Positive Thinking, Mental Contrasting Plus WOOP to Improve Performance

Gabriele Oettingen

Gabriele Oettingen

Positive thinking without additional evaluation and implementation strategies is wishful thinking that may lead to poor performance, found NYU’s Gabriele Oettingen.
She advocates coupling an optimistic outlook with considering obstacles and potential ways to manage them, using a mnemonic WOOP:

  • Wish,
  • Outcome
  • Obstacle
  • Plan.
Andreas Kappes

Andreas Kappes

Visualizing good outcomes without considering potential obstacles and a specific plan to achieve the goal led volunteers to become complacent, she noted.

To mitigate reduced motivation triggered by wishful thinking, Oettingen and University of London colleague Andreas Kappas taught volunteers “Mental Contrast” to consider potential obstacles to desired future outcomes, and identify ways to manage these potential challenges.

The team differentiated Mental Contrast from two less effective approaches to goal engagement:

  • Indulging by mentally elaborating only desired future,
  • Dwelling by mentally elaborating only the present reality.

These practices lead to less strong goal commitment than Mental Contrast, even when chances of success appear good across interpersonal relations, academic achievement, professional achievement, health, life management experiences.

Mental Contrast was an effective self-regulatory technique when coupled with Implementation Intentions (MCII) to improve achievement, interpersonal, and health habits.
These trends changed when perceived chances of success were low:  Mentally Contrasting a desired future with present reality led to disengagement from goals, whereas Indulging in the future goal fantasy or Dwelling only in the present reality both maintained goal commitment.

Probability of Success-Mental Contrast-Indulve-Dwelling

However, in another study, volunteers who spent more time imagining working in a “dream job,” but who also had lower expectations of achieving this goal, received fewer job offers and lower starting salaries, found Oettingen and Doris Mayer of University of Hamburg.
They differentiated the motivational impact of:

  • Positive expectations for future success, which predicted high effort and successful performance,
  • Positive fantasies, which didn’t increase effort.

Mental Contrasting helped people disengage from unfeasible goals like rehabilitating an ended relationship or achieving an unattainable professional identity.
When chances of success are low, people Mentally Contrast desired future with present reality to moved on to more feasible goals.

Similarly, Mental Contrasting linked negative thoughts about an undesirable future situation to avoidance goals provided that the probability of successfully avoiding the undesired future is high.
This strategy can be useful for people with difficulty generating positive fantasies about future health domain or reducing prejudice toward members of a minority or “out-group.”

When facing controllable and escapable tasks, people benefitted from Mentally Contrasting fantasy with reality.
However, when facing tasks that cannot be mastered such as terminal illness, Indulging in positive fantasies enabled people to maintain a positive outlook.

Volunteers who held a “silver lining theory” that a negative personal attribute is associated with a positive attribute, increased effortful performance toward the positive attribute when informed that:

  • They were impulsive
  • The silver lining theory states that “impulsivity is associated with creativity.”
Timur Sevincer

Timur Sevincer

These on-line and in-person participants showed greater effort-based creativity than those who were given no information or for whom the silver lining theory was refuted.
The Silver Lining Theory increased performance and enabled people to mitigate a perceived negative attributes by promoting effortful behavior toward a positive attribute linked to the negative attribute.

Mentally Contrasting a desired future (such as excelling in an intelligence test and writing an excellent essay) with a present reality increased physiological energization measured by systolic blood pressure and grip strength to the degree a person expected to attain the desired future.
Mental contrasting may trigger energization that fuels effort to perform an unrelated task, concluded University of Hamburg’s A. Timur Sevincer and P. Daniel Busatta collaborating with Oettingen.

Philip Daniel Busatta

Philip Daniel Busatta

Coupling Mental Contrasting with Implementation Intentions (MCII) helped economically-disadvantaged children convert positive thoughts about future outcomes into effective action, found University of Pennsylvania’s Angela Lee Duckworth, Teri A. Kirby of University of Washington with NYU’s Anton Gollwitzer and and Oettingen.

Teri Kirby

Teri Kirby

Student volunteers learned to compare a desired future with potential obstacles, then developed if–then implementation intentions to expected overcomes.
More than 75 U.S. urban middle school 10 year olds were randomly assigned to learn either MCII or a Positive Thinking strategy as a control comparison.

Those who applied MCII tools to their academic goals significantly improved their report card grades, attendance, and conduct, suggesting the value of Mental Contrasting to enhance goal commitment and realization.

Mental Contrasting can be a powerful tool to increase motivation, particularly when coupled with Implementation Intentions, except when the realistic probability of success in achieving goals is low.
In those cases, Indulging or Dwelling strategies are more effective in maintaining goal motivation.

  • How have you seen Mental Contrasting and considering your probability of success to manage your motivation and performance?

Follow-share-like http://www.kathrynwelds.com and @kathrynwelds

RELATED POSTS:

Twitter  @kathrynwelds
Blog – Kathryn Welds | Curated Research and Commentary
Google+
LinkedIn Open Group Psychology in Human Resources (Organisational Psychology)
Facebook Notes

©Kathryn Welds

Do Women Advance in Careers More Slowly than Men?

Herminia Ibarra

Herminia Ibarra

Men received 15% more promotions than women, according to Catalyst’s 2008 Benchmarking Survey, similar numbers of “high potential” women and men  selected for lateral moves to other parts of the business.

Nancy M. Carter

Nancy M. Carter

However, men but not women, received promotions after the career-developing lateral moves.
INSEAD’s Hermina Ibarra with Nancy M. Carter and Christine Silva of Catalyst suggested that women were offered these developmental lateral moves in lieu of advancement.
Similarly, women seem to receive social accounts – or explanations – as substitutes salary increases, noted in a previous blog post.

-*Has this career advancement discrepancy continued?

Virginia Valian

Virginia Valian

More data are required, but unarticulated and often subconscious ideas about gender continue to affect behavior and evaluations of others, as noted in previous blog posts.

Hunter College’s Virginia Valian related this implicit bias to men’s advantage of being consistently overrated while women are underrated by coworkers, bosses and themselves.
Resulting discrepancies in opportunity accrue over time to create large gaps in advancement, she asserted.

In addition, women are typically evaluated in relation to a “masculine” standard of leadership, reported Catalyst’s 2007 research outlining three predicaments that can undermine leadership and advancement opportunities:

  • Extreme Perceptions, in which women are perceived as enacting extreme behaviors, such as “toughness” or “niceness,”
  • High Competence Threshold, when women leaders are held to higher standards and receive lower rewards than men,
  • Competent but Disliked, as women may be perceived either as “competent” or “likeable” but not both.
Phyllis Tharenou

Phyllis Tharenou

Family structure can accelerate or slow career progress in unexpected ways.
For example, both “post traditional” mothers who have employed spouses, and “traditional” fathers whose wives are engaged in childcare only, more rapidly advanced in private sector careers than women and men with other family configurations or those employed in other industry sectors, according to Phyllis Tharenou of Flinders University.
Somewhat surprisingly, non-parent women and men, and unmarried fathers   advanced more slowly in their careers.

Employment disruption, such as maternity leave or layoff, did not impair career advancement for women and men, but the industry sector was associated with differing rates of career advancement.

Alice Eagly

Alice Eagly

In a separate analysis, Tharenou noted that the strongest predictors of advancing in management were managerial aspirations and masculinity.
Women were more likely to advance when they received career encouragement and when organizational hierarchies included both women and men.

To explain career advancement rate discrepancies, University of Massachusetts’ Alice H. Eagly and Linda L. Carli of Wellesley suggested that women encounter a career labyrinth rather than a glass ceiling.

Linda Carli

Linda Carli

Catalyst and Center for Talent Innovation concluded that this difference in career advancement rates may be narrowed by sponsorship rather than mentorship.
Male mentors, however, are unlikely to have experienced some of the differential perceptions facing women so may be less able to provide useful advice.
They may make an important contribution to focusing attention on the challenge and may advocate organizational processes and structures that normalize equivalent competence and assertiveness in women and men.

  • What evidence suggests that women’s rate of career advancement has become similar to men’s?
  • What type of “career encouragement” enable women to advance in careers at a rate similar to men?

Follow-share-like http://www.kathrynwelds.com and @kathrynwelds

RELATED POSTS:

Twitter  @kathrynwelds
Blog – Kathryn Welds | Curated Research and Commentary
Google+
LinkedIn Open Group Psychology in Human Resources (Organisational Psychology)
Facebook Notes

©Kathryn Welds

Individual Talent Surplus Can Reduce Team Performance 

Roderick Swaab

Roderick Swaab

More talent on a team doesn’t always increase team performance, particularly when team member must coordinate their efforts.

In fact, status conflicts based on talent differences can undermine team coordination during hand-offs for interdependent tasks, found INSEAD’s Roderick I. Swaab and Michael Schaerer, with Eric M. Anicich and Adam Galinsky of Columbia and VU University Amsterdam’s Richard Ronay.

Michael Schaerer

Michael Schaerer

Swaab and colleagues confirmed that most people believe there is a linear relationship between talent and performance:  They expect that more talent is consistently associated with improved performance.

However, the research team found an exception to this presumed rule when they analyzed National Basketball Association and Major League Baseball team and player data from 2002 through 2012.

Eric M. Anicich

Eric M. Anicich

They evaluated team performance in interdependent game tasks in basketball, a “zero sum game” because when one player shoots other players lose the opportunity to shoot at that time.
As a result, basketball players must coordinate efforts to position team members for as many shots as possible in a limited time.

Richard Ronay

Richard Ronay

In contrast, Swaab’s group studied independent sports performance in baseball.
In this game, players hit the ball in an assigned order and one player’s turn at bat does not eliminate another player’s turn to hit.
Further, each baseball player may hit a home run independent of other teammates’ batting skill, so each individual’s talent additively contributes to the team outcome.

Adam Galinsky

Adam Galinsky

Swaab’s team found that more talent is not associated with better performance when team members needed to coordinate interdependent tasks, as in basketball.
They called this the “too-much-talent effect”:  “When teams need to come together, more talent can tear them apart.”
In this case, they concluded that role differentiation is essential for optimal performance during interdependent tasks to ensure diverse capabilities in addition to willingness to collaborate.

Boris Groysberg

Boris Groysberg

This finding can be generalized to business organizations, which may experience decreased team performance if highly talented team members are unable to collaborate on interdependent tasks.
In addition, a surplus of top talent can undermine an organization’s profitability due to the high cost of attracting and hiring “stars.”

This “too-much-talent” effect was also demonstrated among Wall Street sell-side equity research analysts by Harvard Business School’s Boris Groysberg and Jeffrey T. Polzer with Hillary Anger Elfenbein of Washington University.

Hillary Anger Elfenbein

Hillary Anger Elfenbein

Increasing the number of talented analysts increased the firm’s overall performance to a point, then more stars actually decreased performance.
This effect was especially prominent when strong performers were concentrated in a small number of sectors.

As in professional sports, this “too-much-talent” effect could reflect a suboptimal integration and collaboration among analysts with similar expertise, controlling for individual performance, department size or specialization, or firm prestige.

Jennifer R. Overbeck

Jennifer R. Overbeck

Laboratory studies with volunteers confirm observations of the “too-much-talent” effect among professional athletes and Wall Street analysts, in research by University of Utah’s Jennifer R. Overbeck, Joshua Correll, and Bernadette Park.

They concluded that task groups need a few high-status members as leaders, and many more member-followers to contribute and implement work while supporting group direction.

Arthur Colman

Arthur Colman

When this “status sorting” is not explicit, Overbeck and team noted that a differentiated status hierarchy will evolve as status-seeking members vie for authority.
In rare cases, status sorting must be implemented through organizational design and responsibility definition, echoing earlier observations by University of California San Francisco’s Arthur D. Colman and W. Harold Bexton of the A.K. Rice Institute.

  • How have you managed “too-much-talent” effect in organizations?
  • To what extent do you encourage “status sorting” in your organization?

Follow-share-like http://www.kathrynwelds.com and @kathrynwelds

RELATED POSTS:

Twitter  @kathrynwelds
Blog – Kathryn Welds | Curated Research and Commentary
Google+
LinkedIn Open Group Psychology in Human Resources (Organisational Psychology)|
Facebook Notes

©Kathryn Welds

Activate Women’s, Minorities’ Stereotype Threat Reactance to Enhance Performance

Claude Steele

Claude Steele

Stereotype threat — activating prevailing but often-inaccurate concepts of a group’s typical behavior — was consistently associated with reduced scores on standardized test performance for women and African Americans in numerous studies by Stanford’s Claude Steele.

He found that eliciting “reactance” or resistance to these stereotypes improved women’s and African Americans’ performance more than activating a positive shared stereotype/superordinate identity, such as shared membership in a respected group or organization.

Anthony Greenwald

Anthony Greenwald

Stereotypes may be invoked by implicit primes, which led both men and women to confirm gender stereotypes even when they explicitly disavowed stereotypes and associated prejudice, found University of Washington’s Anthony Greenwald and Mahzarin Banaji, then at Yale.
However, when evaluators focused on tasks, including judgment challenges about members of a stereotyped group, judges were less likely to render discriminatory decisions.

Laura Kray

Laura Kray

In contrast, both women and men showed stereotype reactance — the tendency to behave in contrast with the stereotype in negotiation tasks — when stereotypes are elicited with explicit primes, reported University of California, Berkeley’s Laura Kray, Leigh Thompson of Northwestern and Columbia’s Adam Galinsky.

Stereotype threat can be advantageous to men when negotiating with women, who are stereotypically considered less skillful negotiators.
In contrast to Steele’s finding, Kray’s team observed performance-equalizing effects of activating a shared identity that transcended gender.

Gordon Moskowitz

Gordon Moskowitz

People can dissociate themselves from prevailing stereotypes with contrast primes, according to Lehigh University’s Gordon B. Moskowitz and Ian W. Skurnik of University of Utah.
They differentiated:

  • Standard-of-Comparison Prime, which produces greatest contrast by citing an extreme illustration.
    This strategy relies on perception and requires less cognitive effort.
  • Set–Reset Prime, which typically uses trait descriptions, and produces greatest contrast when moderate rather than extreme.
    This approach requires significant mental effort.
Ryan P. Brown

Ryan P. Brown

Even men are not immune to stereotype threat.
University of Oklahoma’s Ryan P. Brown and Robert A. Josephs of University of Texas activated a positive male stereotype and found that male participants “choked” when performing.
Similar to women’s performance decrements in response to negative stereotype threat, Brown and Josephs hypothesized that men’s performance was undermined by “pressure to live up to the standard.”

Robert A Josephs

Robert A Josephs

People can manage stereotype threat by explicitly referring to the preconception to activate stereotype reactance.
In addition, it may be worthwhile to refer to a shared identity or purpose that transcends the stigmatized group identity.
Eliciting contrast effects through examples and trait descriptions is another way to diminish the impact of stereotype threat of performance.

  • How do you manage stereotype threat for yourself and others?
  • How effective have you found activating stereotype reactance?

Follow-share-like http://www.kathrynwelds.com and @kathrynwelds

RELATED POSTS:

Twitter  @kathrynwelds
Blog – Kathryn Welds | Curated Research and Commentary
Google+
LinkedIn Open Group Psychology in Human Resources (Organisational Psychology)
Facebook Notes

©Kathryn Welds

Choice of Confidants Evolves Rapidly in New Contexts

Peter V Marsden

Peter V Marsden

Prevailing career advice reinforces maintaining a robust professional network, and well-being research emphasizes cultivating supportive social contacts.

Claude S. Fischer

Claude S. Fischer

Core discussion networks,” described by Harvard’s Peter V. Marsden, include people consulted about important matters across professional and personal realms.
Most people expect that these confidants are enduring close contacts, according to University of California, Berkeley’s Lynne McCallister and Claude Fischer.

Mario Luis Small

Mario Luis Small

However, Harvard’s Mario Luis Small, with Vontrese Deeds Pamphile of Northwestern, and University of Chicago’s Peter McMahan demonstrated that core discussion networks can change quickly with new social contexts and obligations.
In fact, Small and team found much quicker network evolutions than previously observed by Utrecht University’s Gerald Mollenhorst, Beate Volker, and Henk Flap.

Gerald Mollenhorst

Gerald Mollenhorst

Change in core discussion network often results from lack of opportunity to meet, asserted Mollenhorst and colleagues.
In addition, life transition events, such as completing education, beginning a job, entering a marriage, and birth of a child were associated with changes in personal networks in research by University of Amsterdam’s Matthijs Kalmijn.

Matthijs Kalmijn

Matthijs Kalmijn

Small and colleagues evaluated a core discussion network during transition to graduate school for 37 first-year students from three academic departments during their first 12 months, using a qualitative-quantitative complementary approach described by Sam Houston State University’s Anthony J. Onwuegbuzie and Kathleen Collins of University of Arkansas.

Network Outcomes” observed by Small’s team were characterized as:

  • Stasis,
  • Expansion,
  • Shedding,
  • Substitution.
Anthony J Onwuegbuzie

Anthony J Onwuegbuzie

Related “Network Mechanisms” of core discussion group changes included new routine activities and obligations and variance in strength of existing social relationships and were associated with rapid adaptation to new social contexts.

Previously, Small demonstrated than almost half the members of a typical core discussion network were composed of people not seen as “close,” suggesting that sources of social support are adaptable to changing contexts of life transitions, and need not be close or long-term contacts.

  • What percentage of your core discussion group confidents are “close” social contacts?
  • What processes enable developing new social support relationships? 

    Follow-share-like http://www.kathrynwelds.com and @kathrynwelds

RELATED POSTS:

Twitter  @kathrynwelds
Blog – Kathryn Welds | Curated Research and Commentary
Google+
LinkedIn Open Group Psychology in Human Resources (Organisational Psychology)
Facebook Notes

 

©Kathryn Welds

Perceived Power Affects Vocal Characteristics, Life Outcomes

Margaret Thatcher

Margaret Thatcher

British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher participated in vocal training to project greater authority in her political role, with highly effective results.

Even without specific vocal training, research volunteers adopted powerful vocal elements when believed they had power and informational advantages in lab experiments by San Diego State University’s Sei Jin Ko and Melody S. Sadler with Adam D. Galinsky of Columbia.

Sei Jin Ko

Sei Jin Ko

Ko’s team asked more than 160 volunteers to read a text designed to evaluate speaking skills as a baseline for later comparison.
Then, they randomly assigned volunteers to a “high” ranking role with the prime “you have a strong alternative offer, valuable inside information, or high status in the workplace, or by asking participants to recall an experience in which they had power.

The remaining participants were told they had “a weak offer, no inside information, or low workplace status,” or were asked to recall an experience in which they lacked power.

Melody Sadler

Melody Sadler

To compare the impact of these power primes with the baseline reading performance, participants in both groups read a text about negotiating.
People in the high power group spoke in a higher pitch, with greater volume, and less tone variability than the low-power group.
In fact, team Ko found that people in the high power prime group had a similar vocal profile to Thatcher following her vocal training.

Mariëlle Stel

Mariëlle Stel

This contrasts previous research that demonstrated lower vocal pitch is associated with greater perceived power in work by Tilburg University’s Mariëlle Stel and Farah M. Djalal with Eric van Dijk and Wilco W. van Dijk of Leiden University, collaborating with University of California, San Diego’s Pamela K. Smith.

Eric van Dijk

Eric van Dijk

In additional investigations by Ko’s team, additional participants listened to recordings of people who read in the previous condition, and accurately determined which volunteers conveyed higher status and were more likely to engage in high-power behaviors, based only on vocal elements.

Joris Lammers

Joris Lammers

Power primes” or asking people to recall a time they had power and felt powerful, can significantly influence important life opportunities determined by hiring and university admission decisions, reported Tilburg University’s Joris Lammers with David Dubois of INSEAD and Northwestern’s Derek D. Rucker collaborating with Adam D. Galinsky of Columbia.

Thomas Mussweiler

Thomas Mussweiler

Self-generated primes are especially influential because they lead to “assimilation of the power suggestion, whereas primes provided by other people, as in Ko’s investigation, yield “contrast,” suggested Universität Würzburg’s Thomas Mussweiler and Roland Neumann.

Egon Brunswik

Egon Brunswik

The strong impact of beliefs about power has been explained by Egon Brunswik of Berkeley’s “lens model” of perception, self-fulfilling prophecy theory by University of California’s Robert Rosenthal, and self-efficacy theory described Stanford’s Albert Bandura.

Francesca Gino

Francesca Gino

To personalize these theories and demonstrate the impact of power beliefs on life outcomes, Francesca Gino discussed her use of power primes to increase her confidence during presentations, leading to her current role at Harvard, where she pursues research on the impact of power primes and beliefs on personal performance and outcomes.

These findings suggest that beliefs about personal power shape behaviors like vocal profile, which can lead to differing outcomes in occupational and life opportunities.

Egon Brunswik's Lens Model

Egon Brunswik’s Lens Model

  • How do you modify your voice to convey power and authority?
  • How do you develop confidence in your power?

Follow-share-like http://www.kathrynwelds.com and @kathrynwelds

RELATED POSTS:

Twitter  @kathrynwelds
Blog – Kathryn Welds | Curated Research and Commentary
Google+
LinkedIn Open Group Psychology in Human Resources (Organisational Psychology)
Facebook Notes

©Kathryn Welds