Tag Archives: STEM

“Honest Confidence” Enables Performance, Perceived Power

Confidence mobilizes people’s performance and increases others’ perceptions of competence, likeability, and persuasiveness – but may lead to careless errors that undermine performance.

David Dunning

David Dunning

Women and men show significantly different levels of confidence, with cascading effects on performance and participation in specific occupations.

For example women tend to underestimate their performance in scientific reasoning, but actually perform about equally to men, found Cornell’s David Dunning and Washington State University psychologist Joyce Ehrlinger in their investigation of women’s low representation in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) academic programs and work roles.
They concluded that women underestimate their performance, based on lower levels of confidence.

Joyce Ehrlinger

Joyce Ehrlinger

In a related tasks, Dunning and Ehrlinger invited these volunteers to participate in a science competition for prizes.
Women were less likely to accept the invitation than men, also attributed to lower confidence in their capabilities in scientific tasks.
The researchers pointed to low confidence as a source of women’s proportionally lower participation in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) job roles.

Jessica Kennedy

Jessica Kennedy

Confidence – even unjustified confidence – seems to lead  observers to perceive assured individuals as competent, high status leaders, found Wharton’s  Jessica A. Kennedy, Cameron Anderson of University of California at Berkeley, and Don A. Moore.

Cameron Anderson

Cameron Anderson

They asked more than 240 students to estimate their confidence in identifying “historical” names and events, which included real and bogus entries.
Some participants said they could identify items that were actually fake, indicating that they believed – or wanted to convey – they knew more than they actually did.

Don A Moore

T Don A Moore

Then, Kennedy and team asked participants to rate each other based on status in the group.
Volunteers who said they could identify the most fraudulent items were rated as most prominent in the group, suggesting that confidence, even false confidence, contributes to perceived status.
The team suggested that overconfident volunteers genuinely believed their self-assessments, their confidence persuaded their peers of their task skill and commitment to the group’s success.

Ernesto Reuben

Ernesto Reuben

Honest overconfidence,” was also observed by Ernesto Reuben of Columbia, Paola Sapienza of Northwestern University, and University of Chicago’s Luigi Zingales, in their finding that men rated their performance on a set of math problems to be about 30 percent better than it was, whereas women underestimated their performance.

Carol Dweck

Carol Dweck

The power of honest and unjustified confidence may be rooted in childhood socialization patterns, observed Stanford’s Carol Dweck:  Boys’ mistakes are attributed to a lack of effort (whereas)…girls … see mistakes as a reflection of their deeper qualities.”
These different types of feedback lead men to attribute negative outcomes to external factors like unfairly difficult task, but women attribute undesirable results to their personal qualities like low ability.

Confidence is reflected in employees’ willingness to speak in work settings, and those who speak more than others are considered dominant.
However, women who exert authority by speaking more than others, even when they are in senior organizational levels, may alienate others and be seen as less capable.

Victoria Brescoll

Victoria Brescoll

Yale’s Victoria Brescoll found that even senior-level women hesitate to speak as much senior-level men due to anticipated negative reaction from others.

These concerns were validated by Brescolls investigation of men’s and women’s rating of a fictitious female CEO who talked more than other people.
Both women and men evaluated the female CEO as significantly less competent and less suited to leadership than a male CEO who talked for the same amount of time.
However, when the female CEO was described as talking less than others, participants rated her as significantly more competent.

Roger Shepard

Roger Shepard

Similarly, a high-power male who talked much less was evaluated as incompetent and undeserving of leadership, just like the high-power female who spoke more than average.
Brescoll suggested that these reactions are associated with stereotypic gender expectations.

Roger Shepard-Jacqueline MetzlerAs a result, women are unlikely to increase confidence, perceived status and power by speaking and behaving like men because this approach would violate gender stereotype expectations, leading to a “backlash” effect.

Zachary Estes

Zachary Estes

However, when women are “primed” to experience confidence, they performed better on 3D rotation spatial tasks in Roger Shepard and Jacqueline Metzler’s Mental Rotations Test, reported University of Warwick’s Zachary Estes and Sydney Felker, then of University of Georgia Health Center.

In one set of tests, women and men performed similarly when women and men again completed each item and reported their:
Confidence level in their answers,
-Whether they would change their responses if given the opportunity.

Women’s performance dropped below previous scores whereas men’s increased significantly when they elected to change answers.
Second-guessing” and “over-thinking” eroded women’s confidence which affected their scores.

Albert Bandura

Albert Bandura

People who have a strong sense of efficacy focus their attention on analyzing and figuring out solutions to problems, whereas those beset with self-doubts of their efficacy tend to turn their attention inwardly and become self-preoccupied with evaluative concerns when their efforts prove unsuccessful,” explained Stanford’s Albert Bandura and Forest Jourdan.

Robert K Merton

Robert K Merton

However, both men and women significantly improved their scores after they were told that they achieved high scores on the previous test irrespective of actual score.
This finding demonstrates the performance-enhancing effect of positive expectancy, and replicated “The Rosenthal Effect,” or “self-fulfilling prophecy,” described by Robert K. Merton of Columbia.

Jeffrey Vancouver

Jeffrey Vancouver

Confidence may have performance-eroding effects despite much previous research documenting performance-enhancing effects, according to Ohio University’s Jeffrey Vancouver and Charles Thompson, with University of Cincinnati’s E. Casey Tischner, and Dan Putka of Human Resources Research Organization.

Dan Putka

Dan Putka

They primed confidence or “self-efficacy” among half the participants in an analytic game, and found that those who received positive feedback about their performance didn’t perform as well in the next game, and were more likely to make logical errors.

Vancouver and team suggested that participants whose confidence was artificially-inflated tended to apply less mental effort to challenging tasks before attempting the next item.

Fortunately, actual skill trumps inflated confidence.
Women considering technical training and careers may be reassured by Kennedy and team’s observation that, “…Acting capable was beneficial, but actually being capable was better.”

However, these findings suggest that women aspiring to STEM careers are likely to be more effective when they create a “hybrid” style of communication and professional presence, drawing on behaviors that demonstrate confidence, competence, and proactivity without violating gender-linked expectations.

-*How do you capitalize on the performance-enhancing effects of confidence without alienating others or reducing future performance efforts?

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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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Gender Bias in STEM Hiring Even When it Reduces Financial Returns  

Women are under-represented in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) academic programs and professional roles, and some question whether this is a a result of personal preference, implicit bias, institutional barriers, or other factors,

Ernesto Reuben

Ernesto Reuben

To investigate, Columbia University’s Ernesto Reuben, Paola Sapienza of Northwestern University, and University of Chicago’s Luigi Zingales developed an experimental job market.
Both male and female candidates demonstrated equal skill in performing an arithmetic task, yet both female and male “hiring managers” were twice as like to hire comparable male candidateseven when the hiring managers earned less by hiring less qualified males.
*Even when participants had a financial incentive to choose the candidate with the greatest task-relevant skills, they chose less-qualified male candidates.

Paola Sapienza

Paola Sapienza

Reuben and team also found that when candidates were asked to report their performance on the task-related achievement test, men exaggerated their performance with “honest overconfidence.”
In contrast, women generally underreported their accomplishments, found University of Wisconsin’s Sylvia Beyer.

Luigi Zingales

Luigi Zingales

This gender-based bias in hiring decisions was reduced, but not eliminated when candidates’ previous performance was provided by a third party.

Sylvia Beyer

Sylvia Beyer

Some candidates were directed to report expected future performance based on initial math task performance, then the “employer” made the hiring decision.
Other candidates provided no estimate, but Reuben’s team reported candidates’ past performance to the “hiring managers.”

In other studies, “employers” had no information on each “candidate’s” previous performance, but met each applicant in person before making a hiring decision.
After the hiring managers’ choice, candidates reported expected future performance, or Reuben’s team provided candidates’ past performance to the “hiring manager.”

Anthony Greenwald

Anthony Greenwald

Volunteers then completed the Implicit Association Test (IAT), developed by University of Washington’s Anthony Greenwald, Debbie McGhee, and Jordan Schwartz, to elicit unconscious stereotypes of gender, competencies, and occupations.

When the candidates reported their expected performance and the “hiring manager” chose a candidate with a lower score than other contenders, 90% of the selected but underperforming candidates were male.
As a result, “hiring managers” who selected less qualified male candidates sacrificed 5-7% of their own compensation for biased selections.

Pedro Rey-Biel

Pedro Rey-Biel

Reuben and colleagues, with Pedro Rey-Biel of Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona previously demonstrated that this preference for underperforming candidates was explained by the persuasive impact of men’s significantly exaggerated statements (usually by at least 30%) about past and future performance and by scores on the Implicit Association Test.

Hyperbole is apparently effective for male candidates in job interviews when the “hiring manager” scores high on the IAT.

However, this embellishment strategy is ineffective for women, as Reuben and team demonstrated:  In another study, women were still selected 33% less than expected even when they showcased their accomplishments.
Women’s overt self-promotion may provoke “backlash” against those who behave in counter-stereotypic ways.

This research suggests the prevalence of implicit biases against hiring women to perform science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) functions, and male candidates’ tendency to embellish past performance and boast about future potential accomplishments.

As a result, women are selected less frequently for roles in STEM careers, continuing their under representation in these fields.

Even if women do not exaggerate past accomplishments and future potential, this research implies that they should ensure that they communicate and reinforce the full range of skills.

“Real life” hiring managers can overcome implicit hiring biases through awareness and “proper information processing” by focusing on validated performance data, and comparing candidates of the same gender with each other..

-*What strategies have you seen mitigate the influence of implicit bias influence in hiring decisions?

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Gender Differences and Diversity in Corporate Interaction Styles, Financial Outcomes

Gender makes a difference in interaction styles on corporate boards, and the ratio of women to men on these boards is linked to corporate financial performance.

Interaction Styles

Gregory McQueen

Gregory McQueen

Chris Bart

Chris Bart

McMaster University’s Chris Bart and Gregory McQueen of Western University of Health Sciences surveyed 600 board directors (75% male) and found that men tended to base corporate decisions on tradition, rules, and regulations, whereas women tended to ask questions to develop more solution options, cooperate, and consider the interests of all stakeholders.

Nanette Fondas

Nanette Fondas

Nanette Fondas, then of Duke University, and Susan Sassalos, now of Edison International found that women on corporate boards influence other board members to act more “civilized” and “sensitive to other perspectives.”

Val Singh

Val Singh

In the same vein, Cranfield University’s Val Singh reported that women on corporate boards also reduce ‘game playing’ among board members.

Siri Terjesen

Siri Terjesen

With Siri Terjesen of Indiana University and Cranfield University’s Ruth Sealy, Singh evaluated existing research on corporate board gender diversity to develop a model of analysis by:Val Singh - Gender Diversity on Corporate Boards Model

  • Individual
  • Board
  • Firm
  • Industry and Environment

Financial Performance:

Nancy Carter

Nancy Carter

Catalyst’s Nancy Carter and Lois Joy with Harvey Wagner of University of North Carolina and Michigan State University’s Sriram Narayanan found that Fortune 500 boards with 3 or more women report:

Harvey Wagner

Harvey Wagner

compared to boards with more men.

Nick Wilson

Nick Wilson

Nick Wilson and Ali Altanlar of Leeds University added another financial indicator affected by gender ratios on boards.

Ali Altanlar

Ali Altanlar

In their analysis of 17,000 UK companies that went insolvent in 2008, Wilson and Altanlar reported even one female board director reduces bankruptcy risk by 20%.

Pepperdine University’s Roy D. Adler studied 200 companies among the Fortune 500 to mine data from 1980 through 2001 and reported results consistent with the Catalyst investigation.

Roy Adler

Roy Adler

Adler and team identified the firms that had a record of promoting women to high levels and compared their profit performance to the median performance of Fortune 500 firms in the same industries.

The researchers separately compared profits as a percentage of sales, of revenues and of assets and found that for 2001, the 25 firms with the strongest record of promoting women to high organizational levels outperformed the industry medians with:

  • 34 percent higher revenue
  • 18 percent higher assets
  • 69 percent higher equity.

The 10 firms with the very best records of promoting women showed greater profits than competitors, and results were confirmed in subsequent studies in 2004 through 2008.
Adler and team noted that the odds of all 18 financial measures favoring women are 262,114 to 1, suggesting that these findings were not random errors.

Cristian Dezso

Cristian Dezso

Likewise, University of Maryland’s Cristian Dezső and David Ross of Columbia University found that companies with one or more women in top management  close to CXO level perform better than other companies, based on their assessment of the largest 1,500 public US companies from 1992 to 2006.

Sheryl Sandberg

Sheryl Sandberg

Sheryl Sandberg isn’t the only one to ask “Why so few?” in corporate and government leadership roles, particularly when these results consistently point to the financial benefits of more women in top decision-making roles.

AAUW

AAUW

American Association of University Women asked the same question about women in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics roles, and concluded that there remains a large gap in equal gender representation in leadership roles and in technical careers – and this discrepancy comes at the price of financial performance and organizational climate.

  • Where have you observed work group interaction differences depending on the ratio of women?
  • What financial impacts have you observed for organizations with women in top leadership roles?
    Level of Analysis Model

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