Gender Pairings and the Success of a Closeness-Induction Task
Abstract: Theories of student retention often note the importance of social integration and connectedness (e.g., Tinto, 1993), and research supports the connection between social factors and academic outcomes (Nicpon et al., 2006; Robbins et al., 2004). In the present study, we randomly assigned individuals to one of two conditions (small-talk task, closeness-induction task) to see if an ongoing relationship could be fostered between students who shared a general psychology class. Students who discussed the more meaningful topics in the closeness-induction task rated their peers more highly in similarity, closeness, and related measures. We considered the nature of the relationship (female-female pair, female-male pair) as a possible factor to see if the induction was more effective for certain groups. The closeness induction was more effective overall for the opposite-sex pairings compared to the same-sex pairings. The outcome was relatively stable when opposite-sex pairs were compared to female-female pairs across three measures. These findings suggest that encouraging deeper conversation at student social events (e.g., student orientation) may improve students’ ratings of their peers. This technique also can be used in classroom settings to provide students with peer support throughout the semester; this should increase students’ sense of social integration and connectedness. Fostering social relationships and integration in this manner has the potential to combat student attrition. Further research is recommended to explore the stability of these findings, particularly among minority students and other groups with lower retention rates.
Rodina Scott* and Danney Rasco, PhD
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