Tag Archives: Alison Wood Brooks

Anxiety Undermines Negotiation Performance

Maurice Schweitzer

Maurice Schweitzer

Anxious negotiators make lower first offers, exit earlier, and earn lower profits  due to their “low self-efficacy” beliefs, according to Harvard’s Alison Wood Brooks and Maurice E. Schweitzer of University of Pennsylvania,

Alison Wood Brooks

Alison Wood Brooks

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

Anxious negotiators who achieved poor bargaining outcomes did not manage emotions with cognitive strategies including:

Julie Norem

Julie Norem

  • Strategic optimism, indicated by expecting positive outcomes without anxiety or detailed reflection, according to University of Miami’s Stacie Spencer and Julie Norem of Wellesley,
  • Reattribution, identified by considering alternate interpretations of events to increase optimism and self-efficacy beliefs,
  • 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 “encouraged by telling them that that based on their academic performance, they should expect to perform well on anagram and puzzle tasks.

Among university students, defensive pessimism was related to lower self-esteem, self-criticism, pessimism, and discounting previous successful performances when they began university studies, 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 their four years of university study.
Pessimists’ precautionary countermeasures may have resulted in strong performance, which built credible self-esteem.

Defensive pessimism’s positive performance outcomes suggest that this cognitive strategy is an effective, if uncomfortable, approach to managing anxiety and performance motivation.

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

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Are You Excited Yet? Anxiety as Positive “Excitement” to Improve Performance

Alison Wood Brooks

Alison Wood Brooks

People can improve task performance in public speaking, mathematical problem solving, and karaoke singing, by reappraising anxiety as “excitement,” according to Harvard’s Alison Wood Brooks.

Using silent self-talk messages (“I am excited”) or reading self-direction messages (“Get excited!”) fosters an “opportunity mind-set” by increasing “congruence” between physical arousal and situational appraisal.

Jeremy Jamieson

“Excitement” is typically viewed as a positive, pleasant emotion that can improve performance, according to Harvard’s Jeremy Jamieson and colleagues, whereas anxiety drains working memory capacity, and decreases self-confidence, self-efficacy, and performance before or during a task, according to Michael W. Eysenck of University of London.

Despite these differences in emotional experience, anxiety and excitement have similar physiological arousal profiles, but different effects on performance.

Michael Eysenck

Trying to transform anxiety into calmness is usually ineffective due to the large shift from negative emotion to neutral or positive emotion and from physiological activation to low arousal levels, noted Brooks.

Stefan Hofmann

Stefan Hofmann

Such efforts to calm physiological arousal during anxiety can result in a paradoxical increase in the suppressed emotion, reported Stefan Hofmann of Boston University and colleagues.
However, most people in Woods’ studies inaccurately believed that this is the best way to handle anxiety.

Stanley Schachter

Stanley Schachter

These similarities and differences can lead to confusing the two experiences, demonstrated in much-cited studies by Columbia’s Stanley Schacter and Jerome Singer of SUNY.
Anxiety’s similarity to excitement can be used to advantage by intentionally relabeling uncomfortably high “anxiety” as pleasant excitement to reduce anxiety’s negative impact on performance.

Jerome Singer

Jerome Singer

Brooks provoked anxiety by telling volunteers that they would present an impromptu, videotaped speech.

For some participants, she reduced anxiety by mentioning that it is “normal” to feel discomfort and asked them to “take a realistic perspective on this task, by recognizing that there is no reason to feel anxiousand “the situation does not present a threat to you…there are no negative consequences to be concerned with.”
She also told volunteers to say aloud randomly-assigned self-statements like “I am excited.”

People who stated I am excitedbefore their speech were rated as more persuasive, more competent more confident, and more persistent (spoke longer), than participants who said “I am calm.”

Brooks evaluated peoples’ reactions to another anxiety-provoking task, performing a karaoke song for an audience, and rated by program’s voice recognition software for “singing accuracy” based on:

  • Volume (quiet-loud),
  • Pitch (distance from true pitch),
  • Note duration (accuracy of breaks between notes).

This score determined participants’ payment for participating in the study.

Before performing, she asked participants to make a randomly-assigned self-statement:

  • “I am anxious,”
  • “I am excited,”
  • “I am calm,”
  • “I am angry.”
  • “I am sad.”
  • No statement.

Following their performance, volunteers rated their anxiety, excitement, and confidence in their singing ability.
People who said that they were “excited” had higher pulse rates than other groups, confirming that self-statements can affect physical experiences of emotion.

In addition, volunteers who said “I am excited” has the highest scores for singing accuracy and also for “singing self-efficacy”, a measure of confidence in ability.

In contrast, those who said, “I am anxious” had the lowest scores for singing accuracy, suggesting that focus on anxiety is associated with lower performance.

Brooks elicited anxiety on “a very difficult IQ test…under time pressure” that would determine their payment for participation.
To evoke further anxiety, she concluded, “Good luck minimizing your loss.”

Before the test, participants read a statement:

  • “Try to remain calm” or
  • “Try to get excited.”

Those instructed to “get excited” produced more correct answers than those who tried to “remain calm.”

Reappraising anxiety as “excitement” increased the subjective experience of “excitement” instead of anxiety, and improved subsequent performance in each of these tasks.

Reappraisal as “excitement” is congruent with physiological arousal common to both anxiety and excitement, so volunteers were more likely to agree with this characterization than with the arousal incongruent” description of calmness.

Stéphane Côté

Stéphane Côté

Arousal-congruent reappraisals primed an “opportunity mind-set” and a stress-is-enhancing mind-set, found University of Toronto’s Stéphane Côté and Christopher Miners.
These appraisals enabled superior performance across different anxiety-arousing situations.

In contrast, inauthentic emotional displays can be physically and psychologically demanding, and tend to reduce performance.

People have “profound control and influence …over our own emotions,” according to Woods, who concluded that “Saying “I am excited” represents a simple, minimal intervention…to prime an opportunity mind-set and improve performance…

Advising employees to say “I am excited” before important performance tasks or simply encouraging them to “get excited” may increase their confidence, improve performance, and boost beliefs in their ability to perform well in the future.”

 -*How effective have you found focusing on “excitement” instead of “calm” in managing anxiety?

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Lonely People Increase Social Skills, Reduce “Choking” by Reframing Anxiety

Julianne Holt-Lundstad

Julianne Holt-Lundstad

Loneliness increases mortality risk by 26 percent, comparable to health risks of obesity, cigarette smoking, and excessive alcohol use, according to Brigham Young University’s Julianne Holt-Lunstad, Timothy B. Smith, Mark Baker, Tyler Harris, and David Stephenson.
Besides the emotional discomfort of loneliness, loneliness harms people’s health.

Timothy Smith

Timothy Smith

Loneliness and social isolation differ.
Some people report feeling lonely in the presence of others, whereas socially isolated people may not report loneliness.
However, both loneliness and social isolation increased risk for mortality in a meta-analysis of more than 3 million participants in studies of loneliness, social isolation, and living alone.

Megan Knowles

Megan Knowles

Many people assume that individuals are lonely because they are socially isolated and have poor social skills.
However, lonely individuals may not need to acquire social skills to escape loneliness.
Rather, they seem to benefit more from learning to cope with social performance anxiety, found Franklin & Marshall College’s Megan L. Knowles, Gale M. Lucas of University of Southern CaliforniaFlorida State University’s Roy Baumeister, and Wendi L. Gardner of Northwestern.

Gale M. Lucas

Gale M. Lucas

More than 85 volunteers completed a loneliness self-report, then identified emotions on computer-presented faces.
Lonely people out-performed non-lonely people when social sensitivity tasks were described as measures of academic aptitude.

Roy Baumeister

However, lonely participants performed worse when tasks were presented as tests of social aptitude.
These volunteers also reported difficulty forming and maintaining friendships, suggesting that social anxiety leads to “choking” in social “performance” situations.
The result is continued loneliness.

Wendi Gardner

Wendi Gardner

Yet, lonely people may be more socially competent than the non-lonely:  They were more skilled at remembering social information in studies by Northwestern’s Wendi L. Gardner, Cynthia L. Pickett of University of California Davis, and Ohio State University’s Marilynn B. Brewer.
The team assessed social recall by presenting volunteers with a simulated computer chat task that provided brief acceptance or rejection experiences, then a diary containing both social and individual events.

Cynthia L. Pickett

Cynthia L. Pickett

Social anxiety identified by Knowles’ team could be reattributed feelings to an external cause and resulted in increased performance.

They demonstrated this shift when they gave volunteers a non-caffeinated energy beverage, and mentioned that any jitters they might experience resulted from the “caffeine” they’d just consumed.
This explanation provided a plausible but false rationale for anxious feelings.

Alison Wood Brooks

Alison Wood Brooks

previous blog post outlined a similar finding by Harvard’s Alison Wood Brooks, that reframing nervousness as “excitement” helped people perform better on stressful tasks.

An additional coping approach for lonely people is modifying personal mindsets following social loss cues.

Carol Dweck

Carol Dweck

Fixed mindset, suggested Stanford’s Carol Dweck, is a belief that personal capabilities are given, fixedand limited to present capacities.
This perspective is similar to
security-oriented, prevention-focused behaviors of lonely people observed by University of Southern California’s Lucas with Knowles, Gardner, Daniel C. Molden and Valerie E. Jefferis of Northwestern.
This mindset can lead to fear, anxiety, protectiveness and guardedness.

Daniel Molden

Daniel Molden

In contrast, growth mindset is similar to promotion-focused responses like attempts at social engagement.
This developmental mindset holds that personal capabilities can expand based on commitment, effort, practice, instruction, confronting and correcting mistakes.
This perspective enables teamwork, collaboration, and social interaction.

Marilynn Brewer

Marilynn Brewer

Participants received either subtle acceptance cues or rejection cues, which were associated with adopting either a fixed mindset or a growth mindset.
Those who received positive primes were more able to develop a promotion-focused growth mindset, leading to more effective social thoughts, intentions, and behaviors.

People who experience social anxiety and loneliness can reduce self-protective social avoidance by reframing discomfort as “excitement” and by redirecting mindset to embrace learning and new experience.

-*How do you manage loneliness?

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Attractive Appearance Helps Men – but not Women – Gain Business Funding

Laura Huang

Laura Huang

Entrepreneurs create jobs and contribute to economic growth with early investment by financial backers who trust the perceived business proposal’s viability and the founders’ previous experience.

Alison Wood Brooks

Alison Wood Brooks

Additional implicit criteria for new venture-funding include gender and physical attractiveness, asserted Harvard’s Alison Wood Brooks, Laura Huang of Wharton, MIT’s Sarah Wood Kearney and Fiona E. Murray.

Sarah Wood Kearney

Sarah Wood Kearney

Brooks and colleagues enlisted 60 experienced investors to:

  • Evaluate videos of 90 randomly-selected presentations by entrepreneurs at three pitch contests in the US,
  • Comment on presenters’ appearance and effectiveness.
Fiona E. Murray

Fiona E. Murray

Male presenters who were rated more attractive were 36% more likely to receive funding than men judged as less attractive, but there was no difference in funding rates for women based on attractiveness ratings.

In a separate study, investors evaluated identical pitches delivered by a man or a woman, and rated male-narrated pitches as more persuasive, logical and fact-based compared with the same presentation delivered by a woman.

These finding suggest that financial backers favor attractive male entrepreneurs, leaving women entrepreneurs – attractive or not – at a disadvantage in creating new businesses, jobs, and economic growth.

This finding underscores financial backers’ preference for male entrepreneurs’ proposals, based on attractive men’s greater perceived persuasiveness than women or less attractive men.

Edward Thorndike

Edward Thorndike

Previous blog posts have noted the “halo effect” of physical attractiveness leading to positive attributions of intelligence, competence, and likeability, originally described by Columbia’s Edward Thorndike.

Woods’ latest findings point to the double advantage enjoyed by attractive men seeking new venture funding.
Aspiring women entrepreneurs, on the other hand, continue to encounter significant unacknowledged disadvantages, not improved by physical attractiveness.

Eleanor Holly Buttner

Eleanor Holly Buttner

However, these findings were not confirmed by University of North Carolina’s E. Holly Buttner and Benson Rosen in their investigation of bank loan officers’ funding decisions.

Loan officers, who typically make funding decisions based on the business plan and interview with the entrepreneur, evaluated a:

  • Business plan or
  • Business plan plus a videotaped interview conducted by a loan officer with a male or female entrepreneur seeking a loan to start a business.
Benson Rosen

Benson Rosen

Bankers rated their likelihood of:

  • Recommending loan approval of the requested amount,
  • Making a counteroffer of a smaller amount, which they specified.

This study found no difference in funding decisions for male entrepreneurs compared with female entrepreneurs presenting the same business case.
In fact, loan officers made larger counteroffers to female entrepreneurs when considering both the business plan and the loan application interview.

Student volunteers’ loan funding decisions were compared with loan professionals, and the younger generation of lay people made larger counteroffers to the male entrepreneur instead of the female when they evaluated both the business plan and the loan interview,
Loan officers, in contrast, made significantly more cautious and conservative funding decisions than student participants.

Buttner and Benson recommended that female entrepreneurs ask to meet with loan officers to present their business proposals because this personal contact resulted in more successful funding of requested loans.

John Becker-Blease

John Becker-Blease

Another source of funding is “angel investors,” and Oregon State University’s John R. Becker-Blease and Jeffrey E. Sohl of University of New Hampshire found no difference in funding for male and female entrepreneurs.
They noted that women seek private investments substantially lower rates than men, but they are equally likely to receive investment.

However, when the “angels” are women, female entrepreneurs are more likely to seek financing and are as likely to receive the requested funding.

Jeffrey Sohl

Jeffrey Sohl

Women entrepreneurs may still face obstacles in starting new ventures,  a barrier shared with less attractive males.

-*How do you mitigate biases based on gender or attractiveness when asking for funding – for a business, initiative, or idea?

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Beware of Seeking, Acting on Advice When Anxious, Sad

Just as wise grandmothers advise, it’s best to avoid decisions when upset, anxious, or sad.

Maurice Schweitzer

Maurice Schweitzer

Maurice Schweitzer and Alison Wood Brooks of Wharton and Harvard Business School’s Francesca Gino validated Grandmother Wisdom in eight experiments that demonstrated anxiety’s impact on lowering self-confidence, impairing information processing, and impeding ability to distinguish advice from neutral advisors and those with a conflict of interest.

Alison Wood Brooks

Alison Wood Brooks

They found that people experiencing anxiety tend to seek advice and act on it, but they are less able to differentiate poor advice from valid recommendations, and these results are applicable to making decisions about crucial medical treatment, financial investments, or even guidance counseling.

Francesca Gino

Francesca Gino

The team evoked anxious feeling among volunteers by presenting potentially frightening film clips and music, and asked them to judge a person’s weight based on a photograph or number of coins in a jar or solve a complex math problem.

Participants were offered money for correct judgments, and the opportunity to receive advice from others when they were uncertain.
Those who heard the scary music or saw the alarming film clip rated themselves as less confident of their decision, and were more likely to ask others for advice.
These effects were not observed when volunteers were shown a film clip that could provoke anger.

Schweitzer, Brooks, and Gino concluded that people vary in their receptivity to advice based on:

  • Advisor’s characteristics, such as expertise, consistent with Cialdini’s observation

    Robert Cialdini

    Robert Cialdini

  • Perceived difficulty of the decision
  • Decision maker’s emotional state when receiving advice

The researchers advised decision-makers to:

  • Monitor their internal states for anxiety
  • Use feedback from multiple sources when making important decisions
  • Work toward developing increased self-confidence
  • Evoke calm state, often possible with systematic breathing or mindful attention and equanimity
Catherine Hartley

Catherine Hartley

Catherine Hartley, then of New York University and Elizabeth Phelps of New York University contributed to the neuroeconomic analysis of anxiety’s impact on decision- making when they reported that brain structures responsible for regulating fear and anxiety are also involved in economic decision-making under uncertain conditions.

Elizabeth Phelps

Elizabeth Phelps

Specifically, the amygdala is crucial in learning, experiencing, and regulating both fear and anxiety and it is also implicated in decision-making in situations of potential loss.
The prefrontal cortex is specialized in controlling fear and is also involved in decisions containing risk elements.

Hartley and Phelps suggest that techniques for altering fear and anxiety may also improve economic decisions-making.

Rajagopal Raganathan

Rajagopal Raganathan

Rajagopal Raghunathan, then of New York University and Michel Tuan Pham of Columbia University demonstrated the same connection between anxiety and making decisions about gambling and job selection.

Michel Tuan Pham

Michel Tuan Pham

They conducted three experiments and found that sad individuals select high risk / high-reward gambling and job options, whereas anxious individuals are biased in favor of low-risk / low-reward options.

Raghunathan and Pham posit that anxiety tends to motivate people to reduce uncertainty whereas sadness moves people to replace rewards.
They suggest suggesting two different decision biases related to mood states.

Raghunathan and Pham add to Schweitzer, Brooks, and Gino’s recommendations for mitigating decision bias:

  • “Monitor feelings”
  • Consider alternate options
  • Speculate on future moods and preferences if each option were selected: “What would I feel better about . . .?

-*How do you mitigate the potential decision bias when anxious or sad?

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