Category Archives: Thinking

Thinking

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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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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Ethnic Diversity Reduces “Groupthink,” Economic “Bubbles”

Despite progress in raising awareness about implicit bias and stereotypes, most people are less likely to trust recommendations and evaluations from people of different ethnic groups.

Sheen Levine

Sheen Levine

However, this bias may reduce the “herd mentality” that characterized recent price “bubbles” in U.S. housing and global financial markets, reported Columbia’s Sheen S. Levine, Evan P. Apfelbaum of MIT, Goethe University’s Mark Bernard, Texas A&M’s Valerie L. Bartelt, Edward J. Zajac of Northwestern, and University of Warwick’s David Stark.
They concluded that, “Diversity facilitates friction that enhances deliberation and upends conformity.”

Economic “bubbles” occur when the majority of traders, probably influenced by a type of “groupthink,” set inaccurate prices, leading to a mismatch between market prices and true asset values.

Irving Janis

Irving Janis

Groupthink can occur when three conditions interact, according to Yale’s Irving Janis:

  • Group Cohesiveness
    • Deindividuation,” when group cohesiveness becomes more important than individual dissenting views,
  • Group Structure
  • Context
    • Stressful external threats,
    • Recent failures,
    • Decision-making difficulties,
    • Moral dilemmas.
Scott E. Page

Scott E. Page

A mathematical model, developed by University of Michigan’s Scott E. Page and Lu Hong of Loyola University, demonstrated that a wider range of viewpoints leads to less groupthink and more balanced decisions.

Diverse groups ran into fewer “dead ends” in developing solutions than homogenous groups full of smart individuals, who tended to think similarly.

David A. Thomas

David A. Thomas

Likewise, additional experimental evidence by Georgetown’s David A Thomas and Robin J. Ely of Harvard confirmed that identity-diverse groups can outperform homogeneous groups.
Group errors depended on group member ability and member diversity, expressed in the formula:

Collective Accuracy = Average Accuracy + Diversity.

To test the impact of group diversity on market “bubbles,” Levine’s group constructed experimental markets in Singapore and Texas, USA, in which participants traded stocks to earn money.

Evan Apfelbaum

Evan Apfelbaum

More than 175 volunteers with backgrounds in business or finance were randomly-assigned to groups of six ethnically-homogeneous or ethnically- diverse participants.

Traders knew the ethnic composition of their groups, but they couldn’t communicate with each other.
In addition, their “trades” of dividend-paying stock during 10 rounds were anonymous.

Homogeneous groups set inflated selling prices, yet traders in those groups still bought the stock, resulting in increasing stock prices.

Mark Bernard

Mark Bernard

In contrast, traders in diverse groups refused inflated selling prices, so the stock price fell to approximately the price in an “ideal” market with “rational” traders.

When traders and other decision-makers come from similar ethnic, social, and attitudinal backgrounds, they tend to place undue confidence in others’ opinions and decisions, and tend not to subject them to rigorous analysis and scrutiny.

Valerie Bartelt

Valerie Bartelt

As a result, they may be more likely to accept prices and deals that deviate from actual underlying values.
Levine’s group concluded that “homogeneity…imbues people with false confidence in the judgment of coethnics, discouraging them from scrutinizing behavior.”

  • How do you mitigate “groupthink” in organizational decision-making?

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Confident Cluelessness = The Dunning-Kruger Effect + Ignorant Bliss

Stav Atir

Stav Atir

Most people overestimate their own expertise, and do not recognize their own incompetence.
previous blog post highlighted this metacognition phenomenon known as the Dunning-Kruger effect.

This effect has been demonstrated for people’s overestimates of their skills in grammar, emotional intelligence, logical reasoning, firearm care and safety, debating, and financial acumen.

Emily Rosenzweig

Emily Rosenzweig

More recently, the effect was demonstrated by Cornell’s Stav Atir and  Emily Rosenzweig of Tulane,  who asked volunteers if they were familiar with concepts like centripetal force and photon as well as fictitious terms including plates of parallax, ultra-lipid, and cholarine.

About 90% of participants claimed some knowledge of at least one of the nine fake concepts, and people who thought they were most knowledgeable also said they recognized more of the meaningless terms.

David Dunning

David Dunning

Atir and Rosenzweig concluded that poor performers lack insight about their lack of skill because they ”don’t know what they don’t know.”

Another verification of the Dunning-Kruger effect was replicated among volunteers who completed a logical reasoning task, an intuitive physics problem, a financial acumen challenge, and others presented by University of California San Diego’s Elanor Williams, Justin Kruger of NYU, and Cornell’s David Dunning.

Elanor Williams

Elanor Williams

Some people achieved perfect scores, and expressed confidence in their answers, yet those who achieved no correct answers expressed the same degree of confidence as the most able performers.

Both high and low achievers made judgments based on intuitive “rules,” so they felt confident based on having a clear, if inaccurate, rationale.
Williams’ team concluded, “Rule-based confidence is no guarantee of self-insight into performance.”

Justin Kruger

Justin Kruger

Another “cringe-worthy” example is financial illiteracy accompanied by high confidence in financial acumen among people who filed for bankruptcy.

More than 25,000 people rated their financial knowledge, then tested actual financial literacy in the 2012 National Financial Capability Study, conducted by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority with the U.S. Treasury.
Of these, 800 respondents said they filed bankruptcy within the previous two years.

Not surprisingly, bankruptcy filers achieved financial knowledge scores in the lowest third of respondents, but they rated their knowledge more positively than financially-solvent respondents.
Nearly a quarter of the recently bankrupted respondents gave themselves the highest possible rating whereas only 13 percent of other respondents were equally confident.

Deborah Keleman

Deborah Keleman

Even 80 physical scientists at top universities provided a number of inaccurate purpose-driven (“teleological”) explanations about “why things happen” in the natural world, including:

  • “Moss forms around rocks in order to stop soil erosion,”
  • “The Earth has an ozone layer in order to protect it from UV light.”
Joshua Rottman

Joshua Rottman

Participants provided these explanations at their own speed or with ambitious time constraints.
When these professional scientists provided rushed explanations, they were twice as likely to endorse inaccurate purpose-driven rationales, reported Boston University’s Deborah Kelemen, Joshua Rottman, and Rebecca Seston.

Rebecca Seston

Rebecca Seston

In addition, scientists were equally likely as humanities scholars to endorse teleological arguments despite most physical scientists’ rejection of purpose-driven explanations for natural phenomena.

However, these results suggest that teleological propositions are a default explanatory preference among humans, and could explain their presence in myth and religion across cultures.

These results suggest that most people hold a positive view of their capabilities even when faced with contrary evidence.
However, some groups, such as women, may hold an unrealistically modest view of capabilities despite affirming feedback.
These biases in self assessment point to the importance of realistic recalibration of confidence, aligned with consensual feedback.

-*How do you minimize the risks of “Clueless Confidence”?
-*How can systematic underestimates of competence be reduced to increase “Realistic Confidence”?

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Comparative Rankings May Reduce Gender Bias in Career Advancement

Iris Bohnet

Iris Bohnet

An “evaluation nudge” is a decision framing aid that may reduce biased judgments in hiring, promotion, and job assignments, according to Harvard’s Iris Bohnet, Alexandra van Geen, and Max H. Bazerman.

Alexandra van Geen

Alexandra van Geen

Based on their research, they recommended that organizations evaluate multiple employees  simultaneously rather than each person independently.
This approach contrasts widespread practices like “Stack Ranking” (“Rank and Yank”), advocated by GE’s Jack Welch and critiqued in a previous blog post .

This approach is frequently used for hiring decisions, but less frequently when considering employee candidates for developmental job assignments and promotions.

Max Bazerman

Max Bazerman

Bazerman and Sally B. White, then of Northwestern with George F. Loewenstein of Carnegie Mellon, provided the original demonstration of preference reversals between joint and separate evaluation.

George F. Loewenstein

George F. Loewenstein

Lack of comparison information in separate evaluation typically leads people to rely on internal referents as decision norms, though these may be biased or stereotyped preferences, according to Princeton’s Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman and Dale T. Miller of Stanford.

Dale T. Miller

Dale T. Miller

Additionally, lack of comparative referents can lead evaluators to rely on easily calibrated attributes, found University of Chicago’s Christopher K. Hsee.
Both of these shortcuts can lead to biased decisions, which may systematically exclude members of under-represented groups.

Christopher K. Hsee

Christopher K. Hsee

Still another problem is the “want/should” battle of emotions and preferences, outlined by Bazerman and Ann E. Tenbrunsel of Notre Dame, with Duke’s Kimberly A. Wade-Benzoni itheir provocatively titled article, “Negotiating with Yourself and Losing.”

Ann E. Tenbrunsel

Ann E. Tenbrunsel

They argue that the want self” tends to dominate when deciding on a single option because there’s less information and less need to justify the decision.
In contrast, the more analytic “should self” is activated by the need to explain decision rationales.

Kimberly Wade-Benzoni

Kimberly Wade-Benzoni

Bohnet’s team asked more than 175 volunteer “employees” to perform a math task or a verbal task, then 554 “employer” evaluators (44% male, 56% female) received information on “employees’” past performance, gender, and the average past performance for all “employees.”

“Employers” were paid based on their “employees’’” performance in future tasks, similar to managerial incentives in many organizations.
Consequently, “employers” were rewarded for selecting people they considered effective performers.
Based on information about “employee” performance, evaluators decided to:

  • “Hire” the “employees,” or
  • Recommend them to perform the task in future, or
  • Return to “employees” to the pool for random assignment to an employer.
Keith E. Stanovich

Keith E. Stanovich

The Harvard team found that “employers” who evaluated “employees” in relation to each other’s performance were more likely to select employees based on past performance, rather than relying on irrelevant criteria like gender.

Richard F. West

Richard F. West

In contrast, more than 50% of “employers” evaluated each candidate separately without reference to other “employees,” selected under-performing people for advancement.
Only 8% of employers selected under-performers when comparing “employees” to each other, and multiple raters for multiple candidates also tended to select the higher performing “employees.”

Team Bohnet suggested that people have two distinct and situation-specific modes of thinking, “System 1” and “System 2,” illustrated by University of Toronto’s Keith E. Stanovich and Richard F. West of James Mason University.

Keith Stanovich-Richard West System 1- System 2 ThinkingThese varied cognitive patterns can lead evaluators to select incorrect decision norms, leading to biased outcomes.

As a result, decision tools like the “evaluative nudge” decision-framing can reduce bias in hiring and promotion decisions, leading to a more equitable workplace opportunity across demographic groups.

-*What other evaluation procedures can reduce unconscious bias in performance appraisal and career advancement selection processes?

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Intrinsic Motives, not Positive Consequences Linked to Achieving Goals, Career Performance

Amy Wrzesniewski

Amy Wrzesniewski

Sustained effort toward a goal may be intrinsically motivated by personal commitment to a larger “mission.”
At the same time, goal-seeking activity may be extrinsically motivated by external rewards, counteracting intrinsic motivation’s positive impact on effective career performance.

Xiangyu Cong

Xiangyu Cong

This complex interaction of internal and external motives was investigated among more than 10,000 people admitted to the United States Military Academy (“West Point”) by Yale’s Amy Wrzesniewski, Xiangyu Cong, Michael Kane, Audrey Omar, and Thomas Kolditz, with Barry Schwartz of Swarthmore.

Michael John Kane

Michael John Kane

Wrzesniewski’s team considered the long-term impact of holding both intrinsic motives (desire to serve and protect citizens) and extrinsic motives (have a respected career) for attending West Point cadets on:

  • Promotion to commissioned officer rank,
  • Extending officer service beyond the minimum required period of 5 years,
  • Selection for early career promotions.
Audrey Omar

Audrey Omar

Cadets who were intrinsically motivated were more likely to accomplish these goals.
However, those who also reported extrinsic motivation were less likely to achieve these career distinctions.

Richard Koestner

Richard Koestner

A meta-analytic review of nearly 130 experiments by University of Rochester’s Edward Deci and Richard Ryan with Richard Koestner of McGill confirmed the undermining effects of extrinsic rewards on intrinsic motivation from childhood through adulthood.

Mark Lepper

Mark Lepper

People may report less intrinsic motivation when extrinsic rewards are available, a phenomenon called the “overjustification hypothesis”  by Stanford’s Mark Lepper, David Greene, and Richard Nisbett of University of Michigan.

Clark McCauley

Clark McCauley

People typically view their work as being intrinsically or extrinsically motivated:

  • Job, mostly extrinsically motivated
  • Career, some intrinsic and extrinsic motivation
  • Calling, intrinsically motivated by fulfillment from the work itself, resulting in greater satisfaction and better performance than the other two orientations, according to Wrzesniewski’s previous work with Schwartz, collaborating with Bryn Mawr’s Clark McCauley and Paul Rozin of Penn.
Paul Rozin

Paul Rozin

These results  empirically support long-standing philosophical guidance to find meaning in work rather than primarily focusing on positive consequences of goal achievement.

Thomas Kolditz

Thomas Kolditz

This is especially relevant because the U.S. Military employs extrinsic motive appeals in marketing messages to recruit cadets, suggesting that military services provides “money for college,” “career training,” and enables members to “see the world.”

However, extrinsic motives tend to be associated with less career recognition and tenure than those who find meaning in the organization’s mission.

-*How do you increase intrinsic motivation when extrinsic motivation may seem more appealing?

-*What elements make your work “a calling”?

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