Reproducing Social Structure in Task Groups: The Role of Structural Ritualization Academic Article uri icon


  • The reproduction of social structure occurs with regularity, even when it is not in the interest of the group, the individual, or the society. This article uses the theories of structural ritualization and expectation states to examine a specific case of social reproduction: the reproduction of hierarchical group procedure and practices in small task groups. The experimental test examines forty-four task groups under three different conditions: a baseline condition under which group leaders observe no task groups; a condition under which leaders observe two groups characterized by hierarchical ritual and relatively authoritarian leaders; a condition under which leaders observe two groups characterized by lesser levels of hierarchical ritual and procedure. Based upon the two theories, we predicted that leaders would transform their own groups in the image of those they observed. This would occur even though there were no incentives for particular procedures and rituals, and even though the observed groups were not involved in tasks similar to the tasks given to the leader and his group. The experimental tests generally support the theory.

author list (cited authors)

  • Sell, J., Ellison, C., Knottnerus, J. D., & Mundt, H.

citation count

  • 12

publication date

  • December 2000