Tag Archives: Michael Scheier

Anxiety Linked to Risk of Behaving Unethically

Sreedhari Desai

Sreedhari Desai

People who feel anxious are more likely to act with self-interested unethical behavior, according to University of North Carolina’s Sreedhari Desai and Maryam Kouchaki of Northwestern.

Anxious individuals were more willing to:

  • -Participate in unethical actions in hypothetical scenarios,

-Engage in more lying and cheating to make money.

Maryam Kouchaki

Maryam Kouchaki


Anxiety was also associated with increased threat perception and decreased concern about personal unethical actions in simulated subordinate–supervisor pairs.

Desai noted that “Individuals who feel anxious and threatened can take on self-defensive behaviors and focus narrowly on their own basic needs and self-interest.
This can cause them to be less mindful of principles that guide ethical and moral reasoning – and make them rationalize their own actions as acceptable
.”

Charles Carver

Charles Carver

People may engage in unethical behaviors because circumventing rules provides more options and greater control over outcomes, surmised University of Miami’s Charles Carver and Michael Scheier of Carnegie Mellon.
This experience can lead to feelings of greater autonomy and influence, particularly in ambiguous situations, according to Ohio State’s  Roy Lewicki.

Michael Scheier

Michael Scheier

Once people do experience ethical lapses such as cheating, they can experience a cheater’s high,‘ described by University of Washington’s Nicole E. Ruedy, Celia Moore of London Business School, Harvard’s Francesca Gino, and Maurice E. Schweitzer of Wharton.
Separately, University of California, San Francisco’s Paul Ekman referred to cheaters’ exuberance as this as “duping delight.”

Roy Lewicki

Roy Lewicki

Ruedy’s team demonstrated that cheaters experienced emotional uplift and self-satisfaction instead of the guilt and bad feelings these participants predicted.

Nicole Ruedy

Nicole Ruedy

Almost 180 people completed a four-minute anagram task to earn $1 for every correctly unscrambled word.
Then, they rated their current affect – positive and negative – both before and after the task.

Celia Moore

Celia Moore

Volunteers’ actual answers were compared from imprints between their answer sheets to determine which participants reported inaccurate results.

Cheating was frequent:  More than 40% cheated by writing in additional answers to increase their earnings.
These participants reported significantly greater positive feelings after cheating on the task.

Francesca Gino

Francesca Gino

Even when Ruedy’s team signaled to volunteers that researchers knew participants may be providing inaccurate reports in an insoluble anagram task, more than half the participants reported implausibly high scores.

Cheaters had higher levels of positive affect even when confronted with the team’s awareness of their potential cheating.
They also and showed higher levels of self-satisfaction (feeling clever, capable, accomplished, satisfied, superior).

Earning more money didn’t add to the “cheater’s high,” suggesting a top threshold for positive feelings associated with cheating:  Cheaters didn’t feel substantially better when they earned more money on an anagram task.

Maurice Schweitzer

Maurice Schweitzer

These findings suggest the importance of moderating ambient anxiety in organizations, both to increase employee quality-of-life, and reduce unethical workplace behaviors that could undermine individual careers and organizational reputation.

Paul Ekman

Paul Ekman

Organizational leaders can reduce anxiety by increasing role clarity through:

  • Setting realistic expectations for employee workload,
  • Adopting Results Only Work Environment (ROWE) and flex time,
  • Emphasizing the value of experimentation, flexibility, and innovation, and supporting with collaborative workspaces.

-*How have you seen high-anxiety workplaces affect employees’ ethical judgment?

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Cynical Beliefs Linked to Lower Earnings, Poorer Health

Olga Stavrova

Olga Stavrova

People who hold cynical beliefs about human nature and the world have lower incomes than those with a more optimistic view, found University of Cologne’s Olga Stavrova and Daniel Ehlebracht.

Cynical beliefs are measured by statements including:

  • “I think most people would lie to get ahead,”
  • “It’s safer to trust nobody,”
  • “Most people will use somewhat unfair reasons to gain profit or an advantage rather than lose it.”
Daniel Ehlebracht

Daniel Ehlebracht

People who agree with these ideas may avoid cooperation, trust and collaboration with others and while focusing on monitoring, control, and preventing potential exploitation.

Volunteers who endorsed these self-protective behaviors and cynical beliefs reported lower personal income than people who demonstrate greater trust and interpersonal collaboration in studies using a representative sample of Americans between 1986 and 2012, and replicated with a representative German group between 2003 and 2012.

Robert McCrae

Robert McCrae

A related study showed that income-suppressing cynical beliefs are not associated with enduring personality characteristic measured by Robert McCrae of NIH and Paul Costa’s Big Five personality dimensions.

In addition, lower earnings were not explained by cynical individuals’ poorer health, lower education, and greater agreement with items that measure neuroticism and introversion.

Paul Costa

Paul Costa

However, some cynical beliefs are justified by the local environment, such as in counties with low levels of charitable giving, high homicide rates and high overall societal cynicism levels.
Survey data from 41 countries showed that people in these contexts who held cynical beliefs did not have lower personal income than those with more optimistic views.

Anna-Maija Tolppanen

Anna-Maija Tolppanen

Holding cynical beliefs about people was also associated with greater risk of dementia and death among the elderly in a study over 8 to 10 years, according to University of Eastern Finland’s Elisa NeuvonenMinna Rusanen, Anna-Maija Tolppanen, collaborating with Alina Solomon of University of Kuopio, Flinders University’s Tiina Laatikainen, with Tiia Ngandu of Finland’s National Institute for Health and Welfare, Hilkka Soininen of Hospital District of North Karelia, and Kuopio University Hospital’s Miia Kivipelto.

Alina Solomon

Alina Solomon

The team measured cynical distrust with the Cook-Medley Hostility Scale (CMHS) by University of Minnesota’s Walter Cook and Donald Medley, and cognitive status using screening, clinical phase, and differential diagnosis using the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th Edition (DSM-IV) criteria for more than 1450 people.

People with highest level of cynical distrust had higher risk of dementia after the researchers controlled for confounding factors including:

  • Age,
  • Gender,
  • Systolic blood pressure,
  • Total cholesterol,
  • Fasting glucose,
  • Body mass index,
  • Socioeconomic background,
  • Smoking,
  • Alcohol use,
  • Self-reported health,
  • Apolipoprotein E (APOE).
Tiina Laatikainen

Tiina Laatikainen

People with highest levels of cynical distrust were three times more likely to develop dementia than people with low levels of cynicism, even when Neuvonen’s team controlled for effects of dementia risk, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol and smoking.

Tiia Ngandu

Tiia Ngandu

This finding supports suggestions that people who are more open and optimistic have a lower risk for dementia.

Hilary Tindle

Hilary Tindle

In related findings, positive expectations about the future, and trait optimism were associated with reduced rates of coronary heart disease (CHD) and mortality in postmenopausal women, reported University of Pittsburgh’s Hilary A. Tindle, Yue-Fang Chang, Lewis H. Kuller, Greg J. Siegle, Karen A. Matthews, collaborating with Harvard’s JoAnn E. Manson, Jennifer G. Robinson of University of Iowa, and University of Massachusetts’ Milagros C. Rosal.

Michael Scheier

Michael Scheier

More than 97,250 white and black women with no signs of cancer and cardiovascular disease completed the Life Orientation Test–Revised (LOT-R) by Carnegie Mellon’s Michael Scheier and Charles Carver of University of Miami, plus the Cook Medley Questionnaire’s cynicism subscale.

Charles Carver

Charles Carver

Women who scored in the top quartile for optimism had lower age-adjusted rates of Coronary Heart Disease (CHD) and total mortality.
Black women with this optimistic perspective also had significantly less cancer-related mortality.

In contrast, those who scored in the top quartile for cynical hostility had significantly higher rates of CHD and total mortality, reinforcing the value of cultivating a positive viewpoint.

Hilkka Soininen

Hilkka Soininen

Likewise, individuals with the highest cynical distrust measured by Cook-Medley Hostility Scale had higher risk of dementia after adjusting for confounding factors including socioeconomic position, lifestyle, alcohol use, and health status, found Neuvonen’s team.

Financial, physical, and cognitive well-being can be enhanced by cultivating optimism and trust and reducing cynicism.

-*How do you increase and sustain optimism, trust, and collaboration?

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Recasting Unattainable Goals into Refreshed Options

Several previous posts have showcased research findings linking perseverance and persistence with expert performance and career advancement.

Faizel Mohidin

Faizel Mohidin

Faizel Mohidin SMART goal mind mapMind Map expert Faizel Mohidin shared an augmented understanding of SMART goals in a compelling graphic that showcases the necessity of goal achievability.

Goals may become unattainable due to:

  • Lack of opportunity (older than usual childbearing age, divorce)
  • Negative life event (death of a spouse, job loss)
  • Lack of resources (insufficient time, health, or money), or
  • Unattractive opportunity cost
Carsten Wrosch

Carsten Wrosch

Michael Scheier

Michael Scheier

Concordia University’ s Carsten Wrosch collaborated with Michael Scheier of Carnegie Mellon University, University of British Columbia’s Gregory Miller, Richard Schulz  of University of Pittsburgh, and University of Miami’s Charles Carver to examine disengagement from unattainable, goals, reengagement with more achievable goals, and subjective well-being among 280 volunteers in three studies.

Gregory Miller

Gregory Miller

Richard Schulz

Richard Schulz

Participants rated their ease in stopping focus on unattainable goals, and the amount of effort they invested in alternate achievable goals, along with multiple measures of physical and mental well-being.

They found that people who disengaged from unattainable goals and reengaged with attainable goals reported higher subjective well-being, lower stress, fewer intrusive thoughts about personal issues, and feeling more control in life circumstances than those who persisted with objectively unattainable goals.

Jutta Heckhausen

Jutta Heckhausen

Charles Carver

Charles Carver

Wrosh built on these findings that goal disengagement and reengagement can increase self-efficacy and emotional self-regulation by collaborating with Jutta Heckhausen of University of California, Irvine and Wake Forest University’s William Fleeson, to investigate the special case of women approaching and past the usual age of childbearing.

William Fleeson

William Fleeson

Their observations led them to propose an “action-phase model of developmental regulation,” in which people close to a developmental deadline like end of fertility, focus on “goal pursuit.”

In contrast, people past a developmental deadline without attaining a time-limited goal tend to focus on “disengagement and self-protection.”

This research suggests tempering advice to “never give up” with an assesssment of goal feasibility to decide whether to disengage, then reengage with a more achievable aspiration.

-*What approaches expedite disengagement from an unattainable goal and reengagement  with a revised, achievable objective?

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