Category Archives: Storytelling

Storytelling

“Self-Packaging” as Personal Brand: Implicit Requirements for Personal Appearance?

Napoleon Hill

Napoleon Hill

Al Ries

Al Ries

During the Depression of the 1930s in the US, motivational writer Napoleon Hill laid the foundation for “personal positioning,” described nearly forty-five years later by marketing executives Al Ries and Jack Trout in Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind.

By 1997, business writer Tom Peters introduced “personal branding” as self-packaging that communicates an individual’s accomplishments and characteristics, including appearance, as a “brand promise of value.”

Tom Peters

Positioning, branding, and packaging are related but differentiated.
Self-packaging can be considered “the shell of who you are” whereas self-presentation can be “what sets you apart from the crowd.

Jim Kukral

The goal of personal branding is to communicate intrinsic, important, differentiating personal characteristics, exemplified in self-packaging details like attire, business cards, speaking style and more, according to Jim Kurkal and Murray Newlands.

Daniel Lair

Daniel Lair

Academic researchers have investigated intangibles of personal branding, presentation, and packaging such an academic analysis 
by University of Michigan’s Daniel Lair with Katie Sullivan of University of Utah, and Kent State’s George Cheney. 

George Cheney

George Cheney

They referred to personal branding as “…self-commodification” worthy of “careful and searching analysis.
They examined complex rhetoric tactics used in personal branding, they identified how these approaches shape power relations by gender, age, race, and class.

Sylvia Ann Hewlett

Sylvia Ann Hewlett

Sylvia Ann Hewlett of the Center for Talent Innovation identified potential biases facing women and members of minority groups in  implicit requirements for executive presence embodied in personal appearance, a component of self-presentation.
These analyses suggest that personal packaging, branding, and marketing significantly affect professional opportunities and outcomes, despite challenges of tracing these effects.

-*What elements do you consider in “personal packaging” and the specific case of personal appearance?

-*How do you mitigate possible bias based on expectations for personal appearance?

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“Social Accounts” as Pay Substitutes = Lower Pay for Women

Managers’ “social accounts” of beyond their social media log-ins.
Experts in procedural justice broaden definition of “social accounts” to include explanations for decisions and outcomes.

Maura Belliveau

Maura Belliveau

Experienced managers who were permitted to give a rationale for salary decisions – a “social account” – awarded smaller salary increases to women employees but not men, in a study by Long Island University’s Maura A. Belliveau.

Less experienced managers did not use social accounts as substitutes for pay, suggesting that managers’ adherence to procedural justice was affected by age and years of experience.
More experienced managers in this study did not enhance women’ earning power.

Julie Cloutier

Julie Cloutier

In addition to “social accounts,” Julie Cloutier of École des Sciences de la Gestion in Montréal  and Cornell’s Lars Vilhuber found the perceptions of fairness and justice in salary decisions are affected by:

Three Approaches to Identifying a Career Path

-*What’s the best way to find your professional path?

Mark Savickas

Mark Savickas

Career interventions have evolved over the past 70 years from individual differences assessment to occupational development to current emphasis on life planning.
Vocational guidance was supplanted by “career education,” focused on fulfilling developmental tasks and adapting to occupational requirements.
More recently, “career counseling” built on the preceding approaches by considering each individual as the designer and author of a career path.

Mark Savickas of Northeast Ohio Medical University traced this incremental change, and noted that “each time that society has changed the prevalent form of employment, psychology has changed its methods of career intervention to help people deal with new identity issues and lifestyle problems.”

John Holland

John Holland

Early attempts to help people find their occupational paths focused on matching six personality prototypes incorporating six related value types with six associated vocational categories, thanks to John Holland of Johns Hopkins, who developed the Self Directed Search assessment.

Holland's Six Career Themes

Holland’s Six Career Themes

Individual were seen as “actors” who needed to match individual differences with occupations that best fit these characteristics.

John Crites

John Crites

Next came an emphasis on careers as a developmental challenge that requires adaptation and training to develop new attitudes, beliefs, and competencies that foster their vocational adaptation.

Donald Super

Donald Super

People were seen as “agents” striving to develop into an occupational role, with insight from assessments including the Career Maturity Inventory by University of Maryland’s John Crites and Career Development, Assessment, and Counseling (C-DAC) conceived by Donald Super of University of Connecticut.

Careers are currently seen as a “narrative construction” or a “life design project” drawing on emotion valence, autobiographical career stories and life themes that suggest professional construction and reconstruction.

Individuals are seen as “authors” of their career narrative in context of a life story.
Savickas developed this constructivist perspective to serve “workers in societies that have de-standardized the life course and de-jobbed employment” after applying Holland’s individual differences approach and developmental views of Crites and Super.

Three Career Development Approaches

Three Career Development Approaches

Paul Hartung

Paul Hartung

To enable this career narrative, Savickas and Northeast Ohio Medical University colleague Paul Hartung developed a structured career interview.
This “Autobiographical Workbook” asks people to share stories about self, identity, and career, including inquiries about role models, favorite magazines, how they made important decisions, and what their parents wanted for their lives to uncover prevailing interests, values, concerns, and precipitants to action.Career Construction Interview

Ludwig Wittgenstein

Ludwig Wittgenstein

This approach helps people “envision how to use work to actively master what they passively suffer” and “fit work into life rather than life into work” by collecting stories about “…how a person constructed a career, then deconstructs and reconstructs these stories into an identity narrative, and finally co-constructs intentions that lead to action in the real world.
Narrative Construction and Life Design perspectives echo Ludwig Wittgenstein’s observation that problems are solved not by giving information but by rearranging what we already know.

In this collection and rearrangement process, Savickas sees the individual as a career architect whereas a career consultant is like a carpenter who suggests recombinations in light of current needs and future goals while respecting interests, values, and strengths.

This process also enables new perspectives on more productive approaches to past challenges when encountered in future contexts, working around obstacles, and drawing on past examples of competence and self-efficacy.

  • Which perspective on career development most guided your selection of work paths?

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Gender Bias in STEM Hiring Even When it Reduces Financial Returns  

Women are under-represented in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) academic programs and professional roles, and some question whether this is a a result of personal preference, implicit bias, institutional barriers, or other factors,

Ernesto Reuben

Ernesto Reuben

To investigate, Columbia University’s Ernesto Reuben, Paola Sapienza of Northwestern University, and University of Chicago’s Luigi Zingales developed an experimental job market.
Both male and female candidates demonstrated equal skill in performing an arithmetic task, yet both female and male “hiring managers” were twice as like to hire comparable male candidateseven when the hiring managers earned less by hiring less qualified males.
*Even when participants had a financial incentive to choose the candidate with the greatest task-relevant skills, they chose less-qualified male candidates.

Paola Sapienza

Paola Sapienza

Reuben and team also found that when candidates were asked to report their performance on the task-related achievement test, men exaggerated their performance with “honest overconfidence.”
In contrast, women generally underreported their accomplishments, found University of Wisconsin’s Sylvia Beyer.

Luigi Zingales

Luigi Zingales

This gender-based bias in hiring decisions was reduced, but not eliminated when candidates’ previous performance was provided by a third party.

Sylvia Beyer

Sylvia Beyer

Some candidates were directed to report expected future performance based on initial math task performance, then the “employer” made the hiring decision.
Other candidates provided no estimate, but Reuben’s team reported candidates’ past performance to the “hiring managers.”

In other studies, “employers” had no information on each “candidate’s” previous performance, but met each applicant in person before making a hiring decision.
After the hiring managers’ choice, candidates reported expected future performance, or Reuben’s team provided candidates’ past performance to the “hiring manager.”

Anthony Greenwald

Anthony Greenwald

Volunteers then completed the Implicit Association Test (IAT), developed by University of Washington’s Anthony Greenwald, Debbie McGhee, and Jordan Schwartz, to elicit unconscious stereotypes of gender, competencies, and occupations.

When the candidates reported their expected performance and the “hiring manager” chose a candidate with a lower score than other contenders, 90% of the selected but underperforming candidates were male.
As a result, “hiring managers” who selected less qualified male candidates sacrificed 5-7% of their own compensation for biased selections.

Pedro Rey-Biel

Pedro Rey-Biel

Reuben and colleagues, with Pedro Rey-Biel of Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona previously demonstrated that this preference for underperforming candidates was explained by the persuasive impact of men’s significantly exaggerated statements (usually by at least 30%) about past and future performance and by scores on the Implicit Association Test.

Hyperbole is apparently effective for male candidates in job interviews when the “hiring manager” scores high on the IAT.

However, this embellishment strategy is ineffective for women, as Reuben and team demonstrated:  In another study, women were still selected 33% less than expected even when they showcased their accomplishments.
Women’s overt self-promotion may provoke “backlash” against those who behave in counter-stereotypic ways.

This research suggests the prevalence of implicit biases against hiring women to perform science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) functions, and male candidates’ tendency to embellish past performance and boast about future potential accomplishments.

As a result, women are selected less frequently for roles in STEM careers, continuing their under representation in these fields.

Even if women do not exaggerate past accomplishments and future potential, this research implies that they should ensure that they communicate and reinforce the full range of skills.

“Real life” hiring managers can overcome implicit hiring biases through awareness and “proper information processing” by focusing on validated performance data, and comparing candidates of the same gender with each other..

-*What strategies have you seen mitigate the influence of implicit bias influence in hiring decisions?

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An End to “Death by PowerPoint”: Neuroimaging Studies Improve Visual Display Design

Stephen Kosslyn

Stephen Kosslyn

Harvard’s Stephen Kosslyn‘s fMRI studies of perceptual processes and mental imagery point to  best practices in improving visual display design, such as PowerPoint presentations, so they can be rapidly comprehended.

Alexandra Russell

Alexandra Russell

His imaging studies determined that the left half of the brain excels at encoding categories and generating mental images based on categories.
In contrast he reported that the right half of the brain skillfully encodes specific examples and generating associated images.

While at Stanford, he identified eight psychological principles often violated in PowerPoint® slideshows, in collaboration with Alexandra G. Russell, Harvard colleague Jennifer M. Shephard and Rogier A. Kievit of University of Amsterdam.

Once the viewer has seen a PowerPoint slide, the information must be converted into a storable and retrievable construct for later use.

Rogier Kievit

Rogier Kievit

They noted that perception and comprehension of visual displays require:

  • Encoding based on Discriminability, Perceptual Organization, Salience
  • Working Memory, influenced by Limited Capacity and Informative Changes
  • Accessing Long-Term Memory, enhanced by Appropriate Knowledge, Compatibility, Relevance

 Encodable content must be distinguishable from the background and context.
This requires a “Just Noticeable Difference” (JND) between size, shape, color and other attributes to enable discrimination.

Russell De Valois

Russell De Valois

PowerPoint elements achieve Discriminability with:

  • Sufficiently large typeface with differentiated text (mix of upper case, lower case, bold, italics)
  • Text and graphic color contrast with background color
  • Spatial frequency channel” ratio variance, such as points that are twice as thick as the lines that connect them
    Karen De Valois

    Karen De Valois

    Texture patterns elements, like stripes, should vary by at ratio of least 2:1 to avoid “visual beats,” according to University of California’s Russell DeValois and Karen De Valois

  • Varied line orientation (by at least 30°), to enable processing by different “orientation channels
  • Text or other fine lines in colors other than deep blues, and boundaries in colors other than red.

After encoding, figure/ground segregation processes perceptually organize adjacent (“Law of Proximity”) and similar (“Law of Similarity”) elements into groups of objects, words, and graphics.
Grouping also can be imposed by lines, such as in complex data tables, and this grouping typically increases readability and comprehension.

Additional practices to enhance visual “consumability” by Perceptual Organization include:

  • Applying labels to refer to the nearest graphic element
  • Using a common color to organize parts of a display into a group, even separated
  • Adopting consistent ordering conventions across different parts of displays, such as bar chart legends and pie chart legends
  • Explicitly grouping separated-but-related elements, such as by using inner grid lines to group the tops of bars in a bar graph with locations along the Y axis at the left of the graph
  • Eliminating inadvertently-formed groupings, such as when a banner at the top of a slide groups with nearby, similar but unrelated objects

 Attention is drawn to large perceptible differences, and these elements are processed in detail.  The brain’s superior colliculus draws visual attention to large differences among stimuli.
Salience can be enhanced with:

  • Animation because movement captures and directs attention
  • Text with a distinct format, such as color, size, or typeface
  • Visual incongruities, such as a wedge “exploding” from a pie chart
  • Summary elements like title, keywords, topic sentence, infographic
  • Warm” colors (with longer wavelengths, such as red) for emphasis or in the foreground in contrast to “cool” colors (with short wavelengths, like blue), which recede.
    Avoid using warmer colors for lines that pass beneath other lines to avoid the illusion of background oscillation

After visual patterns are encoded, they must be integrated in Working Memory for later retrieval and application, and are influenced by Limited Capacity and Informative Changes.
People have limited capacity to process and retain information, and presentations can mitigate these constraints by:

  • Limiting perceptual groups to about four units with up to four sub-units for easier processing and retrieval
  • Labeling items in a display rather than using a key or legend to reduce processing load
  • Allowing the audience time to process and assimilate information during a slide presentation
  • Avoiding slow fade-in or fade-out slides, which may lead to incorrect information processing and losing track of the organizational hierarchy.Audience members expect Informative Changes in words and graphics to convey information.
    Similarly, they also expect that each expect unit of information is associated with a perceptible change.
    Capitalize on these expectations by:
  • Avoiding random or arbitrary changes in appearance, transitions, or terminology
  • Clearly indicating section beginnings and ends to enable audience to track progress through the presentation

Retrieving information from Long-Term Memory enables viewers to compare with previously stored information to determine the new information’s relevance and applicability.

Effective presenters ensure that viewers have a common knowledge base of novel concepts, jargon, conventions, formats, terminology or symbols so they understand the presentation’s context.
Presenters ensure Appropriate Knowledge by including an explicit introduction, and explanation and review of these terms and ideas before building reasoning and conclusions.

Kosslyn-Stroop EffectA message is most intelligible and memorable when its form is Compatible with its meaning.
The Stroop effect demonstrates the difficulty people have in processing information when asked to name the color of the ink used to a color name (“red”) a different color from the ink (blue).

Similarly, people are better able to comprehend when audio and visual contents coordinate with text and the overall message.

  • Indicate quantitative difference by color saturation and intensity (or brightness)
    These “prothetic” variables are arranged quantitatively.
    In contrast, hue is ineffective as a measure of quantitative differences because it is a “metathetic” variable that is arranged qualitatively
  • Ensure that animation movements align with the object’s natural movement patterns, such as an automobile entering from the side of the slide rather than the top
  • Select sounds, typefaces, and backgrounds consistent and compatible with the content. such as sans serif typeface for high tech products
  • Use icons that depict the typical examples of represented items, such as a duck to represent “fowl” or “wild bird” but not “pet bird”
  • Include line graphs (rather than bar or mixed graphs) to illustrate trends and interactions:  The continuous variation in the height of a line in a graph directly indicates the continuous variations of a measurement
  • Apply bar graphs to illustrate specific values instead of trends because the discrete heights of the bars directly indicate specific measurements
  • Add maps to illustrate complex information about geographic territories or show alternate routes to a destination
  • Consider charts to portray organizational structure, sequential steps, or processes as in “flow charts.”

Presentations must offer most applicable, meaningful content for the topic in sufficient but not excessive detail.
Enhance Relevance by:

  • Curating content
  • Enabling viewers to organize the information into a narrative by presenting a roadmap of the topic in an outline or overview
  • Providing graphic elements including photos, drawings, graphs, diagrams, and video as well as audio to illustrate concepts clearly and label ambiguous imagery.
Don McMillan

Don McMillan

If presenters adopt Kosslyn’s recommendations, to enhance Discriminability, Perceptual Organization, Salience, Limited Capacity, Informative Changes, Appropriate Knowledge, Compatibility, and Relevance, PowerPoint comedians Don MacMillan and biologist Tim Lee may need to revert to their previous occupations. 

Tim Lee

Tim Lee

-*How do you ensure that your Business Storytelling with PowerPoint keeps your audience engaged?

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Your Brain in Court: Cognitive Privacy, US Constitution and Neuroimaging

Amanda Pustilnik

Amanda Pustilnik

Neuroimaging techniques, like fMRI, present constitutional dilemmas for criminal law and criminal procedure, according to University of Maryland‘s Amanda Pustilnik.

These technologies raise questions about “cognitive privacy” in relation to “compelled, self-incriminating speech” under the United States Constitution’s Fifth Amendment and “unreasonable search and seizure” under the Fourth Amendment.

Neuroimagery technologies can measure brain blood flow to determine whether the person is making false statements, and can evaluate whether waveform brain activity indicates a person is familiar with an object like a face or weapon.

In addition, these measurement devices can alter brain processes, such as exposing the brain to powerful magnets, resulting in greater or lesser likelihood of offering truthful statements.

Recent Eighth Amendment challenges to execution by lethal injection and legislative restrictions on abortion based on putative fetal pain are additional examples of legal questions informed by neuroimaging technology.

In these cases, neuroimagery measurements can provide evidence of presence and degree of physical pain.
Previously, this subjective state has not been directly observable until pain neuroimaging procedures were developed and admitted as legal evidence.

Pustilnik proposed “embodied morality” to explain how moral concepts of legal rights and duties are informed by human physicality and constrained by observers’ limitations in empathic identification with the pain sufferer’s experience.

U.S. law applies unrealistic criteria to determining defendants’ mental states for criminal trials in light of neuroscientific evidence, she argued, noting that the law maintains “a false trichotomy” among cognition, emotion, and volition to determine whether a defendant was “capable of moral agency” in committing an illegal act.

This decision is based upon whether the admissible evidence demonstrates that the defendant acted with “purpose,” suggested by planning the act in advance and “knowledge” of the act, typically determined by the defendant’s statements.

Pustilnik cited examples of disorders in which emotional impairments and volitional impairments can modify cognition, including temporal lobe injury, drug addiction, and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Jean Macchiaroli Eggen

Jean Macchiaroli Eggen

In these situations, the defendant may provide an intelligible “explanation” of the act, yet may not be able to control the behavior, as in obsessive-compulsive disorder or drug addiction.
If the criteria of “intent” and “knowledge” are not fulfilled, a defendant may claim to have acted under “diminished capacity.”

To remedy this disconnect, Pustilnik recommends investigating whether the defendant  “understands the wrongfulness of the act.”

Eric Laury

Eric Laury

Widener University’s Jean Macchiaroli Eggen and Eric Laury of Minor and Brown echo Pustilnik’s observations and propose applying neuroimaging evidence to elements of tort law including knowledge, intent, negligence, and recklessness.

Bernard Baertschi

Bernard Baertschi

Critics of the admissibility of neuroimaging evidence like Bernard Baertschi of University of Geneva raise concerns that neuroimagery evidence injecting a systemic bias that influences jurors’ evaluations of defendants.

To test this claim, Nick Schweitzer and Michael Saks
 of Arizona State University investigated decisions by nearly 1200 volunteers in a mock trial involving psychological, neuropsychological, neuroscientific, and neuroimage expert evidence.
Participants evaluated the defendant’s claim of Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity (NGRI).

Nick Schweitzer

Nick Schweitzer

Volunteers said neuroscience evidence was more persuasive than psychological and anecdotal family history evidence, but there was no significant effect for neuroimaging evidence.

The researchers also asked participants to apply different insanity standards, and neuroscience evidence remained most influential across all standards.

Michael Saks

Michael Saks

Mock jurors who were not provided with a neuroimage said they believed neuroimagery would have been the most helpful evidence in evaluating the defendant, although those who actually received neuroimagery data did not judge this evidence as most valuable.
This is another example of forecasted judgments not correlating with actual judgments.

Neuroimaging skeptic Bernard Baertschi evaluated whether Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) is more reliable than the polygraph to determine whether a person is providing truthful statements.

He outlined technical, methodological, conceptual and legal issues that obscure the conclusion, including technical definitions of lying and legal concerns about potentially biasing effects of brain imaging evidence on lawsuits.
He concluded, “Mind-reading using fMRI is not ready for use in the courts.”

-*How much weight do you give neuroimaging data in evaluating a person’s behavior, credibility, and motivations?

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Spreading Good News Feels Good, Especially When It’s About You

Christian Science Monitor has long provided a counterpoint to mainstream media’s “If it bleeds, it leads” approach to providing shocking, scandalous, depressing, or scary news.

Jonah Berger

Jonah Berger

Wharton’s Jonah Berger and Katharine Milkman found that the Christian Science Monitor might have a savvy business model:  they found that good news spreads more widely than bad.

Word of Mouth Marketing AssociationMembers of the Word of Mouth Marketing Organization: Take note…

Katherine Milkman

Katherine Milkman

Berger and Milkman evaluated a random sample of 3,000 of more than 7,500 articles published in the New York Times online from August 2008 to February 2009.

They judged each article’s “popularity” based on number of times it was forwarded to others, after controlling for online publication time, section, and degree of promotion on the home page.
Independent readers rated each article for practical value or surprise, and ratio of positive vs negative emotion words in each news item.

Most-forwarded posts were positive, funny, exciting and featuring intellectually challenging topics, like science, that “inspire awe” (“admiration and elevation in the face of something greater than the self”).

Readers shared articles that typically provoke negative emotions like anger and anxiety, but not sadness.
-*Why this bias against sending “downer” messages?

Emily Falk

Emily Falk

Michigan’s Emily Falk, with UCLA colleagues Sylvia Morelli, B. Locke Welborn, Karl Dambacher,and Matthew Lieberman found that people consider what appeals to others, possibly as a means of building relationships, indicated by increased activation in brain regions (temporoparietal junction, or TPJ and dorsomedial prefrontal cortex) associated with “social cognition,” or thoughts about other people, measured by fMRI.

When those regions were activated, people were more likely to talk about the idea with enthusiasm, and the idea would spread by word-of-mouth.

Falk noted that the team mapped  brain regions “associated with ideas that are likely to be contagious and are associated with being a good ‘idea salesperson.'”
She plans to use these brain maps “to forecast what ideas are likely to be successful and who is likely to be effective at spreading them.”

Diana Tamir

Diana Tamir

People also like to spread good news about themselves.
Diana Tamir and Jason Mitchell, then of Harvard, illustrated that brain regions associated with reward (mesolimbic dopamine system, including the nucleus accumbens and ventral tegmental area) are activated when people share information about themselves.

Jason Mitchell

Jason Mitchell

Self-disclosure is so pleasurable that people will sacrifice monetary rewards for this opportunity.

Mor Naaman

Mor Naaman

In fact, Rutgers’ Mor Naaman with Jeffrey Boase, now at Ryerson University and Chih-Hui Lai, now of University of Akron found that 80 percent of Twitter users tweet primarily about themselves.
One reason may be that people say more positive things when they’re talking to a bigger audience, like Twitter followers, according to Berger’s research suggests. As a result, social media users are likely to convey positive information about themselves.

Jeffrey Boase

Jeffrey Boase

However, this positive self-presentation may not result in a positive mood if communicators spend longer on social media platforms like Facebook.
Hui-Tzu Grace Chou and Nicholas Edge of Utah Valley University found that those with longer visits to Facebook say they are less happy than their Facebook Friends.

They found that Facebook users tend to form biased judgment based on easily-recalled examples (availability heuristic) and erroneously attribute positive Facebook content to others’ personality, rather than situational factors (correspondence bias), especially for those they do not know personally.

Hanna Krasnova

Hanna Krasnova

Corroborated by Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin’s Hanna Krasnova and her team from Technische Universität Darmstadt, these researchers observed “invidious emotions” and “envy” among people who spend longer time on Facebook.

These findings have relevance to members of the Word of Mouth Marketing Organization: Spread the good word – or at least the emotional word – and spend less time on Facebook and other social media that might invite social comparison and the potential for envious dissatisfaction.

-*How you build “buzz” via “Word of Mouth”?

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