and leaving. Then they received the task part of the survey, where they looked at the photographs and chose adjectives from the list that we supplied. After the participants finished the task, they were given a survey that asked them questions about the characteristics of the sorority girls, like attractiveness, talkativeness, whether they went to parties or not, etc. The last section was the demographic information, which also included whether or not the participant was affiliated with a Greek Letter Organization. After the participants finished, they were told that the study wanted to look at the perceptions of the participants about sorority women. After the debriefing, the participants were told when the results would be posted and were allowed to leave.

All calculations were done using SPSS. The numbers of positive and negative adjectives for the sorority woman were added up to get a mean for each subcategory – positive sorority mean and negative sorority mean. The same was done for the adjectives of the non-sorority woman. Neutral adjectives that were circled were not scored. An independent t-test was performed to see if there was significance between adjectives chosen for the non-sorority woman and the sorority woman and sex of the participant. No significance was found between men and women for positive adjectives chosen for a sorority woman (t(77)=1.35, p=.179), for negative adjectives chosen for a sorority woman (t(77)=.090, n.s.), for positive adjectives chosen for a non-sorority woman (t(77)=1.103, n.s.), or for negative adjectives chosen for a non-sorority woman (t(77)=-.150, n.s.). However, there was significance between the number of negative adjectives circled for the girl with her hair down versus the number circled for the girl with her hair in pigtails (t(77)=2.425, p=.018), even though which girl was identified as the sorority girl was counterbalanced across participants. Further analysis was done to determine the effect of the sorority manipulation for each stimulus person. An ANOVA analysis was performed. The girl with her hair down (see Appendix A, first picture) received more negative adjectives whether she was affiliated with a Greek Letter Organization or not. When the girl with her hair down was affiliated with a Greek Letter Organization there was statistical significance for the number negative adjectives circled of F(1,40)=17.544, with p<.001. The girl with her hair in pigtails (see Appendix A, second picture) had a significant statistic for number of positive adjectives circled of F(1,37)=4.933, with p=.033. There was a correlation between the scale scores for Section A and Section B (r (79)=.576, p<.001). Section A consisted of traits on a pole, where lower numbers were more negative stereotypes and higher numbers were more positive stereotypes. Section B was the Likert scale and lower numbers were more negative stereotypes and higher numbers were more positive stereotypes. There was also a correlation between the scale scores for the Overall Scale (combined scale of Section A and Section B) and Section A (r(79)=.812, p<.001) and Section B (r(79)=.944, p<.001). There was no significant relationship between age and the scores on the sections of the survey. There was also no significant difference between males and females and the scores on the sections of the survey. Using an independent t-test, there was a significant difference between Greeks and non-Greeks. Greeks used more positive stereotypes than non-Greeks on the Section B scale (t(77)=3.988, p<.001) and the Overall Scale (t(77)=3.433, p=.001). There was no overall statistical significance between seniors, juniors, freshmen, and sophomores. With an ANOVA analysis, there was a statistical significance on the answers to Section B scale (F(3,75)=2.956, p=.038). Upon further testing, there was a statistical significance between sophomores and juniors on the answers for Section B, with the juniors having more negative stereotypes. From Tukey’s test, there was a mean difference of -.3977 with a significance of p=.023.

Hypothesis 1 The purpose of this research project was to examine the stereotypes the participants used when classifying Greek females. The first hypothesis was that non-Greeks would use more negative adjectives when describing the sorority woman than Greeks would. There was support for the first hypothesis. The participants affiliated with the Greek system had more positive stereotypes than non-Greeks when classifying the sorority woman. This trend follows along with some of the other research on in-group out-group bias. The out-group has been shown to use more negative stereotypes when classifying the in-group (Ryan and Bogart, 2001) because the out-group (non-Greeks) forms its own in-group. However, any similarities between this study and earlier research were difficult to find, as the earlier research did not pertain solely to stereotype usage. Earlier studies focused more on formation of stereotypes over time. The current study was examining the prevalence of stereotype usage based on in-group –out-group bias.

Hypothesis 2The second hypothesis was that older males would have more negative stereotypes than any other group. There was no support for the second hypothesis. There were no affect of the sex of the participant on the types of stereotypes used, nor was there any affect of age on the types of stereotypes used. No significance could be found. The lowest p value was .179, which indicates that there was no effect from the independent variable (Greek versus non-Greek) on the dependent variable (adjectives circled). The study also found that there was a significant difference between the class rankings for sophomores and juniors, with the juniors using more negative stereotypes, but there was not an overall trend in older students (juniors and seniors) versus younger students (freshmen and sophomores). No overall trend in age was found. The difference in age and stereotype usage was not mirrored in any other study found. A possible problem with this study was small number of participants, especially males. The study had low power. If more males had been available, the study would have been able to fully examine whether or not the males had more negative stereotypes. There weren’t enough male participants to subdivide them for further analysis. With more subjects, a more general statement could have been applied to the population. Another problem with this study was the fact that the participants judged one of the girls in the photographs more harshly, whether she was in a sorority or not. The participants based it on her personal appearance, which was not dissimilar from the other girl. The participants were more negative towards the girl with her hair down than towards the girl with her hair in pigtails. There was no explanation available for the researchers. If there had been no discrepancies between the girls, a more accurate accounting of the stereotypes used to describe a sorority girl and the non-sorority girl would have been attained. A pilot test of the girls used in the study would be highly recommended so that there wasn’t a discrepancy between the two girls. The first hypothesis, that non-Greeks would have more negative stereotypes than Greeks when classifying the sorority woman, was supported by the data collected. The second hypothesis, that older males would have more negative stereotypes than any other group, was not supported by the data. This signifies that the use of stereotypes was based on in-group out-group biases of Greek versus non-Greek, but not on sex or age. This implies that people use stereotypes for quick classification of individuals that they view as dissimilar to themselves. This also implies that people tend to not divide themselves along lines of gender as much in dealing with a group like sororities. They are more likely to try to focus on the bigger differences, like being in a sorority. In future studies, looking more in depth at the specific stereotypes used would prove most interesting. The study could see if there is a more common stereotype used in classification of specific groups. Stereotype usage is a common day occurrence. Everyone uses stereotypes to quickly classify people in their lives. It is an easy way for us to remember things. However, it is also an easy way for us to overlook people because the stereotype that we have of them tells us that they are “dumb” or “snobby.” This study hoped to make people aware that they were using stereotypes to classify what they didn’t recognize as their in-group. It was hoped that some people thought a moment before circling adjectives on the list. It was also hoped that this study would demonstrate a better understanding of intergroup relations. While there is truth in stereotypes, we must remember that there is always room to reevaluate what we know.

Cokley, K., Miller, K., Cunningham, D., Motoike, J., King, A., & Awad, G. (2001). Developing an Instrument to Assess College Students’ Attitudes Toward Pledging and Hazing in Greek Letter organization. College Student Journal, 35, 451-456.Danielson, C., Taylor, S. H., & Hartford, M. (2001). Examining the Complex Relationships between Greek Life and Alcohol: A Literature Review. NASPA, 38, 451-465.Ellemers, N., Van Rijswijk, W., Roefs, M. & Simons, C. (1997). Bias in Intergroup Perceptions: Balancing Group Identity with Social Reality. Annual Reviews: Psychology Online, 53, 161-168. Kashubeck, S., Marchand-Martella, N., Neal, C., and Larson, C. (1997). Sorority Membership, Campus Pressures, and Bulimic Symptomatology on College Women: A Preliminary Investigation. Journal of College Student Development, 38, 40-48.Meyers-Briggs Traits Inventory. (n.d.) Retrieved on October 7,2002, from http://www.recruit-china.com/Career/MBTINoel, J. G., Branscombe, N. R., & Wann, D. L. (1995). Peripheral In-group Membership Status and Public Negativity Toward Out-groups. Journal Personality and Social Psychology, 68, 127.Ryan, C. S., & Bogart, L. M. (1997). Development of New Group Members’ In-group and Out-group Stereotypes: Changes in Perceived Variability and Ethnocentrism. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 73, 719-732.Ryan, C.S., & Bogart, L.M. (2001). Longitudinal Changes in the Accuracy of New Group Members’ In-Group and Out-Group Stereotypes. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 37, 118-133.Scott, William A. (1965). Values and Organizations: A Study of Fraternities and Sororities. Chicago: Rand McNally and Co.Shonrock, M. D. (1998). Standards and Expectations for Greek Letter Organizations. New Directions for Student Services, 81, 79-85.Whipple, E.G., & Sullivan, E.G. (1998). Greek Letter Organizations: Communities of Learners? New Directions for Student Services, 81, 7-18.

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Survey (Consisting of Parts A, B, & C)A. In the following list of descriptions, please rate on a scale of 1 to 5, according to where you think that the subject of the sentence ranks. Sorority girls are: not talkative talkative 1 2 3 4 5 shy not shy 1 2 3 4 5 easygoing not easygoing 1 2 3 4 5 not smart smart 1 2 3 4 5 personable not personable 1 2 3 4 5 gossips not gossips 1 2 3 4 5cheerful not cheerful 1 2 3 4 5party goers not party goers 1 2 3 4 5 feminine not feminine 1 2 3 4 5 sincere not sincere 1 2 3 4 5 tactful not tactful 1 2 3 4 5 pretty not pretty 1 2 3 4 5 soft-spoken not soft spoken 1 2 3 4 5 childlike not childlike 1 2 3 4 5 thin not thin 1 2 3 4 5 jealous not jealous 1 2 3 4 5 sympathetic not sympathetic 1 2 3 4 5 leader follower 1 2 3 4 5 considerate not considerate 1 2 3 4 5B. In this part, please choose 1 for strongly agree to 5 for strongly disagree in accordance to your beliefs.1. Most sorority girls are nice. 1 2 3 4 5 (strongly agree) (strongly disagree)2. Most sorority girls care about their sisters. 1 2 3 4 5 (strongly agree) (strongly disagree)3. Most sorority girls are compassionate. 1 2 3 4 5 (strongly agree) (strongly disagree)4. Most sorority girls wouldn’t say anything bad about one of their sisters. 1 2 3 4 5 (strongly agree) (strongly disagree)5. Most sorority girls are easily flattered. 1 2 3 4 5 (strongly agree) (strongly disagree)6. Most sorority girls are warm. 1 2 3 4 5 (strongly agree) (strongly disagree)7. Most sorority girls are approachable. 1 2 3 4 5 (strongly agree) (strongly disagree)8. Most sorority girls are likable. 1 2 3 4 5 (strongly agree) (strongly disagree)9. Most sorority girls are very image oriented. 1 2 3 4 5 (strongly agree) (strongly disagree)10. Most sorority girls are conceited. 1 2 3 4 5 (strongly agree) (strongly disagree)11. I would hang out with most of the sorority girls on campus. 1 2 3 4 5 (strongly agree) (strongly disagree)12. Most sorority girls are attractive. 1 2 3 4 5 (strongly agree) (strongly disagree)13. Most sorority girls are smart. 1 2 3 4 5 (strongly agree) (strongly disagree)14. Most sorority girls like to party. 1 2 3 4 5 (strongly agree) (strongly disagree)15. Most sorority girls are studious. 1 2 3 4 5 (strongly agree) (strongly disagree)C. Please fill in the following information.1. Gender (circle one): M F2. Age: _____3. Year (circle one): FR SO JR SR4. Major: ________________5. Are you (or have you ever been) in a sorority/fraternity? _________________6. Why or why not? (If you have been in a sorority/fraternity please indicate why you left.)7. Have your attitudes pertaining to sorority girls changed since you arrived at college, and if so, how?

Submitted 12/10/2002 5:02:04 PM
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