Tag Archives: cognitive dissonance

Coping or Complacency? Rationalization Instead of Behavior Change Is Learned Early

Sigmund Freud, Ernest Jones

Rationalization was described by Freud biographer and psychoanalyst Ernest Jones as an unconscious maneuver to provide plausible explanation that manages unacceptable behavior, motives, or feelings.

Gil Diesendruck

This tactic was observed among children as young as ages four to six, by Bar-Ilan University’s Avi Benozio and Gil Diesendruck.
They suggested that these children had already learned to “reframe” disappointing circumstances as a way of reducing uncomfortable cognitive dissonance, described by New School’s Leon Festinger.

Leon Festinger

In Benozio’s and Diesendruck’s experiments, children ages three, four, five and six years old completed assignments in exchange for colorful adhesive stickers that varied in attractiveness and appeal to each age group.

The young participants could invest considerable effort or minimal work in tasks ranging in challenge from reporting current age to closing eyes and counting as far as possible – then counting five more.
The children were permitted to keep these prizes or give them to an unidentified person.

When six year olds invested substantial effort to obtain attractive rewards, they were less likely to relinquish these valued stickers to others.
However, four year olds did not demonstrate this discerning difference in awarding their winnings to others. 

Elliot Aronson

When six year olds applied significant effort to obtaining less desirable rewards, they also distributed fewer to others, but their reasoning differed.
They adjusted their appraisal of the less attractive stickers, indicating that these prizes were more appealing.
Younger children reduced the dissonance using a different strategy: Four year olds discarded stickers rather than more favorably assessing their value.

Aesop

These behavioral differences suggest that these children learn to rationalize by age six and this strategy persists among adults, found Stanford’s Elliot Aronson and the U.S. Army’s Judson Mills.
Their controlled studies validate Aesop‘s observation of “sweet lemons” and “sour grapes” in the well-known fable The Fox and the Grapes.

To mitigate potential errors in inferring preference and rationalization from this type of study, UCLA’s Johanna M. Jarcho and Matthew D. Lieberman with Elliot T. Berkman of University of Oregon conducted fMRIs while participants completed decisions to test attitude change linked to cognitive dissonance.

Joanna Jarcho

Joanna Jarcho

Brain activity significantly increased in the right-inferior frontal gyrus, medial fronto-parietal regions and ventral striatum while decreasing in the anterior insula, suggesting a pattern of rapid reappraisal required in emotional regulation.
Rationalization, then, may be an automatic coping mechanism rather than an unconscious defense mechanism.

Reinhold Niebuhr

Reinhold Niebuhr

Benozio and Diesendruck warned that this adaptive capacity could lead to complacent acceptance instead of working to change negative circumstances, articulated in the well-known Serenity Prayer attributed to Yale’s Reinhold Niebuhr:

…grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.

-*To what extent is rationalization a logical error?
-*Or is rationalization an effective emotional regulation strategy?

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Women’s Self-Advocacy: Self-Promotion and Violating the “Female Modesty” Norm

Corinne Moss-Racusin

Corinne Moss-Racusin

Many women experience anxiety when required to showcase their accomplishments and skills, yet many in the U.S. have repeatedly heard that self-promotion, personal marketing, and “selling yourself” are required to be recognized and rewarded at work.

Gender norms about “modesty” contribute to women’s discomfort in highlighting their accomplishments.
These unspoken rules include holding a moderate opinion of one’s skills, lacking pretentiousness, minimizing responsibility for success, and accepting responsibility for failure.

Laurie Rudman

Laurie Rudman

In contrast, many American men freely share their skills, which leads others to see them as “competent,” “capable,” and “confident.”
In fact, this norm is associated with “backlash” against men who adopt the “modesty” norm and do not advertise their successes, according to Skidmore’s Corinne Moss-Racusin, Julie Phelan of Langer Research Associates, and Rutgers’ Laurie Rudman.

Women from cultures that value cooperation, collaboration, and collective accomplishment over individual recognition have even greater challenges adopting local career advancement strategies.

Marie‐Hélène Budworth

Marie‐Hélène Budworth

Yet, conforming to these norms limits women’s career advancement, found York University‘s MarieHélène Budworth and Sara L. Mann of University of Guelph.

Deborah A. Small

Deborah A. Small

Women who adhere to implicit “female modesty” expectations experience this career handicap because they are less likely to ask for promotions and raises.
This reluctance to ask contributed to women’s long-term pay disparity in research by University of Pennsylvania’s Deborah A. Small, Linda Babcock of Carnegie Mellon University, University of Maryland’s Michele Gelfand and Hilary Gettman.

Peter Glick

Peter Glick

However, if women violate “modesty norms”, they can experience discrimination in hiring, promotion, and wages, reported Rutgers’ Rudman and Peter Glick of Lawrence University.
In addition, they can also experience other adverse interpersonal consequences, noted Yale’s Victoria Brescoll.

Mark Zanna

Mark Zanna

People who violate norms typically experience situational arousal including discomfort, anxiety, fear, nervousness, perspiration, increased heart rate, according to University of Waterloo’s Mark Zanna and Joel Cooper of Princeton.

However, if women attribute this physical activation to something other than the norm violation, they were more likely to:

Jessi L Smith

Jessi L Smith

Despite women’s career “double bind,” targeted interventions can help women to communicate more effectively about their successes, noted Montana State University’s Jessi L. Smith and Meghan Huntoon.

More than 75 women wrote sample essays for a merit-based “scholarship” valued up to USD $5,000.
One group was composed essays about their own accomplishments whereas another group wrote about another person’s accomplishments.

Andrew Elliott

Andrew Elliott

They also completed Achievement Goal Questionnaire – Revised by University of Rochester Andrew Elliot and Kou Murayama of Tokyo Institute of Technology to evaluate “performance approach” and “performance avoidance.”

The laboratory contained a black box described as a “subliminal noise generator.”
Half the volunteers were told the box produced “inaudible but potentially uncomfortable ultra-high frequency noise,” and they were later asked to evaluate “the effects of extraneous distractions on task performance.”
The remaining participants received no information about the black box.

Victoria Brescoll

Victoria Brescoll

Women who could attribute their experience to the “noise generator” produced higher-quality, more convincing descriptions of their achievements, measured by being “awarded” significantly higher scholarships prizes – up to USD $1,000 more.
These women also said they were more interested in the task, which is typically associated with greater intrinsic motivation to showcase personal accomplishments.

In contrast, women who violated the “modesty” norm without reference to the “noise generator” said they were:

  • Less interested in describing their achievements,
  • Negatively evaluated their performance,
  • Produced lower-quality essays,
  • More likely to fear failure 
    than when they advocated for another woman.

Women perceived as displaying their accomplishments in essays were negatively evaluated by judges, who “awarded” an average of USD $1,500 less to people wrote about their own accomplishments rather than about someone else’s.

Leon Festinger

Leon Festinger

One “workaround” for women’s double bind is to reciprocally advocate for female colleagues.
This strategy highlights women’s accomplishments as organizational policies evolve to support and encourage women’s self-promotion.
An example is Google’s self-nomination process for advancement and promotion, coupled with reminder emails to submit self-nominations.

When women reconstrue self-promotion, “selling” and “marketing” professional accomplishments as “part of the job,” they tend to experience less cognitive dissonance and perform more effectively when showcasing their capabilities.

  • How do you manage the norm against women “bragging” and showcasing their accomplishments?

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Does Customer Recommendation Predict Company Growth?

Fred Reichheld

Fred Reichheld

Net Promoter Scores gauge customer loyalty, expressed by willingness to recommend and advocate the company’s products and services to others.

Its creator, Fred Reichheld of Bain & Company, posited that NPS is a more meaningful measure of a company’s relationship with its customers than customer satisfaction metrics because, he argued, it is correlated with revenue growth.

Richard Owen

Richard Owen

Satmetrix Executives Richard Owen and Laura Brooks further articulated this linkage between customer loyalty and revenue growth.

NPS’s customer loyalty metric is based on 10-point ratings in response to just one question: How likely is it that you would recommend our company/product/service to a friend or colleague?

Laura Brooks

Laura Brooks

“Promoters” respond with a score of 9 or 10 whereas “Detractors” provide ratings of 0-6, and scores of 7 and 8 are ignored in this system, leading to the question of why they are included.
NPS is calculated by subtracting the percentage of customers who are Detractors from the percentage of customers who are Promoters.

Timothy L. Keiningham

Timothy L. Keiningham

Critics, including Ipsos Loyalty’s Timothy L. Keiningham, Bruce Cooil of Vanderbilt, BI Norwegian School of Management’s Tor Wallin Andreassen, and Lerzan Aksoy of Fordham, argue that American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) is an equally accurate predictor of revenue growth.

They reinforced the frequently-replicated finding that actual behaviors, including positive and negative “word of mouth (WOM)are better predictors than attitudes about possible future behaviors, in their evaluation of longitudinal data from 21 firms and 15,500-plus interviews from the Norwegian Customer Satisfaction Barometer.

Claes Fornell

Claes Fornell

Likewise, University of Michigan’s Claes Fornell, Forrest V. Morgensen, and M.S. Krishan, with Sunil Mithas of University of Maryland, found that “it is possible to beat the market consistently by investing in firms that do well on the ACSI.”

Companies that invest in initiatives to increase customer satisfaction, reflected in higher scores than competitors on the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI), also performed better in measures of market value.

More surprisingly, they found that these higher returns are associated with lower stock market risk, probably due to “stock market imperfections” that require time to adjust to news of strong ACSI performance.

Bob Hayes

Bob Hayes

Similarly, customer satisfaction and loyalty researcher Bob Hayes contended that “likelihood to recommend” measures the same construct and has the same predictive value of business growth as customer loyalty questions such as:

  • Overall satisfaction
  • Predicted likelihood to purchase again, evaluated through his Purchasing Loyalty Index (PLI)
  • Number of referrals through “word of mouth” and “word of mouse,” calculated in his Advocacy Loyalty Index (ALI)
  • Resistance to defection to competing offers, measured with his Retention Loyalty Index (RLI).

    Hayes Customer Loyalty Grid

    Hayes Customer Loyalty Grid

Hayes’ findings reinforced the caveat that actual behavior is a more accurate than attitudes about likely future behavior, also demonstrated by University of Connecticut’s V Kumar, J Andrew Petersen and Robert Leone in their analysis of telecoms and financial service customers willing to recommend their service provider.

V Kumar

V Kumar

Only about one-third of these potential Advocates actually recommended the provider, and only about 13% of those referrals actually led to new customers.
Kumar and team called this the “promise gap” and suggested that it can be mitigated by delivering beyond customer expectations, even when a customer complains.

Neal A Morgan

Neil Morgan

Indiana University’s Neil A. Morgan and Lopo Leotte Rego of University of Iowa added a wrinkle to critiques of Net Promoter Scores as the sole necessary indicator of customer satisfaction.

Like Keiningham’s team and Hayes, they found that recommendation intentions (“net promoters”) have “little to no predictive value.
Unlike Hayes, their results found little predictive strength for actual behavior in average number of recommendations.

Instead, Morgan and Rego argued for multiple measures of customer satisfaction as the best predictor of revenue group.
Additionally they found that Top 2 Box satisfaction scores – the sum of percentages for the top two point on surveys of purchase intent, satisfaction or awareness – provided “good” predictive value.

Daniel Schneider

Daniel Schneider

The Net Promoter Score also had the lowest predictive validity when compared to three other scales by Stanford’s Jon Krosnick and Daniel Schneider, with Intuit’s Matt Berent and Hays Interactive’s Randall Thomas.

To improve the NPS, the team recommended replacing the 11 point unipolar rating scale with a 7 point bipolar scale from positive to negative impressions.

Jon Krosnick

Jon Krosnick

Their work replicated Hayes’ finding that liking and satisfaction with a company are highly significantly predictors than the likelihood of recommending, so Krosnick’s team recommended including questions like:

  • Overall, how satisfied are you with the each of the following companies?
  • How much do you like or dislike each of the following companies?

They uncovered correlations among measures of customer experience, and showed that liking is the best predictor of the number of recommendations and satisfaction.

Leon Festinger

Leon Festinger

Customers typically form more positive evaluations after the decision to purchase, probably due to validating purchase choices and reduce cognitive dissonance of purchase dissatisfaction, described by Stanford’s Leon Festinger.

These findings suggest that Reichheld’s claim of NPS as “the only question you need to ask” may be unsubstantiated, and that multiple measures of customer experience are more accurate predictors of a company’s revenue performance.

-*How credible is “willingness to recommend” a company as a predictor of its revenue growth?

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Interpersonal Envy in Competitive Organizations and the “Search Inside Yourself” (SIY) Antidote

Workplace envy is rarely discussed, although it is a logical outcome of competition for scarce resources:  Recognition, advancement, power, reputation, compensation in explicit or implicit organizational “tournaments.”

Jayanth Narayanan

Jayanth Narayanan

National University of Singapore’s Jayanth Narayanan, Kenneth Tai, and Daniel McAllister broached the near-taboo of workplace envy as an inevitable outgrowth of social comparison and related “cognitive dissonance” in attempting to self-regulate or return to emotional and equity “homeostasis.”

Daniel McAllister

Daniel McAllister

They differentiated malicious envy from benign envy and argue that the latter can drive performance through emulating admired outcomes.

This process, called firgun in Hebrew, is characterized by happiness, envy, and support of others, and is positively related to organizational success.
Mudita in Buddhist texts, refers to similar feelings of vicarious joy at another’s success and good fortune.

Hidehiko Takahashi

Hidehiko Takahashi

Narayan and team posit that envy is pain at another’s good fortune, and Hidehiko Takahashi’s team at Japan’s National Institute of Radiological Sciences demonstrated that the social-emotional pain of envy is a variation of the physical pain experience.

Their fMRI study found that the emotional pain of workplace envy is physically manifested in activation of the brain’s anterior cingulate cortex.

Nathan DeWall

Nathan DeWall

As such, Nathan DeWall of University of Kentucky and colleagues reported that Tylenol™ reduces behavioral and neural responses associated with social pain in two fMRI studies.

Narayanan argues that envy exerts its differential effect on workplace behavior through each individual’s specific:

  • Core self-evaluations (self-esteem, self-efficacy, locus of control, and neuroticism),
  • Referent cognitions” regarding warmth, likeability, and competence of the envied  person
  • Perceived organizational support

Workplace envy, they argue, can affect:

  • Social undermining
  • Prosocial behavior
  • Job performance

Narayanan and team proposed that those with higher self-esteem are less prone to negative workplace behaviors when experiencing on-the-job envy.

They propose that people are less likely to socially undermine the envied individual when the envied person is viewed as both warm-likeable and competent.

Similarly, they suggest that people who think their organization values them and their work, and supports their work and career development efforts are less likely to decrease job performance when envious at work.

Chade-Meng Tan

Chade-Meng Tan

Search Inside YourselfGoogle’s Jolly Good Fellow ChadeMeng Tan proposes the mindfulness-based program “Search Inside Yourself” (SIY) as a way to self-manage workplace envy and other painful social experiences, by developing skills in:

  • Trained attention
  • Self-knowledge and self-mastery
  • Creating useful mental habits.

-*How do you manage workplace envy when you notice it in yourself or others?

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