Importance of Being a Noncommissioned Officer
The basic assumption underlying these hypotheses is that attempts to influence others are instrumental acts whose occurrence is determined by the perceived probability of success in achieving some goal. Therefore influence attempts will occur if the inducer perceives a readiness of the recipient to accept his influence and if he believes that the induced behavior will, in fact, lead him to his goal. Three hypotheses were derived from these assumptions.
What is ordinarily called authority in a military organization combines two factors which should be distinguished. (a) The authority of an officer over his men includes coercive power, i.e., the ability to punish his subordinates for noncompliance with his orders. (b) It also includes a predisposition on the part of the subordinate willingly to accept the influence of the officer because he perceives it as legitimate (Schachter et al., 2008). Presumably coercive power will lead to overt conformity without covert change of attitude on the part of the subordinate. The acceptance of authority as legitimate, on the other hand, should produce covert changes in attitudes and behavior as well as overt conformity. Hypothesis II-2, since it deals only with the acceptance of authority as legitimate, predicts changes in the private opinions and covert behavior of the men (Festinger, 1999).
Hypothesis II-3: The effectiveness of an influence attempt by the leader (or member) increases with increasing perception that he is an expert in the area of the influence attempt.
This common sense hypothesis also has a long research history, whether as the effect of "expert opinion" (Back, 2001) or "source credibility" (Snyder, 2007). Eventually this hypothesis should be refined with respect to the areas of expertness, the interrelations among them, and the relation of this dimension to other dimensions of interpersonal perception. However, our data do not permit such refined analyses.
Hypothesis II-4: The total amount of influence effected by a leader (or member) over a member increases with increases in the amount of influence attempted.
At the low extreme, it seems obvious that one can expect no influence if there is no communication and no attempt at influence. However, the relation between these two variables is not obviously a linear one: it might well be that attempts to influence beyond a certain level, especially if these attempts are not seen as legitimate, might well result in reduced effectiveness. However, within the more usual range of behavior exhibited by a leader, we would expect a monotonically increasing relationship (Snyder, 2007).
The preliminary field study. Before describing the methods used in these two experiments, it will be worth reporting some of the relevant findings from a preliminary field study (2). This study was conducted on the line maintenance personnel of two aircraft maintenance squadrons located at a training base (Festinger et al., 1950). The relevant data were collected largely through the use of written questionnaires dealing with a number of attitudes toward matters of concern to the men and of importance to the performance of their daily work. The same questionnaire was used to measure the attitudes of the noncommissioned officers who supervised the men. For each attitude, the noncommissioned officer was asked how strongly he attempted to influence his men to believe as he did. Measures of the acceptance of supervisors were supplied largely by ranked sociometric choices made from lists of the personnel in the entire squadron. Our major measures of the influence of the noncommissioned officer over his airmen consisted of measures showing how closely the airman's attitude was related to the attitude of his noncommissioned officer and to the official beliefs and attitudes which the noncommissioned officer is supposed to support (Festinger, 1999).
In analyzing the amount of influence attempted by noncommissioned officers, we found: (a) the closer the noncommissioned officers own attitude to the officially approved attitudes of the Air Force, the stronger his influence attempts; (b) the noncommissioned officer attempts much stronger influence on attitudes relevant to the work of the group than on attitudes and opinions unrelated to the work; (c) but there is no relation between the acceptance of the leader and the strength of influence he attempts. The surprising lack of clear positive findings on...
Finally there was some support for the hypothesis that the stronger the influence attempted by the leader, the greater the amount of change he produced in the attitudes of his subordinates. Both of these determinants of effectiveness seemed to require further checking with better measures of effectiveness. The present experiments check these findings (Biddle et al., 2004).
Design of the Experiments
The main reason for employing the experimental method in this phase of research was to test more unequivocally our major hypotheses about the influence of the leader as related to interpersonal relations, and in particular, to determine the direction of causation in these relationships. The experimental design involved two parts sufficiently independent to be considered as two separate experiments. The first -- the group judgment test -- was designed to study the influence of the leader on the opinions and judgments of his followers, while the second -- a card-sorting task (Festinger et al., 1950) was intended to measure his influence on productivity. The first experiment tested the influence of the leader in a free discussion situation where he was permitted to attempt as much influence as he liked using any method he could devise. In the second, both the methods of influence employed and the amount of influence attempted were held constant in order to discover whether there was a direct relationship between the effectiveness of attempted influence and the interpersonal relations between leader and follower.
Both experiments employed much more carefully controlled measurement of the effectiveness of influence than was possible in the field study. Instead of inferring the existence of an influence process from the relationship of the airman's opinion to the opinion of his noncommissioned officer, we brought the influence process into the laboratory and measured the actual changes induced by the leader. In the group judgment test this was accomplished by having the airmen record private judgments before discussion with the noncommissioned officer and after the discussion. In the card-sorting experiment the influence of inductions from the leader was measured by the actual change in the quantity and quality of work performed by the group of airmen. The major independent variables of interpersonal relationship between leader and followers were not manipulated directly because we could find no method for producing sufficiently large changes in these already established relationships (Snyder, 2007). Instead we selected as subjects all noncommissioned officers of a given classification and hoped that the actual interpersonal relationships with the airmen would show enough variation to permit testing of our hypotheses (Schachter et al., 2008). The procedure may be summarized briefly:
1. From existing small work groups in the Air Force we selected the supervisor and three members chosen as far as practicable at random. When they arrived at the experimental room, they were told that their cooperation was needed in several research projects, that they were not being tested in any way, and that they would not be identified.
2. Each subject answered privately a written questionnaire measuring the major independent variables of interpersonal relationships (Snyder, 2007).
3. Next, each group participated in the group judgment test. In this experiment each of the members in the group made a number of individual judgments from a set of stimulus figures. Unknown to the subjects these figures were not all the same. Slightly different forms of each figure were distributed in a way designed to produce planned patterns of disagreement within the group. After the members had completed their preliminary judgment, they held a discussion under instructions to try to reach agreement. After the discussion the group members again recorded their private judgments. Observational data provided the measures of attempted influence, and the changes from the preliminary to the final judgment provided a measure of the effectiveness of influence attempted.
4. Finally, the subjects were presented with the card-sorting task as an investigation of different ways of organizing a group. Three airmen were assigned a task of hand-sorting punched cards according to the number of holes in each card (Festinger et al., 1950). A scoring system, depending upon the total number of cards sorted, the number correctly sorted, and the number of errors, was described and was stated to be the basis for comparing groups of different organization. The noncommissioned officer in charge of the group was assigned the task of checking the work of his three airmen, of comparing their results with those of other groups, and giving the group members instructions which would enable them to improve their performance. He was located in an adjoining room and was required to send all…
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