Author Archives: kathrynwelds

About kathrynwelds

Creating value by connecting people, information, and ideas, to accomplish strategic results Global Change Strategist-Organizational Psychologist Professional experience spans roles as an organizational psychologist, technology consultant, software industry analyst, marketing and sales executive.

Attractive Men May Appear More Competent, But May Not Be Hired

Sun Young Lee

Sun Young Lee

Previous blog posts have noted bias in favor of attractive people for hiring and venture funding decisions, as well as for positive impression formation by others.

As a result, less attractive yet capable individuals may face “workplace attractiveness discrimination,” according to Sun Young Lee of University College London, University of Maryland’s Marko Pitesa, Madan Pillutla of London Business School, and INSEAD’s Stefan Thau.

Marko Pitesa

Marko Pitesa

Their four studies found that people making employment decisions show systematic selection bias based on perceived attractiveness and organizational context.

Lee’s team drew on two theories to explain differential impact of attractiveness in employment and work task situation: Status generalization and interpersonal interdependence.

Murray Webster

Murray Webster

Status generalization describes how unrelated characteristics like gender, ethnicity, national origin and attractiveness, become relevant to task performance when observers associate these characteristics with behavioral expectations for performance.
These associations often occur without conscious, logical or evidential basis, and lead to group inequalities, according to University of South Carolina’s Murray Webster and Martha Foschi.

James Driskell

James Driskell

Separately, Webster and University of South Carolina colleague James Driskell demonstrated that status characteristics significantly affect face-to-face interactions.
The researchers made physical status characteristics salient in group tasks.
In this condition, participants with preferred characteristics were more likely to be rewarded with power and prestige, even when these physical status characteristics were irrelevant to the task.

Martha Foschi

Martha Foschi

As a result, people with relevant skills may be overlooked in favor of individuals with perceived high status characteristics.
More specifically, Lee’s team suspected that decision makers associate attractiveness with competence in male but not in female candidates based on  status generalization theory.

Harold Kelley

Harold Kelley

They suggested that people’s expectations of interpersonal relationships affect their attempts to maximize relational rewards and minimize accompanying costs, based on interdependence theory. Proposed by UCLA’s Harold Kelley and John Thibaut of University of North Carolina, interdependence theory proposed that people who are interdependent in cooperative or competitive situations discriminate differently based on perceived attractiveness.

John Thibault

John Thibault

To evaluate this notion, Lee’s group assigned male and female volunteers to simulated employment selection situations  in which team members interviewed and provided hiring recommendations for job candidates.
In this situation, interviewers were in both cooperative and competitive situations with these candidates because they would be cooperating for shared team rewards yet competing for recognition, promotions, commissions, and bonuses.

Participants read a hiring scenario describing different types of interdependencies between themselves as decision-makers and the person to be hired, including competitive, cooperative, and no interdependence.

Madan Pillutla

Madan Pillutla

Volunteers evaluated two similar resumes accompanied by photos of an “attractive” applicant and an “unattractive” candidate.
Assessors answered questions about the person’s competence, likely impact on their own success, and their likelihood of recommending the candidate for the position.

When the decision-maker expected to cooperate with the candidate, male candidates perceived as more attractive were also judged as more competent, more likely to enable the evaluator’s career success, and were more frequently recommended for employment.

Stefan Thau

Stefan Thau

However, when decision makers expected to compete with the candidate, they perceived attractive male candidates as less capable.
Evaluators less frequently recommended attractive male candidates for employment, suggesting a systematic bias to preserve the evaluator’s place in the current workplace skill hierarchy.
Attractive and unattractive female candidates were judged as equally competent, but attractive male candidates were rated as much more competent than unattractive male candidates.

Three subsequent studies provided evaluators with candidates’ age, race, education and a manipulated headshot to consider in selecting their competitor or collaborator in a tournament task.
Decision-makers generally preferred attractive male or female candidates unless their personal outcomes were affected by the selection decision.

These studies suggest that attractiveness discrimination is “calculated self-interested behavior” in which men sometimes discriminate in favor and sometimes against attractive males.

-*How do you align with “calculated self-interest behavior” to mitigate bias?

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Plastic Surgery Changes Perceived Personality Traits

Michael J. Reilly

Michael J. Reilly

People often evaluate others using facial profiling making inferences of personality attributes by visual observation, according to Georgetown University Hospital’s Michael J. Reilly, Jaclyn A. Tomsic and Steven P. Davison, collaborating with Stephen J. Fernandez of MedStar Health Research Institute.
This cognitive shortcut can lead to biased impressions and limited opportunities for those unfavorably judged.

Jaclyn A. Tomsic

Jaclyn A. Tomsic

The research team asked observers to rate women’s personality and character traits following plastic surgery procedures between 2009, and 2013 including:

  • Chin implant,
  • Eyebrow-lift,
  • Lower blepharoplasty (lower eye lift),
  • Upper blepharoplasty (upper eye lift),
  • Neck-lift,
  • Rhytidectomy (face-lift).

Judges assigned higher scores for likeability, social skills, attractiveness, and femininity following plastic surgery compared with their pre-surgery ratings.

Michael Reilly-Preoperative-Postoperative photosPreoperative and postoperative photographs of 30 women exhibiting “well-matched neutral facial expressions” were split into 6 groups, each with 5 preoperative and 5 postoperative photographs of different participants.

Steven Davison

Steven Davison

At least 24 raters, unaware that participants had plastic surgery procedures, evaluated each photograph on a 7-point scale for:

  • Aggressiveness,
  • Extroversion,
  • Likeability,
  • Risk-seeking,
  • Social skills,
  • Trustworthiness,
  • Attractiveness.

Reilly’s team noted that these surgical procedures provided cosmetic improvements to two regions crucial to expressing and interpreting emotions: eyes and mouth.

Michael Reilly - Pre-Post 2They concluded that:
“The eyes are highly diagnostic for attractiveness as well as for trustworthiness which may explain why, in our patient population, patients undergoing lower (eyelid surgery) were found to be significantly more attractive and feminine, and had a trend toward improved trustworthiness as well.”

“The corner of the mouth is the diagnostic region for both happy and surprised expressions and plays an important role in the perception of personality traits, such as extroversion.
“A subtle upturn of the mouth and fullness in the cheeks can make a person look more intelligent and socially skilled.
“This appearance may explain why patients undergoing a facelift procedure … are found to be significantly more likeable and socially skilled postoperatively.”

Paul Ekman

Paul Ekman

These results validate empirical findings that people make trait inferences based on facial appearance and structural resemblance to standard emotional expressions, described by University of San Francisco’s Paul Ekman.

Volunteers attributed personality traits to neutral faces when they detected a resemblance to standard emotional expressions, reported Princeton’s Christopher P. Said and Alexander Todorov with Nicu Sebe of University of Trento in their study applying a Bayesian network classifier trained to detect emotional expressions in facial images.

Christopher P. Said

Christopher P. Said

Neutral faces perceived as positive resemble typical facial expressions of happiness, whereas faces seen as negative resemble facial displays of disgust and fear.
Faces viewed as threatening resemble facial expressions of anger.

Trait inferences result from overgeneralization in emotion recognition systems, which typically extract accurate information about a person’s emotional state.

Nicu Sebe

Nicu Sebe

However, faces that bear subtle resemblance to emotional expressions can lead to misattributed personality traits and biased impressions.
These judgments can change for the better when a person’s appearance changes after plastic surgery.

-*To what extent do people’s personality traits seems different following plastic surgery?

-*How often are people treated differently following plastic surgery?

*What are ways to avoid confusing emotional expressions with personality traits?

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Reputation Affects Women’s Promotion, Earnings

Lily Fang

Lily Fang

Men gain greater reputation and job performance benefits from professional connections than women with equivalent education and job skills, according to INSEAD’s Lily Fang and Sterling Huang of Singapore Management University,

Sterling Huang

Sterling Huang

In fact, among the U.S. Wall Street analysts, many women had superior educational qualifications: Thirty-five percent these women earned degrees from Ivy League universities, in contrast to 25 percent of men from the same prestigious universities.

Lauren Cohen

Lauren Cohen

Fang and Huang examined analysts’ alumni connections with senior officers or board members of up to eight companies, using an approach pioneered by Harvard’s Lauren Cohen, and Christopher Malloy with Andrea Frazzini, of AQR Capital Management.

Christopher Malloy

Christopher Malloy

They considered analysts’:

  • Year-end earnings per share (EPS) forecasts,
  • Buy/sell stock recommendations from 1993 to 2009,
  • Price impact of their recommendations,
  • Selection to “All America Research Team” (AA) by Institutional Investor magazine during the same period.
Andrea Frazzini

Andrea Frazzini

The coveted AA recognition is based on the institutional investors’ subjective evaluation of each analyst’s industry knowledge, communication, responsiveness, written reports, and related skills.

Surprisingly, forecast accuracy is one of the least important selection criteria, so skillful analysts may be overlooked as an “All America” member if they are not visible and well-regarded by decision-makers.

Connections directly contributed to male analysts’ likelihood of being named to the  “All America Research Team” (AA).
In contrast, professional connections were unrelated to female analysts’ probability of selection as AA, suggesting that investors subjectively value connections among male analysts but not among female analysts.
These reputational decisions have significant financial consequences for analysts because those awarded the AA title earn around three times more than those without it.

About 25% of women and men analysts shared a school tie with a senior officer or board member in the firms they cover, but these connections improved men’s forecast accuracy significantly more than women’s estimate correctness.
These connections also improved the impact of male analysts’ stock recommendations, measured by market reaction to their buy and sell calls.

Female analysts with a connection to a female executive at firms they covered had a highly significant improvement in accuracy ranking, yet male analysts with male connection experienced almost twice as much accuracy improvement.

Herminia Ibarra

Herminia Ibarra

This significantly different impact of similar connections early in women’s and men’s careers could explain gender gaps that exist throughout long-term career trajectories.
This finding supports Herminia Ibarra’s similar results for men and women in an advertising firm, where men capitalized on network ties to improve their positions with employers.

Women capable of executive roles at these Wall Street firms may remain in analytical roles because promotion to General Manager roles depend on subjective evaluations by current decision makers, who are usually men.

The “Old Boys Club” remains a powerful advantage for men even though female analysts are equally represented in the AA analyst pool.
Fang and Huang concluded that despite mandated protections against gender discrimination in the U.S, men and women may be evaluated using different subjective criteria, even with the benefit of social connections.
This leads to differential career advancement for women and men.

Ronald Burt

Ronald Burt

These career-related social connections, or social capital, are affected by legitimacy, reputation, and network structures, argued University of Chicago’s Ronald Burt.
He noted that “holes” in a social network are entrepreneurial opportunities to add value, and women should have equal opportunities to fill network holes and increase their possibility of advancement.

However, Burt noted that “entrepreneurial networks linked to early promotion for senior men do not work for women” because women are not accepted as legitimate members of the population of highly promotable candidates.

He explained that women and minorities who succeed despite this disadvantage gain access to social capital by leveraging the network of a legitimate strategic partners.
This economic analysis may explain the powerful advantage of sponsors for women and minorities in the workplace.

-How do you identify and fill “structural holes in social capital networks”?

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Women Board Members + Strong Shareholder Protections = Higher Financial Performance

Kris Byron

Kris Byron

The relationship between women on corporate Boards of Directors and company positive financial results is mixed, according to Syracuse University’s Kris Byron and Corinne Post of Lehigh University.

Corinne Post

Corinne Post

To clarify conflicting data, they conducted a meta-analysis of 140 existing studies and found that women on corporate boards was related to positive financial outcomes in countries with stronger shareholder protections.

Companies with women on Boards and subject to rigorous shareholder protections reported higher accounting returns or firm profitability.

Richard Gentry

Richard Gentry

Accounting returns evaluate a firm’s efficiency in using assets to generate earnings and represent short-term financial performance, noted University of Mississippi’s Richard Gentry and Wei Shen of Arizona State University.

Wei Shen

Wei Shen

Another financial performance measure in Byron and Post’s meta-analysis was market performance, defined by University of Chicago’s Richard H. Thaler as marketplace behavior that reflects expectations of a firm’s long-term value.

Richard Thaler

Richard Thaler

Women on Boards of Directors provide “diversity of thought and experience” and tolerate less financial risk.
As a result, female board members made stronger efforts to monitor the firms and to ensure strategy execution, according to Byron and Post.

Kathleen Eisenhardt

Kathleen Eisenhardt

The team considered Agency Theory, proposed by Stanford’s Kathleen Eisenhardt, in her theory that Boards of Directors are “information systems” used by key stakeholders to verify organizational behavior.

Amy Hillman

Amy Hillman

These systems are influenced by Directors’ individual cognitive frames, derived from their diverse values and experiences, argued Arizona State’s Amy Hillman and Thomas Dalziel of University of Cincinnati.

Donald Hambrick

Donald Hambrick

These diverse cognitive frames yield more favorable organizational outcomes only when teams “engage in mutual and collective interaction [and] share information, resources, and decisions,” according to Upper Echelons Theory (UET) developed by Penn State’s Donald Hambrick.
This means that women Board members affect group decision-making and financial performance when other Board members are willing to consider their diverse perspectives and experiences.

Thomas Dalziel

Thomas Dalziel

Strong shareholder protections provide “an information-processing stimulus that motivates (Boards) to leverage the decision-making resources (i.e., knowledge, experience and values) that women bring,” asserted Byron and Post.
From this, they concluded that strong financial outcomes occur in companies with women on their Boards of Directors in countries with strong shareholder protections.

Byron and Post’s analysis illustrates that diverse perspectives provide little benefit if they are not solicited and fully considered in a context of regulatory oversight.

-*When have you observed diverse perspectives associated with increased profitability and performance?

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Range Offers vs Point Offers in Negotiation for Advantageous Settlements

Daniel Ames

Daniel Ames

Many people hesitate to present a negotiation offer as a range of values because they are concerned that co-negotiators will anchor on the lower value in the range as a “reservation price” or “bottom line.”

Malia F Mason

Malia F Mason

In fact, range offers may lead to stronger outcomes, according to Columbia University’s Daniel R. Ames and Malia F. Mason.
They compared range offers with point offers in laboratory studies of negotiations.

First offers can be powerful anchors, despite their risk of bias and marginal accuracy, reported University of Chicago’s Nicholas Epley and Thomas Gilovich of Cornell.

Nicholas Epley

Nicholas Epley

Even more influential aredual anchors” in range offers because they signal a negotiator’s knowledge of value as well as politeness.
Ames and Mason suggested that
negotiator credibility and knowledge of value increase anchor potency. 
Coupled with interpersonal relationship “capital”, these factors determine settlement outcomes.

Thomas Gilovich

Thomas Gilovich

Range and point opening offers can have varying impacts, depending on perceived preparation, credibility, politeness, and reasonableness of the proposer.

Ames and Mason tested three types of negotiation proposal ranges:

  • Bolstering range, which includes the target point value as the bottom of the range and an aspirational value as the top of the range.
    This strategy usually yields generous counteroffers and higher settlement prices, and is a recommended approach.
  • Backdown range, which features the target point value as the upper end of the range and a concession value as the lower offer.
    This approach often leads to accepting the lower value and is generally not recommended.
  • Bracketing range, which spans the target point offer and tends to have neutral settlement outcomes for the offer-maker.
    Compared with point offer-makers, bracketing range offers provided some relational benefits because they were seen as less aggressive.
Martin Schweinsberg

Martin Schweinsberg

Extreme anchors can be seen as offensive, and may lead to negotiation breakdown, according to INSEAD’s Martin Schweinsberg with Gillian Ku of London Business School, collaborating with Cynthia S. Wang of University of Michigan, and National University of Singapore’s Madan M. Pillutla.
Somewhat surprisingly, they found that negotiators with little power were more likely to walk away from extreme anchors.
Also surprisingly, high-power negotiators were equally offended.

Gilliam Ku

Gilliam Ku

Previously, Mason and team showed the benefit of precise single number offers, and the current research shows the value of less precise range offers.

Mason and team argue that point offers and range offers are independent and interactive informational processes with influence on settlement values: “…bolstering-range offers shape the perceived location of the offer-maker’s reservation price, (and) precise first offers shape the perceived credibility of the offer-maker’s price proposal.

  • When do you prefer to present a precise, non-rounded negotiation offers instead of a negotiation range?

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Group “Intelligence” Linked to Social Skills – and Number of Women Members

Anita Wooley Williams

Anita Wooley Williams

A group’s “general collective intelligence factor” is related to social and communication skills, not to the average or maximum individual intelligence of group members, found Carnegie Mellon’s Anita Williams Woolley, Christopher F. Chabris of Union College, with MIT colleagues Alex (“Sandy”) Pentland, Nada Hashmi, and Thomas W. Malone.

Instead, group intelligence was most closely associated with:

Christopher Chabris

Christopher Chabris

More than 695 volunteers completed an individual I.Q. test, then collaborated in teams to complete workplace tasks including:

  • Logical analysis,
  • Coordination,
  • Planning,
  • Brainstorming,
  • Moral-ethical reasoning.
Alexander Pentland

Alexander Pentland

Teams with higher average I.Qs performed similarly on collective intelligence tasks as teams with lower average I.Qs.

Simon Baron-Cohen

Simon Baron-Cohen

Each participant also completed a measure of empathy based on identifying emotional states portrayed in images of people’s eyes, developed by University of Cambridge’s Simon Baron-Cohen, Sally Wheelright, Jacqueline Hill, Yogini Raste, and Ian Plumb.
This instrument, Reading the Mind in the Eyes test, evaluates social reasoning.

Sally Wheelright

Sally Wheelright

Ability to infer other team members’ emotional states correlated with team effectiveness in solving workplace tasks, but not with extraversion and reported motivation.

David Engel

David Engel

Teams that performed best, both online and face-to-face, also demonstrated stronger social and communication skills:

  • Accurate emotion-reading, empathy, and interpersonal sensitivity,
  • Communication volume,
  • Equal participation.

High-performing teams excelled in inferring others’ feelings even if conveyed without visual, auditory, or non-verbal cues while interacting online in a study by Wooley’s team collaboration with MIT’s David Engel and Lisa X. Jing.

Reading the Mind in the Eyes

Reading the Mind in the Eyes

These studies demonstrate that teams may increase task performance when members have well-developed “Emotional Intelligence,” social insight, and communication skills rather than the highest measured IQ.

  • How do you enhance a work group’s collective intelligence in performance tasks?

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Nothing to Lose: Effective Negotiating Even When “Powerless”

Michael Schaerer

Most negotiators prefer to have alternatives as a “fall back position.”
However, having no alternatives and less power than co-negotiators can improve outcomes, found INSEAD’s Michael Schaerer and Roderick Swaab with Adam Galinsky of Columbia.

Alternatives enable negotiators to gain concessions from co-negotiators because they have a BATNA – Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement, defined by Harvard’s Roger Fisher and William Ury.

Roger Fisher

Roger Fisher

When an alternative is weak, it can undermine negotiating outcomes more than having no alternative because it establishes an “anchor point” based on competing options.

Anchoring is a frequent cognitive bias characterized by overvaluing one piece of information, according to Hebrew University’s Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman of Princeton.

William Ury

William Ury

Typically, negotiators anchor on the value of their alternatives when making their first offer, so people with weak alternatives generally make lower first offers than those with no alternative.
“Lowball” first offers based on few or poor alternatives usually undermine a negotiator’s final outcome.

Professional athletes and their agents provide many anecdotal examples of negotiating better deals when they have no “back up” offers and “nothing to lose” because they can set ambitious anchor points.

Amos Tversky

Amos Tversky

In a separate study of job negotiation, Schaerer and team asked a hundred people whether they would prefer to negotiate a job offer with a weak alternative or without any alternative.
More than 90 percent indicated that they would prefer to enter the negotiation with an unattractive alternative offer, confirming the popular assumption that any alternative is seen as better than no alternative.

Another of Schaerer’s lab studies asked volunteers to imagine they were selling a used music CD by The Rolling Stones.
They randomly assigned participants to three groups and gave each group different information about their alternatives, ranging from:

  • No offers (no alternative),
  • One offer at USD $2 (weak alternative),
  • A bid at USD $8 (strong alternative).
Roderick Swaab

Roderick Swaab

Volunteers in each group proposed a first offer, and rated the degree of power they felt.
Not surprisingly, people with the strong alternative felt the most powerful and those with no alternative felt the least powerful.

However, people with a weak alternative felt more powerful than those with no alternative, but they made lower first offers, signaling less confidence than participants with no alternative.
Having alternatives, whether poor or attractive, may make people feel powerful but can undermine negotiation performance.

Schaerer’s team further explored this paradox by pairing participants as a  “seller” who was offering a Starbucks mug during a face-to-face meeting, and a potential “buyer.”

Adam Galinsky

Adam Galinsky

Before the meeting, the seller received a phone call from “another buyer,” who was actually a confederate.
For half of the “sellers,” the potential buyer either made a low offer or declined to bid.

“Sellers” without an alternative offer said they felt less powerful, but made higher first offers and received considerably higher sales prices than negotiators with a an unattractive alternative.

In another situation, half of the “sellers” concentrated on available alternatives (none, weak, or strong) and the remaining negotiators focused on the target price.

Volunteers with unappealing alternatives negotiated worse deals than those without other options when they focused on alternatives, but “sellers” avoided this pitfall by concentrating on the target price.
This is another validation of focusing on the goal when alternatives are weak, and of the power of first-offer anchors.

Negotiators with non-existent or unappealing alternatives benefit from caution in setting modest first offers driven by feeling powerless.
Instead, the situation can be reconstrued as an opportunity to set audacious goals, reflected in an ambitious opening offer.

  • How do you overcome lowball anchoring when you have few negotiation alternatives?

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