Tag Archives: self-interest

Attractive Men May Appear More Competent, But May Not Be Hired

Sun Young Lee

Sun Young Lee

Previous blog posts have noted bias in favor of attractive people for hiring and venture funding decisions, as well as for positive impression formation by others.

As a result, less attractive yet capable individuals may face “workplace attractiveness discrimination,” according to Sun Young Lee of University College London, University of Maryland’s Marko Pitesa, Madan Pillutla of London Business School, and INSEAD’s Stefan Thau.

Marko Pitesa

Marko Pitesa

Their four studies found that people making employment decisions show systematic selection bias based on perceived attractiveness and organizational context.

Lee’s team drew on two theories to explain differential impact of attractiveness in employment and work task situation: Status generalization and interpersonal interdependence.

Murray Webster

Murray Webster

Status generalization describes how unrelated characteristics like gender, ethnicity, national origin and attractiveness, become relevant to task performance when observers associate these characteristics with behavioral expectations for performance.
These associations often occur without conscious, logical or evidential basis, and lead to group inequalities, according to University of South Carolina’s Murray Webster and Martha Foschi.

James Driskell

James Driskell

Separately, Webster and University of South Carolina colleague James Driskell demonstrated that status characteristics significantly affect face-to-face interactions.
The researchers made physical status characteristics salient in group tasks.
In this condition, participants with preferred characteristics were more likely to be rewarded with power and prestige, even when these physical status characteristics were irrelevant to the task.

Martha Foschi

Martha Foschi

As a result, people with relevant skills may be overlooked in favor of individuals with perceived high status characteristics.
More specifically, Lee’s team suspected that decision makers associate attractiveness with competence in male but not in female candidates based on  status generalization theory.

Harold Kelley

Harold Kelley

They suggested that people’s expectations of interpersonal relationships affect their attempts to maximize relational rewards and minimize accompanying costs, based on interdependence theory. Proposed by UCLA’s Harold Kelley and John Thibaut of University of North Carolina, interdependence theory proposed that people who are interdependent in cooperative or competitive situations discriminate differently based on perceived attractiveness.

John Thibault

John Thibault

To evaluate this notion, Lee’s group assigned male and female volunteers to simulated employment selection situations  in which team members interviewed and provided hiring recommendations for job candidates.
In this situation, interviewers were in both cooperative and competitive situations with these candidates because they would be cooperating for shared team rewards yet competing for recognition, promotions, commissions, and bonuses.

Participants read a hiring scenario describing different types of interdependencies between themselves as decision-makers and the person to be hired, including competitive, cooperative, and no interdependence.

Madan Pillutla

Madan Pillutla

Volunteers evaluated two similar resumes accompanied by photos of an “attractive” applicant and an “unattractive” candidate.
Assessors answered questions about the person’s competence, likely impact on their own success, and their likelihood of recommending the candidate for the position.

When the decision-maker expected to cooperate with the candidate, male candidates perceived as more attractive were also judged as more competent, more likely to enable the evaluator’s career success, and were more frequently recommended for employment.

Stefan Thau

Stefan Thau

However, when decision makers expected to compete with the candidate, they perceived attractive male candidates as less capable.
Evaluators less frequently recommended attractive male candidates for employment, suggesting a systematic bias to preserve the evaluator’s place in the current workplace skill hierarchy.
Attractive and unattractive female candidates were judged as equally competent, but attractive male candidates were rated as much more competent than unattractive male candidates.

Three subsequent studies provided evaluators with candidates’ age, race, education and a manipulated headshot to consider in selecting their competitor or collaborator in a tournament task.
Decision-makers generally preferred attractive male or female candidates unless their personal outcomes were affected by the selection decision.

These studies suggest that attractiveness discrimination is “calculated self-interested behavior” in which men sometimes discriminate in favor and sometimes against attractive males.

-*How do you align with “calculated self-interest behavior” to mitigate bias?

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Power Increases Responsibility, Generosity toward Future Generations

Leigh Plunkett Tost

Leigh Plunkett Tost

Power can increase future perspective, feelings of social responsibility, and intergenerational generosity toward others, according to University of Michigan’s Leigh Plunkett Tost, Kimberly A. Wade-Benzoni of Duke University, and University of Idaho’s Hana Huang Johnson.

Priscilla Chan, Mark Zuckerberg

Priscilla Chan, Mark Zuckerberg

Mark Zuckerberg and Pricilla Chan’s sizeable gift of Facebook stock on the occasion of their daughter’s birth is a recent example.

Katherine DeCelles

Katherine DeCelles

This finding contrasts previous reports that power tends to cause people to act in more self-interested ways with peers, particularly “in the presence of a weak moral identity,” according to University of Toronto’s Katherine DeCelles, D. Scott DeRue of University of Michigan, Harvard’s Joshua Margolis, and Tara L. Ceranic of University of San Diego.

Kimberly Wade-Benzoni

Kimberly Wade-Benzoni

Focusing on previous power experiences also was linked with a longer-term time perspective among more than 110 participants who wrote about a time they experienced power over others.
Volunteers in studies by Tost’s group reported greater willingness to allocate charitable donations to a cause with long-term benefits than one addressing an immediate need, compared with a matched group that didn’t write about a previous power experience.

Hana Huang Johnson

Hana Huang Johnson

In another task, more than 230 volunteers also wrote a power prime, then chose between allocating a $1,000 bonus to themselves or another participant now or a larger amount in the future.
Participants who recalled a power experience were more likely to allocate a greater future bonus to themselves and someone else.

Scott DeRue

Scott DeRue

Tost’s team suggested that people with intergenerational power typically feel responsible for ensuring others’ long-term interests, manifested in generous behavior to younger generations.
DeCelles’ findings suggest that moral identity may interact with intergenerational relations to influence people to act with less self-interest and greater altruism.

Joshua Margolis

Joshua Margolis

In additional studies, more than 160 participants were randomly assigned to influence tasks that other group members performed.
The controlling participants reported greater willingness to allocate more future lottery winnings to another group member compare with volunteers who did not control others’ assignments.

Sonya Lyubomirsky

Sonya Lyubomirsky

Many of these paradoxes of generosity and altruism are investigated through University of Notre Dame’s Science of Generosity initiative.
One promising project is led by University of California, Riverside’s Sonya Lyubomirsky, who explored “the how” and “myths” of happiness.

She currently investigates “ripple” and contagion effects of generosity propagation in work settings, and argues that performing generous acts makes the giver, receiver, connector, and observer happier.
In addition, she posits that workplace generosity promotes a positive workplace climate.

Tara Ceranic

Tara Ceranic

Feelings of power seem to invoke a sense of responsibility to ensure and enable others’ interests.
This insight can benefit non-profit organizations seeking increased donations by highlighting that those with decision-making authority have the power to shape the performance and outcomes of the generations to come.

-*To what extent do those with organizational power demonstrate a longer time perspective and willingness to enable the next generation’s well-being?

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Previous blog posts have outlined the varied positive effects of focusing on previous power experiences, and on time perspective’s relationship with investment choices.

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