Category Archives: Career Development

Career Development

What Evidence Supports Coaching to Increase Goal Achievement, Performance?

Anthony Grant

Anthony Grant

Coaching is a collaborative, solution-focused process that facilitates coachees’ self-directed learning, personal growth, and goal attainment, according to University of Sydney’s Anthony Grant.

Anthony Grant modelHe integrated practices from solution-focused and cognitive-behavioral interventions into Solution-Focused Cognitive-Behavioral (SF-CB) Coaching and a “Coach Yourself” program with Jane Greene.

Participants reported increased:

John Franklin

on the Self-Reflection and Insight Scaledeveloped with Macquarie University colleagues John Franklin and Peter Langford.

Two types of empirical studies provide evidence about coaching’s efficacy:

  • Randomized Controlled Trials (RCT), in which participants receive one of several interventions or no intervention.
    This is considered the more credible research approach.
  • Peter Langford

    Peter Langford

    Quasi-Experimental Field Studies (QEFS), which use “time series analysis” but not random participants to measure outcomes.

Linley Curtayne

Linley Curtayne

Randomized Controlled Trials (RCT) found several effects among executives who received 360-degree feedback and four coaching sessions over ten weeks:

Lower stress, according to Grant with University of Sydney colleagues Linley Curtayne and Geraldine Burton,

Geraldine Burton

Geraldine Burton

  • Greater goal attainment compared with an eight week educational mindfulness-based health coaching program, reported by University of Sydney’s Gordon B. Spence, Michael J. Cavanagh and Grant,
  • Lindsay Oades

    Lindsay Oades

    • Increased goal striving, well-being, hope, with gains maintained up to 30 weeks, reported by Grant and Green with University of Wollongong colleague Lindsay G. Oades.

C. RIck Snyder

C. RIck Snyder

This last effect, increased hope is crucial to pursue any goal, according to University of Kansas’s C.R. Snyder, Scott T. Michael of University of Washington, and Ohio State’s Jennifer Cheavens.

Individuals seeking change must be able to:

  • Develop one or more ways to achieve a goals (“pathways”),
  • Use these routes to reach the goal (“agency”).

Edward Deci - Richard Ryan

Edward Deci – Richard Ryan

Three additional elements are essential to goal achievement, suggested University of Rochester’s Edward L. Deci and Richard M. Ryan:

  • Competence,
  • Autonomy,
  • Relatedness.

According to their Self-Determination Theory (SDT), these characteristics are associated with increased:

  • Goal motivation,
  • Enhanced performance,
  • Persistence,
  • Mental health.

Kristina Gyllensten

Kristina Gyllensten

The other category of research, Quasi-Experimental Field Studies (QEFS), reported that coaching for managers of a federal government:

  • Stephen Palmer

    Stephen Palmer

    • Decreased anxiety and stress among UK finance organization participants, in findings by Kristina Gyllensten and Stephen Palmer of City University London.

Despite the low “barriers to entry” for offering life coaching services and low quality control across providers, empirical studies appear to validate coaching’s contribution to participants’ increased goal attainment and increased satisfaction, well-being, and hope.

-*How do you “coach yourself” and others toward increased goal attainment and performance?

-*What are the “active ingredients” of effective coaching practices?

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©Kathryn Welds

 

Mindfulness Meditation Improves Decisions, Reduces Sunk-Cost Bias

Sigal Barsade

Sigal Barsade

 

Andrew Hafenbrack

Andrew Hafenbrack

Sunk-cost bias” is the tendency to continue unsuccessful actions after time and money have been invested.
Frequent examples include:

  • Holding poorly-performing stock market investments,
  • Staying in abusive interpersonal relationships,
  • Continuing failing military engagements.
Zoe Kinias

Zoe Kinias

In these cases, people focus on past behaviors rather than current circumstances, leading to emotion-driven decision biases.

Brief meditation sessions can help decision makers consider factors beyond past “sunk costs,” reported Wharton’s Sigal Barsade, with Andrew C. Hafenbrack and Zoe Kinias of INSEAD.

Meditation practices can:

  • Enable increased focus on the present moment,
  • Shift attention away from past and future actions,
  • Reduce negative emotions.
Kirk Brown

Kirk Brown

The team asked volunteers to complete Mindful Attention Awareness Scale,  developed by Virginia Commonwealth University’s Kirk Brown and Richard Ryan of University of Rochester.

Richard Ryan

Richard Ryan

They also measured participants’ ability to resist “sunk cost” bias using Adult Decision-Making Competence Inventory, developed by Leeds University’s Wändi Bruine de Bruin with Baruch Fischhoff of Carnegie Mellon and  RAND Corporation’s Andrew M. Parker.

Wändi Bruine de Bruin

Wändi Bruine de Bruin

In a decision task, participants could take an action or to do nothing, as a measure of sunk-cost bias.
Taking action indicated resistance to the sunk-cost bias, whereas those who took no action were influenced by the sunk-cost bias.

Baruch Fischhoff

Baruch Fischhoff

Volunteers who listened to a 15-minute focused-breathing guided meditation were more likely to choose action, resisting sunk-cost bias, than those who had not heard the meditation instruction.

Andrew M Parker

Andrew M Parker

Barsade’s team noted that, “People who meditated focused less on the past and future, which led to them experiencing less negative emotion. That helped them reduce the sunk-cost bias.

Jochen Reb

Jochen Reb

Mindful attention enabled negotiators to craft better deals by “claiming a larger share of the bargaining zone” in “fixed pie” negotiations, found Singapore Management University’s Jochen Reb, Jayanth Narayanan of National University of Singapore, and University of California, Hastings College of the Law’s Darshan Brach.
Effective negotiators also expressed greater satisfaction with the bargaining process and outcome. 

Jayanth Narayanan

Jayanth Narayanan

Mindful attention also leads to a lower negativity bias, the tendency to weigh pessimistic information more heavily than positive, reported Virginia Commonwealth University’s Laura G. Kiken and Natalie J. Shook of West Virginia University.

The team assessed negativity bias with BeanFest, a computer game developed by Shook, with Ohio State’s Russell Fazio and J. Richard Eiser of University of Sheffield.

Natalie Shook

Natalie Shook

Participants associated novel stimuli with positive or negative outcomes during attitude formation exercises.

Russell Fazio

Russell Fazio

Volunteers who listened to a mindfulness induction correctly classified positive and negative stimuli more equally, expressed greater optimism, and demonstrated less negativity bias than those in the control condition.

J Richard Eiser

J Richard Eiser

Mindful attention improves decision-making and enhances negotiation outcomes.
It does this by reducing biases linked to negative emotions.

As a result, taking a brief mental break (“time-out”) during decision-making can improve choices and can reduce the possibility that “the wrong emotions cloud the decision-making process.”

-*How do you reduce bias in making decisions and crafting negotiation proposals?

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 ©Kathryn Welds

Multiple Paths Toward Goals Can Motivate, then Derail Success

Szu-Chi Huang

Szu-Chi Huang

Goal motivation changes as people move closer to their target, according to Stanford’s Szu-chi Huang and Ying Zhang of University of Texas.
Their work built on Heinz Heckhausen’s earlier studies of goal motivation.

Ying Zhang

Ying Zhang

In the first stages of effort, multiple paths toward the goal makes the target seem attainable, noted Huang and Zhang.

Albert Bandura

Albert Bandura

This perception of “self-efficacy,” belief in their ability to achieve a goal by applying effort and persistence, provides motivation to continue goal striving and reduce emotional arousal, reported Stanford’s Albert Bandura.

Clark Hull

Clark Hull

In contrast, when people are close to achieving a goal, a single goal path provides greater motivation, consistent with Clark Hull’s finding that motivation increases closer to the goal.

Sheena Iyengar

Sheena Iyengar

A single route to the finish reduces the “cognitive load” of considering different approaches, suggested Huang and Zhang.
This research supports Sheena Iyengar and Mark Lepper’s finding that “more choice is not always better.

Peter Gollwitzer

Peter Gollwitzer

These stages of goal pursuit are characterized by differing mindsets.
Deliberative Mindset” describes considering work toward a goal whereas “Implemention Mindset” characterises planning the execution steps toward a goal, according to NYU’s Peter Gollwitzer, Heinz Heckhausen, and Birgit Steller of University of Heidelberg.

Huang, a former account director at advertising giant JWT, evaluated customer loyalty behaviors to achieve incentive goals.
In one study, she issued two versions of an invitation to join a coffee-shop loyalty program.

Half of the participants were given a “quick start” to earning 12 stamps required to earn a free coffee by providing them with the first six when they began.
Half of these volunteers had multiple ways to earn additional reward stamps:  Buying coffee, tea or any other drink.
More than 25% of this multi-option/”quick start” group joined the loyalty program.

The other half of the “quick start” volunteers could earn more stamps in only one way:  Buying a beverage.
Significantly more of the customers with a single option joined the loyalty program.

The comparison group received no stamps.
Half these customers could earn more stamps in several ways and more than 1/3 registered for the loyalty program.
Remaining participants had the single option of purchasing more beverages, and registered significantly less frequently for the loyalty program.

This difference between goal pursuit behaviors when close to a consumer goal may apply to personal goals like fitness, weight reduction, smoking cessation, and confident public speaking.

Motivation toward a goal is also determined by:

Nira Liberman

Nira Liberman

according to Tel Aviv Universitys Nira Liberman and Jens Förster of Jacobs University of Bremen and Universiteit van Amsterdam.

Jens Förster

Jens Förster

Similarly, Huang and Zhang demonstrated the motivational impact of choice.
They compared the number of yoghurt shop customers who were required to purchase six flavors in a specific order compared with any order, to receive an incentive.

Volunteers with fewer choices were more likely to achieve the goal of a free yoghurt.
“…relatively rigid structures can often simplify goal pursuit by removing the need to make choices, especially when people are already well into the process,” explained Huang.

A practical application is that nonprofit organizations can benefit from changing giving options when a fund-raising target is nearly met.
At that time, fewer and simpler ways to donate are likely to result in more participation in the campaign.

-*How do you maintain motivation when you are close to achieving a goal?

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©Kathryn Welds

Anxiety Undermines Negotiation Performance

Maurice Schweitzer

Maurice Schweitzer

Anxious negotiators make lower first offers, end negotiations earlier, and earn lower profits than calmer negotiation counterparts.

 Harvard’s Alison Wood Brooks and Maurice E. Schweitzer of University of Pennsylvania found that this occurred due to anxious negotiator’s “low self-efficacy” beliefs.

Alison Wood Brooks

Alison Wood Brooks

Brooks and Schweitzer induced anxious feelings or neutral reactions during continuous “shrinking-pie” negotiation tasks.
Negotiators who feel anxious typically expect to achieve lower profits, present more cautious offers, and respond more cautiously to proposals by negotiation counterparts.

Negotiators who achieved more better outcomes managed emotions with cognitive strategies including:

Julie Norem

Julie Norem

  • Strategic optimism, indicated by calmly expecting positive outcomes, according to University of Miami’s Stacie Spencer and Julie Norem of Wellesley,
  • Reattribution, by considering alternate interpretations of events to increase optimism and self-efficacy beliefs.

Cognitive strategies with mixed results include:

  • Andrew Elliot

    Andrew Elliot

    Self-handicapping, defined as creating obstacles to explain poor outcomes and preserve self-esteem, according to University of Rochester’s Andrew Elliott and Marcy Church of St. Mary’s University,

  • Defensive pessimism, marked by high motivation toward achievement coupled with negative expectations for future challenges, leading to increased effort and preparation, according to Wellesley College’s Julie Norem and Edward Chang of University of Michigan.
Edward Chang

Edward Chang

Norem and Cantor concluded that defensive pessimists performed worse when told that that they could expect to perform well on anagram and puzzle tasks.

Defensive pessimism among university students was related to lower self-esteem, higher self-criticism, more pessimism, and frequent discounting of previous successful performances, according to Norem and Brown’s Jasmina Burdzovic Andreas.

Jasmina Burdzovic Andreas

Jasmina Burdzovic Andreas

However, their longitudinal study demonstrated that self-esteem increased to almost the same levels as optimists during university years.
Pessimists’ precautionary countermeasures may have resulted in strong performance, which built credible self-esteem.

Defensive pessimism may be an effective, if uncomfortable, approach to managing anxiety and performance motivation.

-*How do you manage anxiety in high-stakes negotiations?

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©Kathryn Welds

Transference in Everyday Life Biases Memory, Emotions

-*Do you re-enact scenarios from your past, but with different people?

Sigmund Freud

Sigmund Freud

 Sigmund Freud described this experience as “transference,” redirecting feelings toward one person in the past onto a different individual in the present.

The current recipient of feelings may have different characteristics, motivations, and behaviors than the original person, but something about the present individual triggers earlier feelings and actions.

Susan Andersen

Susan Andersen

NYU’s Susan Andersen and Alana Baum demonstrated transference in lab studies when they asked volunteers to describe important people in their lives for whom they had positive feelings or negative feelings.
They also described other people’s significant others.

Later, Anderson and Baum described a person seated in the next room, using either emotionally-positive or emotionally-negative descriptions of someone from the volunteer’s life or someone else’s life.

Participants more accurately recalled the stranger’s description when it resembled their own significant other.
Recall was enhanced because the significant other’s description was memorable, suggesting transference.

Biased inference can result from a memory’s “accessibility” and distinctiveness, according to Anderson’s collaborators Steve W. Cole and Noah Glassman.

Transference is an outgrowth of attachment to others in the past, according to Queens College’s Claudia Chloe Brumbaugh and R. Chris Fraley University of Illinois.

R. Chris Fraley

R. Chris Fraley

In their study, participants read profiles of two potential dating partners:  One description resembled a romantic partner from the person’s past, and another description matched another participant’s former partner.

Volunteers reported feeling more comfortable and more anxious toward potential dating partners described as similar to previous significant others.
Brumbaugh and Fraley wrote that participants “applied attachment representations of past partners” to any potential future partner, and to a greater extent when the new partner’s description resembled an important past partner.

Susan Fiske

Princeton’s Susan Fiske described this transfer of affective responses to a new individual as schema-triggered affect.
Andersen used this framework and a socio-cognitive explanation in a paper with Berkeley’s Serena Chen.

Serena Chen

Serena Chen

People modify views of themselves and others in transference situations, reported Katrina Hinkley and Andersen.
In their research, volunteers demonstrated biased recall about a new person when they were reminded of an earlier significant other.
When participants were re-tested, their lists of the new person’s attributes included elements of themselves when they had been with the former significant person.

Michael Kraus

Michael Kraus

Transference occurs even when a target person possesses an attribute incompatible with the significant other’s characteristics, found University of Illinois’s Michael W. Kraus with Berkeley’s Chen, Victoria A. Lee, and Laura D. Straus.

Participants demonstrated transference in biased memories and judgments about a person they perceived as similar to a former significant other.

The research team elicited positive impressions even when the target was from a different ethnic group.
This suggests that stigma and discrimination may be reduced by evoking positive transference from past experiences to present actors.

Baum and Anderson observed that participants’ current mood was more positive when the target of their transference resembled their significant other and occupied a similar role to the original person.

Transference in the workplace can be problematic when employees react to one another as they responded to others from the past, introducing unconscious emotional elements to work situations.

-*How do you manage transference reactions in work and social situations?

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©Kathryn Welds

Attractiveness Bias in Groups

Edward Vul

Edward Vul

Individuals were rated as more attractive when they were observed in a group rather than alone, reported University of California, San Diego’s Drew Walker and Edward Vul.

The perceptual system “computes” a statistical summary representation of “an ensemble” – a group – and is biased toward perceiving the ensemble average as attractive, they wrote.

Individuals are perceived as more similar to the average group face, which is seen as  more attractive than group members’ individual faces, thanks to a perceptual bias called the ”cheerleader effect.

Individuals who are judged attractive are also ascribed positive characteristics including good health, good genes, intelligence, and success as a result of attribution bias.

Michael Cunningham

Michael Cunningham

There is consensus across cultures and genders on ratings of physical attractiveness, found University of Louisville’s Michael R. Cunningham, Anita P. Barbee, Perri B. Druen, who collaborated with Alan R. Roberts of Indiana University and Chung Yuan Christian University’s Cheng-Huan Wu.

Features rated as most attractive for women include: 

  • High cheekbones and forehead,
  • Fuller lips,
  • Large, clear eyes,
  • Shorter jaw,
  • Narrower chin.
Alan Roberts

Alan Roberts

Women’s weight wasn’t as relevant to attractiveness as a waist-to-hips ratio of 7:10 and Body Mass Index (BMI) of 20.85.

Preferred characteristics for men were:

  • Large jaw and brow,
  • Prominent cheekbones,
  • Broad chin,
  • Waist-to-hips ratio of 9:10,
  • About 12 percent body fat.

    Smooth skin, shiny hair, and facial symmetry were rated as attractive for both women and men.

Genevieve Lorenzo

Genevieve Lorenzo

Physical attractiveness focuses observers’ attention on attractive individuals, and enables more accurate assessments of personality traits based on brief interactions, according to University of British Columbia’s Genevieve Lorenzo and Jeremy Biesanz with Lauren Human of University of California, San Francisco.

Jeremy Biesanz

Jeremy Biesanz

Observers more accurately identified personality traits of physically attractive people  and these ratings were more similar to attractive people’s self-reported personality traits (“distinctive accuracy”).

Lauren Human

Lauren Human

Volunteers showed a positive bias toward attractive people and accurately identified the relative ordering of attractive participants’ Big Five personality traits (extraversion, conscientiousness, agreeableness, openness to experience, and emotional stability -“neuroticism”).

Nicholas Rule

Nicholas Rule

Raters accurately evaluated CEOs’ competence, dominance, likability, maturity and trustworthiness by viewing photographs of the executives’ faces in a study by University of Toronto’s Nicholas Rule and Nalini Ambady, then of Tufts.

Nalini Ambady

Nalini Ambady

Thirty volunteers assessed CEOs’ “leadership success” based on appearance alone, and these rating were significantly related to profitability of the organizations the CEOs led.

John Graham

John Graham

CEOs and non-executives compete in an unconscious “corporate beauty contest,” and those viewed as attractive are assigned positive attributions, asserted John Graham, Campbell Harvey and Manju Puri of Duke.

Photos of more than 100 white male chief executive officers of large and small companies were paired with with photos of non-executives with similar facial features, hairstyles and clothing.

Campbell Harvey

Campbell Harvey

Nearly 2,000 participants assessed photos and rated CEOs as competent and attractive more frequently than non-executives.
However, volunteers were less likely to rate CEOs as likable and trustworthy.

Those rated as “competent” earned more money, but in this study, CEO appearance wasn’t associated with company profitability.

Elaine Wong

Elaine Wong

Specific facial structures, not just attributed personality traits, were associated with superior business results, according to University of Wisconsin’s Elaine Wong and Michael P. Haselhuhn working with Margaret E. Ormiston of London Business School.

Firms that achieved superior financial results tended to have male CEOs with wider faces relative to facial height, particularly among organizations with “cognitively simple leadership teams.”

Margaret Ormiston

Margaret Ormiston

Evolutionary biology suggests that specific facial structures may be perceived as associated with trustworthy leadership skills, leading to attributions of competence, and igniting loyalty to follow.

-*What positive bias do you observe toward attractive individuals in the workplace? 

-*How do you harness the positive bias toward attractive individuals?

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©Kathryn Welds

Ask for What You Want: You Have More Influence Than You Think

Most people underestimate the likelihood that requests for help will be granted, particularly after experiencing previous refusals, according to Stanford’s Daniel Newark and Francis Flynn with Vanessa Lake Bohns of University of Waterloo.

Francis Flynn

Help-seekers were more likely to expect that a previous refusal would be followed by another refusal to a similar request. 

However, help-seekers underestimated the compliance rate of potential helpers who previously refused assistance.
This suggests that most people agree with a subsequent request, to reduce discomfort of rejecting others’ overtures for help.

Vanessa Bohns

Vanessa Bohns

Participants estimated they would need to ask 10 people to have three agree to lend their mobile phones for brief calls.
In fact, these volunteers had to ask six people for help before it was given, 40% fewer than expected.
Most people have a pessimistic bias about the likelihood that others will provide assistance, they concluded.

Volunteers requested two favors of strangers:  Complete a brief survey and take a letter to a nearby post office.
Help seekers predicted that people who refused the first request to complete the survey would be less likely to take the letter to the post office.

More people agreed to the second request than to the first request, showing that after people refused a request, they were more likely to agree the second time.
Requesters tended to “anchor” on the first refusal, and hesitated to make a second request.
However, this finding suggests that requesters have a greater chance of success after initial refusal, so it’s advisable to muster resilience and persistence.

Requesters and help-seekers analyzed requests using different criteria:  Requesters focused on the magnitude of the “ask,” whereas potential helpers receiving the request considered the inconvenience costs of saying “yes” compare with the interpersonal and self-image costs of saying “no.”

Requesters benefit from expanding the pool of those they ask, not just those who reliably and consistently agree.
These individuals are typically overburdened by requests, and those who are more selective in their assistance are underutilized and may be willing to assist.

Potential helpers underestimated help-seekers’ discomfort and embarrassment in asking for assistance, in previous studies by the team.
This may result in less willingness to help underutilized formal support programs.
The most effective way to increase help-seeking is to encourage helpers to focus on reducing help-seekers’ subjective discomfort in asking rather than advocating the practical benefits of asking for help.

Mahdi Roghanizad

Mahdi Roghanizad

Bohns extended this focus on the impact of interpersonal discomfort in deciding whether to commit an unethical act in research with University of Waterloo colleagues Mahdi Roghanizad and Amy Xu.

People who observed the unethical act but didn’t participate (“instigators”) underestimated their influence over those who committed the actions.

Volunteers enlisted people they didn’t know to tell a small untruth or to commit a small act of vandalism after predicting the ease of enlisting others in these acts.
In related investigations, online participants responded to hypothetical vignettes about buying alcohol for children, and taking office supplies home for personal use.

Bystanders underestimated their impact on others when they suggested engaging in unethical acts.
Further, interpersonal discomfort caused participants to commit the asocial act to avoid conflict.

These results suggest that most people inaccurately estimate their influence, particularly in situations that can evoke interpersonal discomfort.
At the same time, Bohns and Flynn reported that employees’ systematically underestimate their influence over others in the workplace.
Most employees expect their efforts to be futile.

This pessimistic bias can limit employees’ willingness to:

  • Lead business transformation initiatives,
  • Recognize personal contributions to others’ performance issues,
  • Voice concerns about unethical workplace practices.

This underestimation bias may be reduced by:

  • Comparative judgments,
  • Objectifying an influence target,
  • Comparing actual degree of personal influence compared to perceived influence,
  • Considering means of influence, including incentives, suggestions, reinforcements, punishments,
  • Organizational culture. 

These findings suggest the benefit of asking for what you want, even after rejection and that you have more influence over others than you expect.

-*How do you assess your likelihood of getting what you want when you ask?

-*How likely are others to influence you by evoking social discomfort to increase your compliance?

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©Kathryn Welds

How Accurate are Personality Judgments Based on Physical Appearance?

-*How accurate are inferences made from other people’s appearance, including facial expression, posture, and clothing?

Laura Naumann

Laura Naumann

Simine Vazire

Simine Vazire

Sonoma State University’s Laura Naumann, with Simine Vazire then of Washington University in St. Louis, teamedwith University of Cambridge’s Peter Rentfrow, and Samuel Gosling of University of Texas at Austin, to investigate this question.

They asked volunteers to rate 10 personality traits, including Openness to Experience, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, Neuroticism.
These Big Five personality traits
, proposed by Paul Costa and Robert McCrae of the U.S. National Institutes of Health, were evaluated in addition to likeability, self-esteem, loneliness, religiosity, and political orientation for people pictured in full-body photographs.

Samuel Gosling

Samuel Gosling

Peter Jason Rentfrow

These measures were compared with ratings by the photographed person and people acquainted with these individuals.

Observers’ judgments were accurate when they rated extraversion, self-esteem, and religiosity among people photographed in a “standardized” pose, and were correct for additional personality traits when judging photographs in spontaneous poses and facial expressions.

Paul Costa

These findings suggest that candid photographs provide more accurate cues to some personality characteristics than planned poses.

Robert McCrae

Robert McCrae

Judgments based on clothing cues were associated with less accurate judgments of personality characteristics.
In contrast,
facial expression and posture enabled observers to make more accurate judgments.

John Irving

John Irving

Observers can make accurate inferences about some personality characteristics based on visual cues, according to these findings.
Novelist John Irving’s A Prayer for Owen Meany noted that “Things often are as they appear. First impressions matter,” just as these researchers concluded.

-*How accurate are your judgments of personality traits for people you don’t already know?
-*How accurate are other people’s inferences about your personality traits?

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©Kathryn Welds

Inferring, Predicting Others’ Thoughts, Intentions, Behavior

Developing accurate inferences about others’ expectations and possible actions is essential for successful social interactions.

Demis Hassabis

Demis Hassabis

The brain’s process to develop predictions about others’ thoughts and behaviors was investigated by University College London’s Demis Hassabis, with R. Nathan Spreng of Cornell University, Vrije Universiteit’s Andrei A. Rusu, Harvard’s Clifford A. Robbins and Daniel Schacter, and Raymond A. Mar of York University.

R. Nathan Spreng

R. Nathan Spreng

Volunteers read about four fictional protagonists’ personality traits, then imagined each character’s behaviors in different situations.
Participants then underwent fMRI brain scans.

Andrei Rusu

Andrei Rusu

Medial prefrontal cortex activity in the brain was associated with accurate inferences about protagonists’ personality characteristics and behaviors, demonstrating that “brain activity can reveal whom someone is thinking about.

Clifford Robbins

Clifford Robbins

Lateral temporal cingulate cortex activity occurred when participants accurately determined protagonists’ degree of agreeableness, whereas activity in the posterior cingulate cortex activity was associated with correct judgments of protagonists’ degree of extraversion.

Daniel Schachter

Daniel Schachter

Brain regions responsible for processing inferences of personality traits and behaviors are functionally coupled with areas that differentiate people’s identities, found Hassabis’s group.

Raymond Mar

Raymond Mar

This means that specific brain regions “code” inferred personality traits in others and synthesize these characteristics into “personality models” that represent individuals and their likely behaviors in new situations.

Matthew Hertenstein

Matthew Hertenstein

People can even infer others’ emotional intentions through unseen touchreported Matthew Hertenstein with DePauw University colleagues Brittany Bulleit and Ariane Jaskolka, UC Berkeley’s Dacher Keltner and Betsy App of University of Denver.

Brittany Bulleit-Ariane Jaskolka

Brittany Bulleit-Ariane Jaskolka

Two hundred volunteers in the United States and Spain accurately perceived anger, fear, disgust, love, gratitude, and sympathy conveyed by unseen touch.
However, they were not able to accurately identify touch signaling happiness, sadness, surprise, embarrassment, envy, or pride.

Dacher Keltner

Observers also accurately identified emotions conveyed by participants’ “tactile displays” when they touched paired volunteers.

Betsy App

Betsy App

Gian Gonzaga of UCLA collaborated with Keltner and University of Wisconsin’s Daniel Ward to investigate male-female communication pairs’ ability to infer and detect emotion.

Gian Gonzaga

Gian Gonzaga

Guided by Keltner’s “approach/inhibition theory of power,” the researchers attributed high power to one volunteer in a communication pair, then compared communications when both people were in an equal-power condition between women and men.

Participants ascribed high power showed behavioral disinhibition, and made less accurate judgments of the communication partner’s emotion.
In contrast, individuals assigned the low power role demonstrated more behavioral inhibition and reported greater self-consciousness and anxiety.

Men in engaged in power behaviors even when participants were attributed equal power, and this behavior was less apparent when both participants were men.
These studies confirm power differentials between women and men, and gender-related “emotion blindness” when male-female pairs misinterpreted each other’s attempts to convey specific emotions. 

Male pairs accurately detected anger, but men did not understand women’s attempts to convey anger in male-female pairs.
Likewise, women did not accurately detect men’s attempts to convey compassion, but female pairs accurately perceived expressions of happiness.

Sympathy was accurately communicated only when at least one woman was in the volunteer pair, demonstrating gender-related limitations to accurate empathy and emotionally intelligent interpersonal inferences.

-*How do you develop accurate inferences about others’ opinions and likely behaviors?
-*How do you revise your models of others’ personalities?

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©Kathryn Welds

Apologies: Repairing Relationships, Creating Interpersonal Peace

Jennifer Robbennolt

Jennifer Robbennolt

Apologies can resolve legal disputes ranging from personal injury cases to wrongful firings, according to University of Illinois’s Jennifer Robbennolt.

She found that admissions of guilt and remorse give plaintiffs and “wronged” parties a sense of satisfaction, fairness, and forgiveness that enables settlement and reduces monetary damage awards.

Robbbennolt asked more than 550 volunteers to serve as “plaintiffs” in an experimental scenario, then report their reactions to “settlement levers” including:

  • Reservation prices,
  • Aspirations,
  • “Fair” settlement amounts.

Apologies enabled “injured” parties to modify their perceptions of the situation and the “offender,” and to become more willing to participate in settlement discussions.
In addition, apologies changed the values injured parties’ assigned to settlement levers, so there was increased likelihood of settling the “case.”

The type of apologies and situational context affect the likelihood of case settlement.
Apologies that acknowledge responsibility and “blame” are more influential than apologies that express sympathy.
Acknowledging accountability reduces the injured party’s anger, increases willingness to accept a settlement, and moves toward emotional “closure.”

Janelle Barlow

Janelle Barlow

Apologies are a well-known tactic to handle complaints in customer service settings, where “every complaint is a gift,” according to Janelle Barlow of TMI and Claus Møller.

Claus Møller

Claus Møller

They view complaints as valuable feedback that points out a gap between customer requirements and business performance.
In addition, complaints indicate needed changes in products, services, and market focus.

Benjamin Ho

Benjamin Ho

Medical settings have found that apologies averted medical malpractice cases, sped settlement, and reduced financial awards, according to Cornell’s Benjamin Ho.

However, lawyers in other Robbennolt studies expressed concern that admission of guilt may lead to larger settlements.
This worry led to at least thirty-five U.S. states making some apologetic statements inadmissible at trial.

-*How do you determine when apologies are likely to repair a relationship and lead to “closure”?
-*What are the signs that apologies can deepen an interpersonal rupture?

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©Kathryn Welds