Age and Political Behavior in Collective Decision-making

AuthorJames N. Schubert,Thomas C. Wiegele,Samuel M. Hines
DOI10.1177/019251218700800204
Publication Date01 April 1987
Date01 April 1987
SubjectArticles
131-
Age
and
Political
Behavior
in
Collective
Decision-making
JAMES
N.
SCHUBERT,
THOMAS
C.
WIEGELE
AND
SAMUEL
M.
HINES
ABSTRACT.
Preliminary
findings
are
reported
from
a
study
of
municipal
councils,
employing
methods
of
direct
observation
under
field
conditions,
that
explored
the
effects
of
dominance
status,
age
and
relative
age
in
groups
involved
in
group
decision-making
processes.
Findings
show
that
old
age
was
associated
with
greater
participation
in
the
group
by
actors
and
greater
responsiveness
by
the
group
toward
actors;
while
with
regard
to
relative
age,
younger
members
received
higher
responsiveness
from
groups
and
participated
at
grand
mean
levels.
Overall,
being
old
was
associated
with
status
and
involvement
in
small-group
political
interactions,
but
the
ascriptive
prerogatives
of
older
age
did
not
close
out
the
opportunities
for
achievement
by
the
relatively
young.
While
the
significance
of
age
effects
on
elite
behavior
surfaced
as
a
political
issue
in
the
19$4
US
presidential
election,
political
research
on
this
general
question
is
limited
(Cutler
and
Schmidhauser,
1975;
Eisele,
1979;
Fengler,
1980;
Williamson
et
al.,
1982;
G.
Schubert,
1983).
Our
starting
point
for
inquiry
into
the
relationship
of
age
and
elite
political
behavior
involves
the
correlation
of
age
and
dominance
within
groups.
Influence
and
Involvement
in
Groups
Social
Dominance
in
Political
Groups
Dominance,
as
an
ethological
concept,
describes
abstract
social
status
relationships
among
individuals
in
a
group
(Bernstein,
1980).
Dominance
is
not
a
personality
trait
or
characteristic,
but
a
quality
of
social
relationships
among
group
members
that
distinguishes
their
relative
importance
to
one
another.
This
study
employs
a
behavioral
definition
of
dominance
relevant
to
the
context
of
human
politics
emphasizing
expectations
of social
control
or
leadership
behavior.
Thus,
in
formal
terms,
A
is
dominant
to
B
if
both
A
and
B
expect
A
to
exercise
control
over
B.
In
practical
terms,
subordinates
will
look
to
dominants
for
direction
and
leadership:
to
initiate
discussion,
to
provide
suggestions,
to
evaluate
arguments,
to
define
issues
and,
fundamentally,
for
positive
and
negative
reinforcing
cues
for
their
own
behavior.
As
a
corollary
to
the
behavior
of
subordinates,
dominants
will
tend
to
fulfill
the
expectations
of
subordinates
by
providing
social
control.
132
In
this
context,
dominance
relations
among
individuals
are
both
variable
in
polarity
and
over
time.
Thus,
dominance
may
be
more
or
less
well
established
in
an
interpersonal
dyad,
and
the
properties
of
the
dominance
relationship
may
change
over
time.
Conceptually,
dominance
structure
within
a
group
may
vary
from
a
fully
linear,
transitive
structure
(A>B>C>D>E),
through
a
binary
structure
(A>(B,C,D,E)),
to
a
perfectly
horizontal
(anarchic)
structure
completely
lacking
dominant-subordinate
distinctions.
A
proposition
relating
age
to
dominance
within
adult
groups
is
necessarily
premised
on
relatively
distinct
age
differences
between
individuals.
Because
the
physical
cues
are
more
pronounced
in
older
age,
the
effects
of
age
on
status
should be
stronger
the
greater
the
individual’s
age.
Status
should
be
greatest
for
individuals
in
their
60s
and
70s.
However,
all
along
the
age
spectrum,
age
cues
should
be
more
recognizable
the
greater
the
age
differences
between
individuals.
On
this
basis,
two
hypotheses
may
be
distinguished.
First,
elderly
members
of
groups
are
likely
to
have
higher
dominance
status
than youn~er
members.
Elderly
members
are
likely
to
be
dominant
over
younger
members,
regardless
of
almost
any
intervening
variable
except
sex,
including
wealth,
education,
prior
experience,
perhaps
even
chairmanship.
Second,
the
greater
an
individual’s
age
in
relation
to
the
ages
of other
group
members,
the
more
dominant
is
that
individual
over
other
members
of
the
group.
This
relationship
is
expected
to
hold
across
the
age
spectrum
or
regardless
of
whether
the
group
is
primarily
younger,
age
heterogeneous,
or
older.
Involvement
in
the
Group
Process
Although
not
synonymous
with
influence,
involvement
in
the
group
interaction
process
is
prerequisite
to
influence
over
group
deliberations
in
many
decision
processes.
An
individual’s
involvement
in
a
group
encompasses
both
the
participation
of
the
individual
in
the
group
and
the
responsiveness
of
the
group
to
the
individual.
While
dominance
status
should
be
directly
related
with
participation
in
the
group
and
responsiveness
from
the
group,
it
is
plausible
to
propose
that
with
the
effects
of
dominance
controlled,
age
is
related
with
involvement.
Age
may
confer
a
special
dimension
of
&dquo;elder&dquo;
status
that
contributes
to
dominance
but
may
also
exist
independent
of
dominance
relations.
Such
age-based
status
is
likely
to
be
caused
by
a
presumption
of
wisdom
associated
with
life
experience
and/or
a
greater
latitude
in
role
expectations
accorded
to
the
elderly
that
define the
parameters
of
permissible
behavior.
Individuals
who
are
chronologically
or
relatively
older
may
be
predisposed
to
contribute
more
to
the
group
and
the
group
may
be
more
responsive
to
them.
Thus,
the
hypothesis
explored
below
is
that
older
age,
older
relative
age,
and
dominance
are
independently
related
rvith
involvement
in
group
interaction
processes.
Intervening
Variables
It
is,
perhaps,
obvious
that
age,
relative
age,
and dominance
are
likely
to
be
interrelated
with
other
attribute
and
role
variables.
Formally
designated
leaders
are
likely
to
be
chronologically
and
relatively
older
than
other
members,
due
to
the
correlation
of
age
and
recruitment.
Seniority
must
share
some
variance
with
both
age
and
relative
age,
and
it
appears
likely
to
correlate
with
dominance
status
within
groups
as
well.
Finally,
sex
is
a
key
variable.
Even
in
preindustrial
societies,
the
age-power
correlation
does
not
necessarily
hold
cross-culturally
for
females
and,

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