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Abstract

The present study investigated the conditions under which group members try to obtain membership in another group, or are motivated to protect their group membership when they risk losing it. One hundred and twenty-nine high school students participated as subjects in a laboratory experiment. Subjects were divided into two groups, allegedly on the basis of their problem solving style. The relative size (minority/majority) and status position (high/low) of the subject's group, as well as the permeability of group boundaries (permeable/impermeable) were manipulated as independent variables in a 2×2×2 factorial design. The main dependent variables were the extent to which individuals valued their group membership, and identified with their group. The main results are that membership in a group with high status is considered more attractive than membership in a low status group, This differential evaluation of high and low status groups is more extreme in minority groups than in groups of majority size. Furthermore, when group boundaries are permeable, members of high status minorities show relatively strong ingroup identification, indicating a strengthening of ties with their own group when an alternative (majority) group affiliation is possible. However, our expectation that permeable group boundaries would result in diminished ingroup identification in low status minorities was not confirmed. Some additional data suggest that unsatisfactory membership in a low status group is resolved in a different way.