Tag Archives: status

Perceived Power Affects Vocal Characteristics, Life Outcomes

Margaret Thatcher

Margaret Thatcher

British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher participated in vocal training to project greater authority in her political role, with highly effective results.

Even without specific vocal training, research volunteers adopted powerful vocal elements when believed they had power and informational advantages in lab experiments by San Diego State University’s Sei Jin Ko and Melody S. Sadler with Adam D. Galinsky of Columbia.

Sei Jin Ko

Sei Jin Ko

Ko’s team asked more than 160 volunteers to read a text designed to evaluate speaking skills as a baseline for later comparison.
Then, they randomly assigned volunteers to a “high” ranking role with the prime “you have a strong alternative offer, valuable inside information, or high status in the workplace, or by asking participants to recall an experience in which they had power.

The remaining participants were told they had “a weak offer, no inside information, or low workplace status,” or were asked to recall an experience in which they lacked power.

Melody Sadler

Melody Sadler

To compare the impact of these power primes with the baseline reading performance, participants in both groups read a text about negotiating.
People in the high power group spoke in a higher pitch, with greater volume, and less tone variability than the low-power group.
In fact, team Ko found that people in the high power prime group had a similar vocal profile to Thatcher following her vocal training.

Mariëlle Stel

Mariëlle Stel

This contrasts previous research that demonstrated lower vocal pitch is associated with greater perceived power in work by Tilburg University’s Mariëlle Stel and Farah M. Djalal with Eric van Dijk and Wilco W. van Dijk of Leiden University, collaborating with University of California, San Diego’s Pamela K. Smith.

Eric van Dijk

Eric van Dijk

In additional investigations by Ko’s team, additional participants listened to recordings of people who read in the previous condition, and accurately determined which volunteers conveyed higher status and were more likely to engage in high-power behaviors, based only on vocal elements.

Joris Lammers

Joris Lammers

Power primes” or asking people to recall a time they had power and felt powerful, can significantly influence important life opportunities determined by hiring and university admission decisions, reported Tilburg University’s Joris Lammers with David Dubois of INSEAD and Northwestern’s Derek D. Rucker collaborating with Adam D. Galinsky of Columbia.

Thomas Mussweiler

Thomas Mussweiler

Self-generated primes are especially influential because they lead to “assimilation of the power suggestion, whereas primes provided by other people, as in Ko’s investigation, yield “contrast,” suggested Universität Würzburg’s Thomas Mussweiler and Roland Neumann.

Egon Brunswik

Egon Brunswik

The strong impact of beliefs about power has been explained by Egon Brunswik of Berkeley’s “lens model” of perception, self-fulfilling prophecy theory by University of California’s Robert Rosenthal, and self-efficacy theory described Stanford’s Albert Bandura.

Francesca Gino

Francesca Gino

To personalize these theories and demonstrate the impact of power beliefs on life outcomes, Francesca Gino discussed her use of power primes to increase her confidence during presentations, leading to her current role at Harvard, where she pursues research on the impact of power primes and beliefs on personal performance and outcomes.

These findings suggest that beliefs about personal power shape behaviors like vocal profile, which can lead to differing outcomes in occupational and life opportunities.

Egon Brunswik's Lens Model

Egon Brunswik’s Lens Model

  • How do you modify your voice to convey power and authority?
  • How do you develop confidence in your power?

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Racial Categorizations Change Based on Social Status Markers

Aliya Saperstein

Aliya Saperstein

Race is a changeable status marker of rather than a fixed individual attribute, according to Stanford’s Aliya Saperstein and Andrew Penner of University of California, Irvine.

Andrew Penner

Andrew Penner

Racial fluidity” – or changeable racial categorization – influences and is influenced by racial inequality in the United States, noted Saperstein and Penner.

They analyzed longitudinal U.S. national survey data collected over two decades and found that individuals’ racial classification, both rated by themselves and by others, changed over time in response to changes in social position.

In these data, unemployed, incarcerated, or impoverished Americans were more likely to be seen and self-identify as Black, even if the same individuals were originally classified in a different racial category.

Jonathan Freeman

Jonathan Freeman

Racial self-perception and racial perceptions by others depend on social position, even though most people believe that race is perceived in facial features, such as skin color.
However, social status cues around a face systematically change the perception of race, found Dartmouth’s Jonathan B. Freeman, Matthias Scheutz of Tufts, with Penner, Saperstein and her Stanford colleague, Nalini Ambady.

Matthias Scheutz

Matthias Scheutz

Participants categorized 16 computer-generated face identities (8 male) that were morphed along a 13-point race continuum, from White (morph −6) to Black (morph +6).
Developed by Max Planck Institute’s Volker Blanz and Thomas Vetter, this program generated 3D models based on laser scans of human faces.

Volunteers saw faces in a randomized order and evaluated them as White or Black using the keyboard, which recorded and analyzed mouse movement with MouseTracker software.

Participants rated the race of faces along “White–Black morph continua” when they saw faces with “high-status” attire (suit) or “low-status” attire (maintenance uniform).

“Low-status” attire increased the likelihood of categorization as Black, whereas “high-status” attire increased the likelihood of categorization as White, and this effect increased as physical characteristics associated with each race became more ambiguous.

The team  also monitored hand movements to determine hesitation in making a racial category decision.

They noted hesitation and shifting between choices when participants categorized faces with high-status attire as “Black” or faces with low-status attire as “White.”
Stereotypes interact with contextual and physical cues to shape “neutrally- plausible” person categorization, concluded Freeman and team.

When stereotypes associated with race and occupation categories overlap, contextual cues to occupation can activate social status stereotypes, then exert “top-down pressure” on the race categorization process.

For example, business attire can activate high-status stereotypes that influence visual processing of race-categorization.
Race categorization, therefore, could be driven by both “bottom-up” processing of facial features, and “top-down” stereotypes activated by contextual cues.

Racial fluidity reinforces stereotypic status differences by classifying “successful” or high-status people as “White” or “not Black” and “unsuccessful” or low-status people as “Black” or “not White.”

“Social cognition” can influence visual perception because “person perception…makes compromises between how other people “actually” appear and the stereotyped expectations dictating how they ‘should’ appear,” noted Freeman and team.

Aaron Gullickson

Aaron Gullickson

The U.S. briefly fluidity and ambiguity in racial classification when it adopted a “mulatto” category for the U.S. Census between 1870 and1920.

Saperstein and University of Oregon’s Aaron Gullickson noted that people categorized as “mulatto” in one census were re-categorized as Black in the next census, particularly when Southern men’s occupational status changed “downward” between censuses.

Like clothing, another non-racial factor – cause of death – influences racial classification, and can bias official U.S. statistics, according to Penner and UC Irvine colleague
Andrew Noymer with Saperstein in their analysis of a representative sample of U.S. death certificates.

Andrew Noymer

Andrew Noymer

They controlled for existing statistical reports by interviewing decedents’ next-of-kin regarding cause of death and racial classification.

Noymer’s team reported significant discrepancies between the two racial classifications by cause of death, with cirrhosis decedents more likely to be recorded as Native American and homicide victims more likely to be recorded as Black.

These findings are another example of interaction between changeable indicators of social status and seemingly fixed characteristics like physical appearance of race – both in forming perceptions of others and in defining oneself.

-*How have you adjusted your self-categorization based on occupational role and status over time?

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Expressing Anger at Work: Power Tactic or Career-Limiting Strategy?

Organizational pressures including complex relationships, chronic constraints, high stakes, and factors beyond individual control can lead to anger expressions at work.

Victoria Brescoll

Victoria Brescoll

Women and men receive differing evaluations of status, competence, leadership effectiveness when they express anger
Yale University’s Victoria Brescoll and Eric Luis Uhlmann, now of HEC Paris School of Management, report that  both male and female evaluators conferred lower status on angry female professionals, regardless of the actual occupational rank, than on angry male professionals.

Eric Luis Uhlmann

Eric Luis Uhlmann

The team found that evaluators assigned lower status to female CEOs as well as to female trainees when expressed anger, despite these women’s varying  job role statuses.

In addition, men who expressed anger in a professional context were conferred higher status than men who expressed sadness.

Kristi Lewis Tyran

Kristi Lewis Tyran

Similarly, women who express anger and sadness are rated less effective than women who express no emotion, according to Kristi Lewis Tyran of Western Washington University.

Building on Brescoll and Uhlmann’s findings, Tyran’s laboratory study found that men who expressed sadness received lower effectiveness ratings than those who expressed in neutral emotions.

Observers also attribute different motivations and “root causes” to anger expressions by women and men.
Brescoll and Uhlmann found that  evaluators attribute women’s angry emotional reactions to less changeable internal characteristics such as “she is an angry person,” and “she is out of control”.

Men seem to get “the benefit of the doubt” from evaluators, who attributed men’s angry reactions to external circumstances, such as having external pressure and demands.

Managers who help employees deal with angry feelings and expressions at work may be seen as more powerful and effective leaders by employees.

Ginka Toegel

Ginka Toegel

Ginka Toegel and Anand Narasimhan of IMD Lausanne with University College London’s Martin Kilduff found that employees expect managers to provide emotional support, and attribute leadership qualities to managers who provide emotional support in their analysis of a recruiting agency headquarters.

Further, employees considered that managerial support requires no reciprocation because it is a role expectation.

Anand Narasimhan

Anand Narasimhan

Managers have a contrasting view:   They consider providing emotional support as “above-and-beyond the call of duty” and outside their role requirements.
As a result, most managers believe that employees have an obligation to reciprocate or express gratitude and are disappointed  when employees fail to show appreciation for emotional support.

Martin Kilduff

Martin Kilduff

These discrepant views may reflect employees’ view of managers as having:

  • Formal authority based on their job roles
  • Parental-like authority, based on their help-giving.
Donald Gibson

Donald Gibson

Fairfield University’ s Donald Gibson and Ronda Callister of Utah State University note societal and cultural norms and expectations for women to regulate anger expressions and the resulting negative consequences that follow violations of these expectations.

Rhonda Callister

Rhonda Callister

Women may buffer the status-lowering , competence-eroding, and dislike-provoking consequences of anger at work by:

-*What impacts and consequences have you observed for people who express anger in the workplace?

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Role Pioneers May Encounter “The Glass Cliff”

Sally Ride

Sally Ride

Marissa Mayer

Marissa Mayer

Holding a role usually occupied by the other gender can lead to significant media coverage, such as Sally Ride’s selection as an astronaut or Marissa Mayer’s appointment as CEO of Yahoo while in the later stages of her first pregnancy.

However, incumbents of roles usually held by people of the other gender can evoke harsh judgments about competence and suitability for leadership roles, according to Yale’s Victoria Brescoll and Erica Dawson with Eric Luis Uhlmann of HEC Paris.

Victoria Brescoll

Victoria Brescoll

This effect was most noticeable when both male and female leaders in “gender-incongruous” roles made minor errors in experimental studies.
Both male and female evaluators judged minor mistakes as indicators of role incompetence when male and female leaders held jobs typically performed by the other gender.

Erica Dawson

Erica Dawson

Brescoll, Dawson and Uhlmann suggested that “gender-incongruous” roles are seen as “ambiguous” by observers, leading to uncertainty, and negative assessments to “restore implicit order.”
The team referred to this rater bias as the “glass cliff effect.”

The researchers concluded that “the high status and senior leadership achieved by both men and women in gender-incongruent roles is fragile, vulnerable and unstable.”

Eric Luis Uhlmann

Eric Luis Uhlmann

This effect may be due to both the role’s gender incongruity and high status.
An earlier blog post highlighted Alison Fragale’s demonstration that higher status individuals are judged more harshly than lower status people when they make the same mistakes.

Alison Fragale

Alison Fragale

Her team at University of North Carolina found that observers in two experiments attributed greater intentionality, malevolence, self-concern to the actions of high status wrongdoers – and recommended harsher punishment for the same actions that earned lower status people “the benefit of the doubt.”

Although Brescol, Dawson and Uhlmann did not offer recommendations to mitigate the risks of being a pioneer in holding non-traditional job roles, Fragale’s team found that high status wrongdoers could protect from the impact of subsequent mistakes by demonstrating, warmth and concern for others and engaging in charitable giving.

Other strategies to consider include:

  • Cultivating strong executive alliances and sponsorship
  • Assembling a risk mitigation team to provide expert messaging during a crisis, focusing on external attributions of the error
  • Balancing demonstrated competence with the “humanness” of a small error
  • Offering plans for future action unrelated to the error to demonstrate decisive leadership and action-orientation.

-*What approaches are most effective to mitigate “The Glass Cliff”?

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Women’s Likeability – Competence Dilemma: Overcoming the Backlash Effect

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Power of “Powerless” Speech, but not Powerless Posture

Assertive speech is assumed to signal competence and power, pre-requisites to status, power, and leadership in the U.S. workplace.

Alison Fragale

Alison Fragale

However, University of North Carolina’s Alison Fragale demonstrated that warmth trumps competence in collaborative team work groups.

Fragale studied “powerless speech,” which has been believed to make a person seem tentative, uncertain, and less likely to be promoted to expanded workplace roles.
She defined “powerless speech” as including:

  • Hesitation: “Well” or “Um”, as known as “clutter words”
  • Tag questions: “Don’t you think?”
  • Hedges: “Sort of” or “Maybe”
  • Disclaimers: “This may be a bad idea, but … “
  • Formal addresses:“Yes, sir” or “Yes, ma’am”

In collaboration-based work teams, “powerless” speech characteristics are significantly associated with being promoted, gaining status and power.
Interpersonal warmth and effective team skills are valued more than dominance and ambition by team members and those selecting leaders for these teams.

Paul Hersey

Paul Hersey

In contrast, “powerful” speech does not feature these characteristics, is more effective when the task or group is independent and people are expected to work alone.

Ken Blanchard

Ken Blanchard

As in Paul Hersey and Ken Blanchard’s Situational Leadership, Fragale concludes that communication style should be tailored to group characteristics.

Li Huang

Li Huang

Likewise, INSEAD’s Li Huang  and Columbia’s Adam Galinsky with Stanford’s Deborah Gruenfeld and Lucia Guillory of Northwestern University demonstrated the impact of “powerful” body language – also called “playing big” –  on perceived power.

Adam Galinsky

Adam Galinsky

Although assuming “larger” postures is associated with credibility and authority, some situations benefit from assuming “smaller”, less powerful postures to establish warmth or to acknowledge another’s higher status.

Lucia Guillory

Lucia Guillory

As noted in an earlier post, Women Get More Promotions With “Behavioral Flexibility”, careful self-observation and behavioral flexibility based on situational requirements are effective foundations to establish group leadership.

-*How do you monitor and adapt “powerless” speech to work situations?

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Women’s Likeability – Competence Dilemma: Overcoming the Backlash Effect

Madeline Heilman

Madeline Heilman

Aaron Wallen

Aaron Wallen

Almost a decade ago, New York University’s Madeline Heilman and colleagues Aaron Wallen, Daniella Fuchs and Melinda Tamkins, demonstrated the challenge women face when they are seen as successful in traditionally-male roles.

Melinda Tamkins

Melinda Tamkins

The team conducted three experimental studies with 242 volunteers to investigate reactions to a woman’s success in a male gender-typed job and found that when women are recognized as successful in roles dominated by men, they are less liked than equally successful men in the same fields.

Tyler Okimoto

Tyler Okimoto

Heilman extended the work with Tyler Okimoto, now at University of Queensland, in three additional experimental studies to evaluate whether successful women’s likeability challenge is attributable to perceived deficit in nurturing and socially- sensitive “communal” attributes, which include warmth and “niceness.”
They found that successful women managers avoided interpersonal hostility, dislike, and undesirability when they or others conveyed “communal” attributes, through their behaviors, testimonials of others, or their role as mothers.

Frank Flynn

Frank Flynn

Stanford’s Frank Flynn demonstrated the competence-likeability disconnect when he taught a Harvard Business School case of Silicon Valley venture capitalist and entrepreneur Heidi Roizen.

Heidi Roizen

Heidi Roizen

He and collaborator Cameron Anderson of UC Berkeley changed Heidi’s name to “Howard Roizen” for half of the students.

Cameron Anderson

Cameron Anderson

Flynn and Anderson asked student who read the Heidi case and those who read the Howard case to rate Heidi and Howard on several dimensions before the class meeting.

Students rated Heidi as highly competent and effective as Howard, but they evaluated her as unlikeable and selfish, and wouldn’t want to hire her or work with her.

Whitney Johnson-Lisa Joy Rosner

Whitney Johnson-Lisa Joy Rosner

A more recent example of backlash toward high-profile, accomplished women was illustrated by Whitney Johnson, co-founder of Rose Park Advisors (Disruptive Innovation Fund), and Lisa Joy Rosner, Chief Marketing Officer of NetBase, in their evaluation of social media mentions of Marissa Mayer, Sheryl Sandberg and Anne-Marie Slaughter.

Johnson and Rosner evaluated “Brand Passion Index” (BPI) for Mayer, Sandberg, and Slaughter over 12 months by

  • Activity (number of mentions)
  • Sentiment (positive or negative)
  • Intensity (strong or weak sentiment).

Public Opinion-Mayer-Sandberg-SlaughterThese competent, well-known women were not liked, and were evaluated with harsh negative attributions based on media coverage and at-a-distance observations:

  • Marissa Mayer, Yahoo’s CEO, was described as impressive and super-smart, and annoying, terrible bully
  • Facebook’s COO Sheryl Sandberg‘s was characterized as truly excellent, successful working mom and crazy bizarre
  • Anne-Marie Slaughter, former director of Policy Planning at the U.S. State Department, was depicted as an amazing, successful mother and destructive, not a good wife
Laurie Rudman

Laurie Rudman

The competence-likeability dilemma is illustrated in hiring behavior, demonstrated in experiments by Rutgers University’s Laurie Rudman and Peter Glick of Lawrence University.

The team asked volunteers to simulate hiring decisions for male and female candidates for a “feminized” managerial role and a “masculinized” managerial role.

Peter Glick

Peter Glick

Applicants were presented as:

  • “Agentic” (stereotypically male behaviors) or
  • “Communal” (stereotypically male behaviors) or
  • “Androgynous” (combining stereotypically male and female behaviors)

Women who displayed “masculine, agentic” traits were viewed as less socially skilled than agentic males.
They were not selected for the “feminized” job, but this hiring bias did not occur when agentic women applied for the “male” job.

In contrast to the “agentic” women, both male and female “communal” applicants received low hiring ratings, pointing to the penalty for being perceived as “nice.

“Androgynous” female applicants were not discriminated against.

Rudman and Glick noted that “… women must present themselves as agentic to be hireable, but may therefore be seen as interpersonally deficient.”
They advise women to “temper their agency with niceness.”

Linda Babcock

Linda Babcock

Once women receive job offers, the competence-likeability disconnect continues when they negotiate for salary and position, reported by Linda Babcock of Carnegie Mellon.
Her research demonstrated and replicated negative evaluations of women who negotiate for salaries using the same script as men.

Deborah Gruenfeld

Deborah Gruenfeld

Stanford’s Deborah Gruenfeld suggested that the likeability-competence dilemma may result from women’s challenges in integrating expansive, powerful body language with more submissive, appeasing behavior to build relationships and acknowledge others’ authority.

She posited that many women have been socialized to adopt less powerful body positions and body language including:

  • Smiling
  • Nodding
  • Tilting the head
  • Applying fleeting eye contact
  • Speaking in sentence fragments with uncertain, rising intonation at sentence endings.

In addition, many people expect women to behave in these ways, and negatively evaluate behaviors that differ from expectations.

Body language is the greatest contributor to split-second judgments of people’s competence, according to Gruenfeld.
She estimated that body language is responsible for about 55% of judgments, whereas self-presentation accounts for 38%, and words for just 7% — in less than 100 milliseconds.

Her earlier work considered the impact of body language on assessments of power, whereas her more recent work investigates gender differences in attributions of competence and likeability.

The likeability-competence dilemma may be improved by shifting from “playing high” or taking space when demonstrating competence and authority.
Gruenfeld noted that this powerful body language may be risky for women unless counterbalanced with “playing low” or giving space when conveying approachability, empathy, and likeability.

Posing in more powerful positions for as little as two minutes can change levels of testosterone, a marker of dominance, just as holding a submissive posture for the same time can increase cortisol levels, signaling stress, according to Gruenfeld.

To enable versatile application of powerful “playing high” with more familiar “playing low,” Gruenfeld urges women to practice both awareness and “the mechanics of powerful body language.”

Alison Fragale

Alison Fragale

Women’s competence-likeability dilemma is not mitigated by achieving workplace success and status.
University of North Carolina’s Alison Fragale, Benson Rosen, Carol Xu, Iryna Merideth found that successful women – and men, like Mayer, Sandberg, and Slaughter, are judged more harshly for mistakes than lower status individuals who make identical errors.

Benson Rosen

Benson Rosen

Fragale’s team found that observers attributed greater intentionality, malevolence, self-concern to the actions of high status wrongdoers than the identical actions of low status wrongdoers, and recommended more severe punishments for higher status individuals in two experiments.

Iryna Meridith

Iryna Meridith

The team found preventive and reparative value in the shunned qualities of warmth and likeability.
Wrongdoers who demonstrated affiliative concern for others, charitable giving, and interpersonal warmth built a reservoir of goodwill that could protect from the impact of subsequent mistakes and transgressions.

Navigating the Likeability-Competence dilemma requires demonstrating both capacities, depending on situational requirements.
Learning this skill can take a lifetime.

-*How do you convey likeability AND competence?

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