College impact on social perspective taking: Measuring the effect of fraternity/sorority affiliation
Supple, Matthew Lawrence
Park, Julie J
ABSTRACT Title of Dissertation: COLLEGE IMPACT ON SOCIAL PERSPECTIVE TAKING: MEASURING THE EFFECT OF FRATERNITY/SORORITY AFFILIATION Matthew L. Supple, Doctor of Philosophy, 2015 Directed By: Assistant Professor Julie J. Park, Department of Counseling, Higher Education, and Special Education The purpose of this study was to explore the relationship between fraternity/sorority affiliation and social perspective taking. Social perspective taking (SPT) is the ability to see how things look both cognitively and emotionally from another’s point of view, and SPT has been determined to be a necessary but not sufficient prerequisite for moral reasoning. As individuals go to college and their social environments become more complex, it is reasonable to expect this change will stimulate the consideration of perspectives that are different than their own and lead to higher-level moral reasoning. One aspect of the college experience that has the potential to foster moral development and its developmental predecessor, SPT, is fraternity/sorority affiliation. Fraternities and sororities are values-based organizations that should be enhancing the moral development of members, as evidenced by frequent inclusion of moral and ethical principles in their founding values. The 2009 Multi-institutional Study of Leadership (MSL) served as the dataset for this study. The MSL was designed to examine the influences of higher education on college student leadership development, including leadership-related outcomes such as cognitive skills and social perspective taking. Within this dataset, a sample of 44,207 participants completed the SPT scale. Using an adapted version of Astin’s (1993) Input-Environment-Outcome college impact model as the conceptual framework for this study, six research questions were analyzed to determine the relationship between SPT scores and several environmental variables. Analyses of variance and blocked hierarchical regression were used to analyze the data. Based on the findings of the current study, it is clear fraternities and sororities attract students with lower SPT scores. In addition, fraternity/sorority affiliation has a statistically significant negative association with SPT scores. It is therefore incumbent on national fraternity/sorority headquarters, as well as colleges and universities, to identify ways to foster social perspective taking skills among members of fraternities and sororities. The current study found that taking part in socio-cultural issues discussions, regularly doing community service, participating in service or advocacy groups, and getting involved in several student organizations all contribute to higher SPT skills.