AuthorWhitham, Monica M.
AdvisorMolm, Linda D.
MetadataShow full item record
PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractA wealth of research on social life has examined the causes and consequences of social identity. I build on this literature by expanding the study of the concept beyond its current focus on how social identity manifests in the individual to a collective-level understanding of social identity as it manifests in groups. This is achieved by bridging the study of social identity with the study of social networks. In this dissertation, I argue that sharing a social identity that meets certain criteria serves as a type of connection which binds group members together into a collective unit. I refer to these connections as symbolic social network ties. Symbolic social network ties exist in social entities characterized by entitativity, which is the property of a social group that defines it as a coherent social unit—a social object in and of itself. Three criteria are necessary for a set of individuals to possess entitativity: boundedness, membership-based interaction, and the capacity to act and be acted upon as a manifest corporate actor in relation to other (individual and corporate) actors. Entitativity varies by degree across entities due to differences in the extent to which the entity exceeds minimal levels of the criteria defining entitativity. The effects of symbolic social network ties are a consequence of the combined effects of entitativity and social identity. To provide an initial assessment of the effects of symbolic social network ties on social life, in this dissertation I use a two-study approach to examine their impact on cooperative collective action. In Study 1, I use the experimental method to test the effects of symbolic social network ties, and social identity more broadly, on cooperation in generalized exchange. Generalized exchange is a form of collective action that is risky but has a number of benefits for collectivities and their members. I compare effects across three levels of social identity: no social identity, category-based social identity, and entity-based symbolic social network ties. Results strongly support my theoretical argument; entity-based symbolic social network ties have a stronger impact on cooperation than category-based social identity. Indeed, the level of cooperation in the category-based social identity condition is not significantly different from the level of cooperation found in the no social identity control condition. The second study uses survey data to assess whether the causal findings from Study 1 hold in the context of real world entities. In Study 2, I examine the relationship between symbolic social network ties and community involvement in small towns. Community involvement is a contextually specific form of collective action that can be vital to the success of a community. Specifically, I examine how variations in each of the three criteria of entitativity—boundedness, interaction, and corporate actor capacity—relate to residents’ propensity to participate in two forms of community involvement: voluntary participation in community improvement activities and active membership in local organizations. As predicted, I find that boundedness and interaction are positively related to both forms of community involvement; corporate actor capacity, however, was not found to be significantly related to either form of community involvement. Implications of these results and potential directions for future research are discussed.
Degree ProgramGraduate College