Tag Archives: Persuasion

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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Paradox of Potential vs Achievement in Job Search

Zachary Tormala

Zachary Tormala

When hiring or promoting, the person’s potential can trump actual accomplishments, according to Stanford’s Zakary Tormala, with Jayson Jia of University of Hong Kong and Harvard’s Michael Norton.

Jayson Shi Jia

Jayson Shi Jia

The paradox of potential occurs because possibility seems to engender greater interest and cognitive effort due to its uncertain outcome, in examples ranging across:

  • Basketball player evaluations,
  • Hiring decisions,
  • Salary offers,
  • Graduate school admissions recommendations,
  • Judgments of artistic talent,
  • Intentions to visit an untried restaurant.
Michael Norton

Michael Norton

Tormala and team demonstrated this effect by presenting identical statistics for a hypothetical NBA basketball player, then describing the data “predictions” or as “actual performance.”
Participants were more likely to judge that the player would become an All-Star player when they viewed “predicted” statistics rather than “actual” performance records.

Volunteers also evaluated a job applicant more favorably when the person performed well on an “Assessment of Leadership Potential rather than on an “Assessment of Leadership Achievement.”

Tormala’s group extended the investigation to evaluate impact of an upcoming comedian’s ”accomplishment” compared with “potential” when they posted different Facebook advertisements:

  • “Critics say he has become the next big thing”
  • “Critics say he could become the next big thing.”

The “potential” ads produced more than three times more click-throughs and five times more fan ratings.

In other studies, Tormala and team compared descriptions of an achievement and potential:

  • “This person has won an award for his work”
  • “This person could win an award for his work.”

“Potential” stimulated greater interest and cognitive information processing, resulting in more favorable reactions to the target person.

Derek Rucker

Derek Rucker

With Stanford colleague Daniella Kupor and Derek D. Rucker of Northwestern University, Tormala and Norton found that the preference for potential disappeared for people who don’t like uncertainty, and in situations that require higher degrees of certainty.

They noted that when people thoughtfully consider challenging decisions, such as in a Blackjack game, bystanders form positive impressions of others and become more willing to be influenced by them.
However, observers form negative opinions of people who “overthink” simple choices (demonstrate lack “thought calibration”), and are less willing to be influenced by them.

The appeal of potential applies to abstract enjoyable experiences, according to Southern Methodist University’s T. Andrew Poehlman and George Newman of Yale.

T Andrew Poehlman

T Andrew Poehlman

They found that the lure of “potential” makes people more likely to “consume inferior performances” in the present, but may not enjoy them.

Poehlman and Newman argued that “potential” is less influential when experienced in the past, and is less attractive when potential is associated with utilitarian dimensions.

George Newman

George Newman

These findings point to the value of:

  • Positioning one’s own “potential” as well as others’ “potential” to increase persuasiveness of support and advocacy,
  • Considering whether candidates with “potential” seem more appealing than those with greater experience – and whether potential is the appropriate selection criterion.

-*How frequently do you see people hired, promoted, and rewarded for “potential” instead of actual achievement?

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Writing Power Primer Increases Efficacy in High-Stakes Performance

Adam Galinsky

Adam Galinsky

Columbia’s Adam Galinsky opines that “power is the central regulator of human interaction…because it creates patterns of deference, reduces conflict, creates division of labor — all things that make our species successful.”

Francesca Gino

Francesca Gino

He evaluated a power-enhancing technique used by Harvard Business School’s Francesca Gino when she interviewed for academic positions at top-tier universities after an initial unsuccessful round of interviews.

Gino wrote a “power prime” by recalling and writing about a time she felt powerful.
She reviewed this prime before she presented a talk and interviewed for academic roles.
Using this approach, Gino received four job offers from four top universities, in contrast to her previously unsuccessful interview attempts.

David Dubois

David Dubois

Galinsky collaborated with David Dubois of INSEAD, Tilburg University’s Joris Lammers, and Derek Rucker of Northwestern University to investigate whether changes in feelings of power are associated with different outcomes in professional interviews.

Joris Lammers

Joris Lammers

They asked applicants for jobs and for business school admission to recall and write about a time they felt powerful or powerless.
Independent judges, who were unaware of the power manipulation, rated more highly the written and face-to-face interview performance of applicants who recalled power experiences than those who remembered powerless situations or applicants who considered neither powerful or powerless experiences.

Derek Rucker

Derek Rucker

Judges stated that they preferred the power-primed applicants because they seemed more persuasive and confident than other applicants.

As a result, these applicants were offered job roles and business school admission more frequently than those who wrote about powerless experiences or those who considered neither powerful nor powerless situations:  68 percent of the power-primed candidates were offered roles, in contrast to the usual  acceptance rate of 47 percent.

The undermining impact of recalled powerlessness was also significant:  Only 26 percent of those who wrote about a time in which they lacked power were selected for roles and admission, considerably less than the expected average of 47 percent.

Sian Beilock

Sian Beilock

An earlier post mentioned Sian Beilock’s investigation of writing as a coping tool in stressful academic situations.
Her collaborators at University of Chicago, Vanderbilt, and Pace Universities showed that students could manage test anxiety by writing about their concerns to contain and “off-load” them and to maintain a calm mindset.

These findings suggest that merely recalling an experience of personal power can favorably influence impressions of persuasiveness and perhaps competence and likeability in professional interviews.
This effect can be enhanced by writing about power experiences to increase confidence and positive outlook when working toward desired goals.

-*How do you prepare for challenging professional interviews?
-*How effective have your found “power primes” in high-stakes performance situations?

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Spreading Good News Feels Good, Especially When It’s About You

Christian Science Monitor has long provided a counterpoint to mainstream media’s “If it bleeds, it leads” approach to providing shocking, scandalous, depressing, or scary news.

Jonah Berger

Jonah Berger

Wharton’s Jonah Berger and Katharine Milkman found that the Christian Science Monitor might have a savvy business model:  they found that good news spreads more widely than bad.

Word of Mouth Marketing AssociationMembers of the Word of Mouth Marketing Organization: Take note…

Katherine Milkman

Katherine Milkman

Berger and Milkman evaluated a random sample of 3,000 of more than 7,500 articles published in the New York Times online from August 2008 to February 2009.

They judged each article’s “popularity” based on number of times it was forwarded to others, after controlling for online publication time, section, and degree of promotion on the home page.
Independent readers rated each article for practical value or surprise, and ratio of positive vs negative emotion words in each news item.

Most-forwarded posts were positive, funny, exciting and featuring intellectually challenging topics, like science, that “inspire awe” (“admiration and elevation in the face of something greater than the self”).

Readers shared articles that typically provoke negative emotions like anger and anxiety, but not sadness.
-*Why this bias against sending “downer” messages?

Emily Falk

Emily Falk

Michigan’s Emily Falk, with UCLA colleagues Sylvia Morelli, B. Locke Welborn, Karl Dambacher,and Matthew Lieberman found that people consider what appeals to others, possibly as a means of building relationships, indicated by increased activation in brain regions (temporoparietal junction, or TPJ and dorsomedial prefrontal cortex) associated with “social cognition,” or thoughts about other people, measured by fMRI.

When those regions were activated, people were more likely to talk about the idea with enthusiasm, and the idea would spread by word-of-mouth.

Falk noted that the team mapped  brain regions “associated with ideas that are likely to be contagious and are associated with being a good ‘idea salesperson.'”
She plans to use these brain maps “to forecast what ideas are likely to be successful and who is likely to be effective at spreading them.”

Diana Tamir

Diana Tamir

People also like to spread good news about themselves.
Diana Tamir and Jason Mitchell, then of Harvard, illustrated that brain regions associated with reward (mesolimbic dopamine system, including the nucleus accumbens and ventral tegmental area) are activated when people share information about themselves.

Jason Mitchell

Jason Mitchell

Self-disclosure is so pleasurable that people will sacrifice monetary rewards for this opportunity.

Mor Naaman

Mor Naaman

In fact, Rutgers’ Mor Naaman with Jeffrey Boase, now at Ryerson University and Chih-Hui Lai, now of University of Akron found that 80 percent of Twitter users tweet primarily about themselves.
One reason may be that people say more positive things when they’re talking to a bigger audience, like Twitter followers, according to Berger’s research suggests. As a result, social media users are likely to convey positive information about themselves.

Jeffrey Boase

Jeffrey Boase

However, this positive self-presentation may not result in a positive mood if communicators spend longer on social media platforms like Facebook.
Hui-Tzu Grace Chou and Nicholas Edge of Utah Valley University found that those with longer visits to Facebook say they are less happy than their Facebook Friends.

They found that Facebook users tend to form biased judgment based on easily-recalled examples (availability heuristic) and erroneously attribute positive Facebook content to others’ personality, rather than situational factors (correspondence bias), especially for those they do not know personally.

Hanna Krasnova

Hanna Krasnova

Corroborated by Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin’s Hanna Krasnova and her team from Technische Universität Darmstadt, these researchers observed “invidious emotions” and “envy” among people who spend longer time on Facebook.

These findings have relevance to members of the Word of Mouth Marketing Organization: Spread the good word – or at least the emotional word – and spend less time on Facebook and other social media that might invite social comparison and the potential for envious dissatisfaction.

-*How you build “buzz” via “Word of Mouth”?

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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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Reduce Evaluator Bias: Showcase Best Features in Any Offer

Less can be more when designing offers, whether when offering services in job applications, crafting sales offers, or positioning for advantage in any negotiation.

Kimberlee Weaver

Kimberlee Weaver

Kimberlee Weaver of Virginia Tech and University of Michigan’s Stephen Garcia and Norbert Schwarz showed that more is not better in augmenting offers when additional elements are of lower quality.

Stephen Garcia

Stephen Garcia

Using the Presenter’s Paradox in a series of studies, they showed that positive impressions can be reduced when they are presented in the company of lower value items.

Norbert Schwartz

Norbert Schwartz

Weaver, Garcia and Schwarz offered volunteer “buyers” different iPod Touch packages: iPod and cover OR this package with a free music download.

“Buyers”, on average, offered to pay more for the lesser package, and sellers inaccurately expected that buyers would prefer the fully-featured package.
This suggests that expectations about consumer preferences may be poor predictors of people’s actual selection and purchasing behaviors.

The average price offered for the basic package, iPod and cover was $242, but the package with one free song download averaged just $177.
The additional feature reduced package’s perceived value by more than 25%.

Those designing and evaluating offers can mitigate the impact of this judgment bias by considering the value of the overall offering, then eliminating lower-value components that might reduce the comprehensive value.

This is relevant to job seekers who might be tempted to “pad” a resume with low-value activities, accomplishments and skills.
Weaver, Schwartz, and Garcia’s findings suggest that showcasing most compelling capabilities provides a more power presentations of personal and product attributes.

Santa Clara University’s Jerry Burger might argue that “more might be more” when he found that Steve Jobs’s “that’s-not-all” (TNA) technique was more effective than the much-researched “door-in-the-face” (DITF) approach in gaining agreement to sales propositions.

Jerry Burger

Jerry Burger

That’s-not-all” offers a product at a high price, then doesn’t allowing the volunteer to respond immediately.
The procedure follows up by augmenting the offer with another product or lowering the price.

Burger found “that’s-not-all” produced superior simulated sales outcomes to the much-researched “door-in-the face” (DITF) approach, which presents an unreasonably high offer, then follows with a more acceptable proposal.

Numerous replications of “door-in-the-face” have shown than people are more likely to agree to a second more modest request after an unreasonable high first proposal.
Even when the same offer is presented as a single offer, people are significantly more likely to accept it when it’s presented after an unreasonable proposal.

Burger suggested that “that’s-not-all” may have produced greater compliance because people felt obliged to respond to a new offer through an implicit norm of reciprocity,  and because the augmented offer changed the perceived anchor point that volunteers used to evaluate the offer.

-*How do you mitigate bias in evaluating offers?
-*How do you design the most attractive offer when offering something for sale?
-*Which technique for designing offers has been most persuasive to you as a purchaser?

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