Tag Archives: expectancy

Positive Thinking, Mental Contrasting Plus WOOP to Improve Performance

Gabriele Oettingen

Gabriele Oettingen

Positive thinking without implementation strategies is ineffective wishful thinking, found NYU’s Gabriele Oettingen.
She advocates a “Mental Contrast” process by considering obstacles and potential ways to manage them, using a mnemonic WOOP:

  • Wish,
  • Outcome,
  • Obstacle,
  • Plan.
Andreas Kappes

Andreas Kappes

Oettingen and University of London colleague Andreas Kappas noted two less effective approaches to goal engagement:

– Indulging by thinking about the desired future state without ways to overcome obstacles

– Dwelling by thinking about the present reality without future goals and ways to achieve them,

People who use these approaches are less committed to their goals than those who use Mental Contrast, even when chances of success were good in interpersonal relations, academic achievement, professional achievement, health, life management experiences.

Mental Contrast was an effective self-regulatory technique when coupled with Implementation Intentions (MCII) to improve achievement, interpersonal, and health habits.

However Mentally Contrasting was less effective when perceived chances of success were low.
This approach led to disengagement from goals.

In this case, Indulging in the future goal fantasy or Dwelling only in the present reality both maintained goal commitment.

Probability of Success-Mental Contrast-Indulve-Dwelling

In another study, volunteers who spent more time imagining working in a “dream job,” but who also had lower expectations of achieving this goal, received fewer job offers and lower starting salaries, found Oettingen and Doris Mayer of University of Hamburg.

They differentiated the motivational impact of:

  • Positive expectations for future success, which predicted high effort and successful performance,
  • Positive fantasies when the probability of success is low, which didn’t increase effort.

Mental Contrasting helped people disengage from unfeasible goals like rehabilitating an ended relationship or achieving an unattainable professional identity.
When chances of success are low, people can use Mental Contrast to move on to more feasible goals.

When facing controllable and escapable tasks, people benefitted from Mentally Contrasting fantasy with reality.
However, when facing tasks that cannot be mastered such as terminal illness, Indulging in positive fantasies enabled people to maintain a positive outlook.

Volunteers increased performance when they linked a negative personal attribute (“impulsivity”) with its positive element (“creativity”).

Timur Sevincer

Timur Sevincer

Participants showed greater effort-based creativity than those who were given no information or told that there’s no association between impulsivity and creativity.

This “silver lining theory” increased performance and enabled people to manage perceived negative attributes.

Mentally Contrasting a desired future (such as excelling in an intelligence test and writing an essay) with a present reality also increased physiological energization measured by systolic blood pressure and grip strength.

This energy activation from mental processes can increase effort to perform an unrelated task, concluded University of Hamburg’s A. Timur Sevincer and P. Daniel Busatta collaborating with Oettingen.

Philip Daniel Busatta

Philip Daniel Busatta

Coupling Mental Contrasting with Implementation Intentions (MCII) helped economically-disadvantaged children convert positive thoughts about future outcomes into effective action, found University of Pennsylvania’s Angela Lee Duckworth, Teri A. Kirby of University of Washington with NYU’s Anton Gollwitzer and and Oettingen.

Teri Kirby

Teri Kirby

Student volunteers learned to compare a desired future with potential obstacles, then developed if–then implementation intentions to potential outcomes.

More than 75 U.S. urban middle school 10 year olds were randomly assigned to learn either MCII or a Positive Thinking strategy as a control comparison.

Student volunteers who applied MCII tools to their academic goals significantly improved their report card grades, attendance, and conduct, suggesting the value of Mental Contrasting to enhance goal commitment and realization.

Mental Contrasting can increase motivation, particularly when coupled with Implementation Intentions.
An exception occurs when the probability of successfully achieving goals is low.
In those cases, Indulging or Dwelling strategies are more effective in maintaining goal motivation.

  • How have you seen Mental Contrasting and considering your probability of success to manage your motivation and performance?

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Multiple Paths Toward Goals Can Motivate, then Derail Success

Szu-Chi Huang

Szu-Chi Huang

Goal motivation changes as people move closer to their target, according to Stanford’s Szu-chi Huang and Ying Zhang of University of Texas, who built on Heinz Heckhausen’s Action-Phase Model.

Ying Zhang

Ying Zhang

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

Albert Bandura

Albert Bandura

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

Clark Hull

Clark Hull

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

Sheena Iyengar

Sheena Iyengar

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

Peter Gollwitzer

Peter Gollwitzer

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

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

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

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

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

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

Motivation toward a goal is also determined by:

  • Goal value, related to “high level construal,” and “low level construal,
  • Expectancy of success, based on probability, difficulty, sufficiency, necessity,
Nira Liberman

Nira Liberman

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

Jens Förster

Jens Förster

Likewise, Huang and Zhang demonstrated the motivational impact of choice.
They compared the number of yoghurt shop customers who reached the incentive target when participants were required purchase six flavors in a specific order compared with any order they chose.

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

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

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

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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.

Negotiators who achieved more effective bargaining outcomes managed 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, by considering alternate interpretations of events to increase optimism and self-efficacy beliefs.

Cognitive strategies with both performance benefits and liabilities include:

  • Andrew Elliot

    Andrew Elliot

    Self-handicapping, avoiding anxiety-provoking situations, and creating self-defeating obstacles to explain poor outcomes and preserve self-esteem, according to University of Rochester’s Andrew Elliott and Marcy Church of St. Mary’s University,

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

Edward Chang

Norem and Cantor concluded that defensive pessimists performed worse when “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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Least Skillful Performers May Have Greatest Self-Delusions of Skill: Pointy-Haired Boss Effect

William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare

The Foole doth thinke he is wise, but the wiseman knowes himselfe to be a Foole,” wrote  William Shakespeare in As You Like It.
Charles Darwin’ decoded this observation with his update: “Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge.”

Charles Darwin

Charles Darwin

Both view are applicable to the workplace and notoriously “clueless” players like Dilbert’s Pointy Haired Boss.

Pointy Haired Boss

Pointy Haired Boss

Incompetent performance often results from ignorance of performance standards in both cognitive skills and physical skills, found Columbia’s David Dunning and Justin Kruger of NYU in a series of experiments.

David Dunning

David Dunning

Volunteers performed humor, grammar, and logic tasks, then viewed their performance scores and again estimated their performance rank.
Competent individuals accurately estimated their rank, whereas incompetent individuals overestimated their ranks despite actual feedback.

Dunning and Kruger posited that incompetent people:

  •          Overestimate their skill levels,
  •          Overlook other people’s skills,
  •          Underestimate their lack of skill in relation to performance standards.
Justin Kruger

Justin Kruger

However, training may reverse this “insight blindness.”
Low-skill individuals in some cases can benefit from corrective feedback and recognize their original lack of skill after they participate in skill training.

The Dunning–Kruger effect describes unskilled individuals’ sense of “illusory superiority,” when they rate their ability as much higher than average although it is actually much lower than average.
In contrast, highly competent individuals miscalibrate other’s performance.

Joyce Ehrlinger

Joyce Ehrlinger

Kerri Johnson

Kerri Johnson

These observations were validated by Washington State University’s Joyce Ehrlinger, Kerri Johnson of UCLA, and Cornell’s Matthew Banner.

People also demonstrate “illusory superiority” when they estimate their ability to identify deception and to infer intentions and emotions (interpersonal sensitivity),  found Columbia’s Daniel R. Ames and Lara K. Kammrath of Wilfrid Laurier University.

Daniel Ames

Daniel Ames

Their results replicated previous findings that most people overestimate their social judgment and mind-reading skills, and showed that people who demonstrate least accurate social judgment and “mind-reading” significantly overestimate their relative competence.

Lara Kamrath

Lara Kamrath

Ames and Kammrath suggested that these inaccurate self-assessments are based “in general narcissistic tendencies toward self-aggrandizement.”

Different tasks elicit differing degrees of the illusory superiority bias, according to University of Michigan’s Katherine A. Burson, Richard P. Larrick of Duke University, University of Chicago’s Joshua Klayman.

Katherine Burson

Katherine Burson

When performing moderately difficult tasks, best and worst performers provided similarly accurate estimates of their skills.
However, when they performed more difficult tasks, best performers provided less accurate skill estimates than worst performers.

Richard Larrick

Richard Larrick

Burson and team proposed that “noise-plus-bias” explains erroneous judgments of personal skill across competence levels.

Dunning and Ehrlinger showed that people’s views of themselves and their skill change when influenced by external cues.
They note that this effect can limit women’s participation in STEM careers (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics).

Joshua Klayman

Joshua Klayman

The team found that women performed equally to men on a science quiz, yet participants underestimated their performance because they assigned low judgments to their general scientific reasoning ability.
This inaccurate underestimate of abilities can dissuade many women from entering STEM careers.

The Dunning–Kruger effect may be culturally limited because one study found that East Asians tend to underestimate their abilities due to norms of humility, and see underachievement as a chance to improve themselves and cooperate with others.

-*How do you mitigate overestimate and underestimates of your skill performance?
-*Where have you seen inaccurate performance estimate affect long-range career achievement?

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Power, Confidence Enhance Performance Under Pressure    

Sonia K. Kang

Sonia K. Kang

Role-based power can affect performance in pressure-filled situations, but has less impact on lower pressure environments, according to University of Toronto’s Sonia K. Kang, Adam D. Galinsky of Columbia University, University of California, Berkeley’s Laura J. Kray and Aiwa Shirako of Google.

Kang’s team assigned more than 130 volunteers to same-gender pairs in three negotiations experiments.
Half the participants acted as a “recruiter” (high-power role) or as a “job candidate” (low-power role) in negotiating salary, vacation time, and related benefits.

Adam Galinsky

Adam Galinsky

Volunteers were told that performance either reflected negotiation ability or was unrelated to ability.
Participants in high power roles tended to perform better under pressure when they were told their negotiation performance was an accurate reflection of ability.
Kang attributed this result to participants’ higher expectations for success based on the higher power role.

Job candidates who thought their negotiation performance indicated their skill level performed significantly worse than those who thought that the exercise was a learning experience unrelated to their negotiating capabilities.

Claude Steele

Claude Steele

Results were similar to Claude Steele of Stanford’s findings for stereotype threat and stereotype uplift, in which individuals from marginalized groups perform less effectively than members of higher-power groups, linked to negative self-attributions and expectations.
Low-power negotiators counteracted underperformance when they self-affirmed their performance.

Laura Kray

Laura Kray

Kang and team concluded that “relative power can act as either a toxic brew (stereotype/low-power threat) or a beneficial elixir (stereotype/high-power lift) for performance… (because) performance in high pressure situations is closely related to expectations of behavior and outcome… Self-affirmation is a way to neutralize … threat.

Aiwa Shirako

Aiwa Shirako

In another experiment, 60 male MBA students were paired as the “buyer” or “seller” of a biotechnology plant.
The sellers held a more powerful role in this situation, and were more assertive, reflected by negotiating a higher selling price, when they thought performance reflected ability.
In contrast, buyers performed worse when they thought negotiating performance reflected ability.

Kang’s team extended this scenario with 88 MBA students (33 male pairs and 11 female pairs), who were told the exercise would gauge their negotiating skills.
Before the negotiation, half of the participants wrote for five minutes about their most important negotiating skill, while the remaining half wrote about their least important negotiating skill.

Francesca Gino

Francesca Gino

Buyers who completed the positive self-affirmation performed significantly better in negotiating a lower sale price for the biotechnology plant, effectively reducing the power differences between the buyer and seller.

Based on these findings, Kang, like Harvard’s Francesca Gino, advocates writing self-affirmations rather than simply reflecting on positive self-statements about job skills and positive traits to enhance confidence and performance.

-*How do you mitigate differences in role-based power and confidence when performing under pressure?

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Perceived Personal Power Can Modify Time Perception, Perceived Stress

Alice Moon

Alice Moon

People’s subjective experience of time differ based on individual characteristics, which can influence feelings of control over time and coping with time demands.

Serena Chen

Serena Chen

University of California Berkeley’s Alice Moon and Serena Chen evaluated more than 550 volunteers’ ratings of their perceived personal power and their perspectives on available time to accomplish goals.

Moon and Chen asked more than 100 participants to assume the role of a “manager” while sitting in a “high-power chair,” or the role of an “employee” while both groups rated their perceived personal resources of time and power.
Participants who played the more powerful role of “manager” reported that they had more time than “employee.”

Moon and Chen also primed more than 100 American adults to think of themselves in high-power or low-power positions, and asked them to rate statements about availability of time to achieve goals.

Even when participants did not actually have more available time, those who felt most powerful perceived greater control over their time, and greater time availability.
This is another example of the power of expectation exceeding the importance of an actual resource, competency, or experience.

Mario Weick

Mario Weick

These findings support other reports that managers experience less stress than subordinates in organizations, attributable to their “position power.”

Ana Guinote

Ana Guinote

People who feel powerful tend to hold a significantly optimistic bias when predicting time required to complete task, reported University of Kent’s Mario Weick and Ana Guinote of University College London.

They attributed this unrealistic optimism to
confident belief in personal self-efficacy accompanying subjective feelings of power in their evaluation of:

  • Actual power and time perception,
  • Induced feelings of power through priming,
  • Pre-existing personal self-perceptions.
Priyanka D. Joshi

Priyanka D. Joshi

This “planning fallacy” of underestimating task completion time often results from a narrow focus on the goal, coupled with the optimism bias that obscures potential obstacles and risks.

Nathanael Fast

Nathanael Fast

Likewise, people who feel powerful also tend to feel more confident about the future, more aware of their “future self,” and more willing to wait for longer-term rewards, found University of Southern California ’s Priyanka D. Joshi and Nathanael J. Fast.

Specifically, participants assigned to high-power roles and to power priming instructions were less likely to display temporal discounting, or choosing smaller short-term rewards over larger goals that require a longer waiting period.

This suggests that people who feel powerful have a sense of abundance in other domains, including time and money.
As a result, feeling powerful enables people to forego current rewards, “delay gratification,” and make present investments to achieve potentially larger longer-term pay-offs.

-*How do you increase your personal experience of power and time perspective?

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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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