1. Study suggests willingness to support corporate social responsibility initiatives contingent on perception of boss’ ethics

    November 14, 2017 by Ashley

    From the University of Vermont press release:

    A new study shows that people who perceive their employer as committed to environmental and community-based causes will, in turn, engage in green behavior and local volunteerism, with one caveat: their boss must display similarly ethical behavior.

    The forthcoming study in the Journal of Business Ethics by Kenneth De Roeck, assistant professor at the University of Vermont, and Omer Farooq of UAE University, shows that people who work for socially and environmentally responsible companies tend to identify more strongly with their employer, and as a result, increase their engagement in green and socially responsible behaviors like community volunteerism.

    “When you identify with a group, you tend to adopt its values and goals as your own,” says De Roeck. “For example, if you are a fan who identifies with the New England Patriots, their objective to win the Super Bowl becomes your objective too. If they win it, you will say ‘we,’ rather than ‘they,’ won the Super Bowl, because being a fan of the New England Patriots became part of your own identity.”

    That loyalty goes out the window, however, if employees don’t perceive their immediate supervisor as ethical, defined as conduct that shows concern for how their decisions affect others’ well-being. Results show that the propensity for the company’s environmental initiatives to foster employees’ green behaviors disappears if they think their boss has poor ethics. Employees’ engagement in volunteer efforts in support of their company’s community-based initiatives also declines if they believe their boss is not ethical, though not as dramatically.

    “When morally loaded cues stemming from the organization and its leaders are inconsistent, employees become skeptical about the organization’s ethical stance, integrity, and overall character,” says De Roeck. “Consequently, employees refrain from identifying with their employers, and as a result, significantly diminish their engagement in creating social and environmental good.”

    Companies as engines for positive social change

    Findings of the study, based on surveys of 359 employees at 35 companies in the manufacturing industry (consumer goods, automobile, and textile), could provide insight for companies failing to reap the substantial societal benefits of CSR.

    “This isn’t another story about how I can get my employees to work better to increase the bottom line, it’s more about how I can get employees to create social good,” says De Roeck, whose research focuses on the psychological mechanisms explaining employees’ reactions to, and engagement in, CSR. “Moreover, our measure of employees’ volunteer efforts consists of actions that extend well beyond the work environment, showing that organizations can be a strong engine for positive social change by fostering, through the mechanism of identification, a new and more sustainable way of life to their employees.”

    De Roeck says organizations wanting to boost their social performance by encouraging employee engagement in socially responsible behaviors need to ensure that employees perceive their ethical stance and societal engagement as authentic. To do so, and avoid any perception of greenwashing – the promotion of green-based initiatives despite not practicing them fully – organizations should strive to ensure consistency between CSR engagement and leaders’ ethical stance by training supervisors about social and ethical responsibility. Organizations should also be cautious in hiring and promoting individuals to leadership positions who fit with the company CSR strategy and ethical culture.

    “Organizations should not treat CSR as an add-on activity to their traditional business models, but rather as something that should be carefully planned and integrated into the company strategy, culture, and DNA,” says De Roeck. “Only then will employees positively perceive CSR as a strong identity cue that will trigger their identification with the organization and, as a result, foster their engagement in such activities through socially responsible behaviors.”


  2. Study suggests understanding perceptions of reputation, identity offers opportunity

    September 17, 2017 by Ashley

    From the University of Notre Dame press release:

    Though we are taught from an early age not to judge others, we can use our perceptions of others to work toward positive outcomes, both socially and professionally, according to a study from the University of Notre Dame.

    Recognizing when our understanding of someone differs from that individual’s self-perception and also from how others see that same person can provide important insights into managing those relationships, according to “Knowledge of identity and reputation: Do people have knowledge of others’ perceptions?” published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology by Brittany Solomon, research assistant professor of management and organization in Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business.

    The research found that, regardless of how people personally view another person, they also are aware of how that person sees themselves, as well as how they are generally perceived by others.

    “Understanding others’ subjective realities can enhance empathy, cooperation and communication and may also influence one’s own opinions,” Solomon says. “This can prompt people to deliberate and even re-evaluate their own views or enable them to influence others.”

    Specifically, Solomon examined the extent to which people have insight into another person’s identity and reputation. Hundreds of study participants were asked to provide a range of personality perceptions from different points of view, while their friends and acquaintances did the same to show whether people can really see beyond their own views and accurately realize others’ perceptions.

    “Any time you’re interacting with other people, understanding their perspectives is important,” Solomon says. “For example, if I’m a manager or supervisor and I’m trying to motivate an employee, I can assign tasks that will really highlight their strengths or help boost self-esteem in areas of weakness. This approach can affirm people’s identities, build confidence and help uncover hidden talents.”

    Solomon, who studies personality as a predictor of a variety of individual and organizational level outcomes such as job satisfaction and career success, says the research results can greatly improve team dynamics.

    “If you know that one person is seen in positive or negative ways, you can highlight their attributes that perhaps other group members aren’t aware of,” Solomon says. “Or, you could avoid potential conflict by not grouping certain individuals together in the first place.”

    It’s not about determining whose perception is right or wrong. It’s about recognizing that multiple perspectives exist and how that awareness can help inform our interactions with one another.

    “People’s self-perceptions obviously are going to be skewed,” Solomon says. “What matters is that we’re aware of each other’s subjective realities. I think that sometimes people get along because they mistakenly assume everyone is on the same page. The more insight we have into the discrepancies and views of others makes our interactions legitimate. Ultimately, we don’t want to live in a world where we are deluded.”

    The findings can prove valuable in most contexts of life, including negotiation.

    The person who has greater insight into an opponent’s identity can, of course, leverage that information in various ways to win,” Solomon says. “Much of life involves interacting with others. As a friend, parent or teacher, understanding someone else’s identity can help that other person feel understood and provide the groundwork for effective motivation.”


  3. Study suggests clever way to help de-clutter home

    July 14, 2017 by Ashley

    From the Ohio State University press release:

    If your attic is full of stuff you no longer use but can’t bear to give away, a new study may offer you a simple solution.

    Researchers found that people were more willing to give away unneeded goods that still had sentimental value if they were encouraged to take a photo of these items first, or find another way to preserve the memories.

    Such a strategy could help parents part with old baby clothes they no longer need or help a former athlete give up a favorite basketball or hockey stick.

    What people really don’t want to give up is the memories associated with the item,” said Rebecca Reczek, co-author of the study and associate professor of marketing at The Ohio State University’s Fisher College of Business.

    “We found that people are more willing to give up these possessions if we offer them a way to keep the memory and the identity associated with that memory.”

    Reczek conducted the study with Karen Winterich, associate professor of marketing at Pennsylvania State University, and Julie Irwin, professor of business at the University of Texas at Austin.

    The results were just published online in the Journal of Marketing.

    “The project got started when I realized I was keeping an old pair of basketball shorts just because they reminded me of beating a major rival basketball team in junior high,” Winterich said.

    “I didn’t want the shorts — I wanted the memory of winning that game and that’s what I thought of when I saw the shorts. A picture can easily mark that memory for me and I can donate it so someone else can use it, which is even better.”

    Inspired by this story, the researchers conducted a field study involving 797 students at Penn State who lived in six residence halls on campus. At the end of a fall semester, the researchers advertised a donation drive before the students left for the holidays. But there was a catch: There were actually two different advertising campaigns that varied by residence halls.

    In the memory preservation campaign, signs in the residence hall bathrooms stated, “Don’t Pack up Your Sentimental Clutter…Just Keep a Photo of It, Then Donate.” In the control campaign, fliers told students, “Don’t Pack Up Your Sentimental Clutter, Just Collect the Items, Then Donate.” Similar numbers of students were exposed to both campaigns.

    After finals week, research associates who were unaware of what the study was about emptied donation bins in each residence hall, counting the items donated.

    The researchers found 613 items were donated in the halls that hosted the “memory preservation” campaign, versus only 533 in the control campaign.

    Reczek said the results show it may be relatively easy to break our old habits of clinging to some of our possessions with sentimental value.

    “It is not terribly surprising that we can keep the same memories alive just by taking a photo of these possessions, but it is not a natural behavior. It is something we have to train ourselves to do,” she said.

    In other related experiments, the researchers found that it wasn’t just the memories associated with these possessions that were keeping people from donating — it was the identities linked to those memories.

    For example, older parents may still feel connected to their identity as new mothers and fathers and not want to part with their infant clothes.

    In one study, some people who were donating goods at a local thrift shop in State College, Pennsylvania, were given instant photos of the items they were donating, while others were not. They were then asked about whether they would feel a sense of identity loss from giving away the item.

    Results showed that those who received the photos reported less identity loss than those who did not.

    “These memories connected to possessions are a carrier for identity. It is this reluctance to give up a piece of our identity that is driving our reluctance to donate,” Reczek said.

    This memory preservation strategy won’t work for items that don’t have sentimental value, she said. It also won’t work for items you want to sell instead of donate. She also suspects there may be a limit to what some people are willing to give away.

    “It may not work for something that has a lot of sentimental value, like a wedding dress,” Reczek said.

    The bottom line is that everyone benefits by using this memory preservation strategy to de-clutter a home, Winterich said.

    “We hope that it will not only make it easier for people to clear out clutter, but it will also help spur the donation process, benefiting nonprofits and the recipients that they serve,” she said.


  4. Study suggests hiding true self harms career and sense of belonging

    July 5, 2017 by Ashley

    From the University of Exeter press release:

    Hiding your true self at work can damage your career and reduce your sense of belonging in the workplace, a new study suggests.

    University of Exeter researchers examined “stigmatised” characteristics — being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT), or having a history of poverty or mental or physical illness.

    They found that concealing such characteristics from colleagues resulted in lower self-esteem, job satisfaction and commitment at work.

    “People may choose to conceal stigmatised identities because they want to be accepted, but in fact doing so reduces feelings of belonging,” said Professor Manuela Barreto of the University of Exeter.

    “When someone conceals their true identity, their social interactions suffer — and this has an impact not just on the individual but also on the organisation they work for.

    “Our findings suggest that openness about one’s identity is often beneficial for stigmatised individuals, the stigmatised group and their workplace.”

    Despite highlighting the costs of concealment, the researchers do not suggest that everyone must be open in all contexts.

    “It is clear that there are times when revealing a stigmatised identity can be very costly,” said Dr Anna Newheiser of the University at Albany, SUNY in the USA.

    “Those effects are very real and worth avoiding in certain circumstances, but it is important to realise that there is also a cost to hiding your true self.”

    The paper highlights the “hidden ramifications of prejudice,” which harm both individuals and organisations.

    “What we need are environments where people don’t need to hide — inclusive environments where people don’t have to make a choice between being liked and being authentic,” Professor Barreto added.

    Workplaces that push individuals to hide their differences do not erase difference — they simply encourage masking and concealment of diversity.

    “Given that identity concealment is by nature an invisible act, its social and organisational costs may also be difficult to detect, explain and correct.”

    The researchers report studies carried out in the Netherlands and the USA.

    In one, participants were encouraged to remember a time when they either concealed or revealed a stigmatised characteristic about themselves.

    In the other, participants were presented with fictional scenarios that either involved concealing or revealing their stigmatised identity. In both studies, participants were asked how they would feel after concealing or revealing the stigmatised characteristic.

    The paper, published in the Journal of Social Issues, is entitled: “People Like Me Don’t Belong Here: Identity Concealment Is Associated with Negative Workplace Experiences.”


  5. Study identifies most popular selfies for various demographics

    June 30, 2017 by Ashley

    From the Georgia Institute of Technology press release:

    When it comes to selfies, appearance is (almost) everything.

    To better understand the photographic phenomenon and how people form their identities online, Georgia Institute of Technology researchers combed through 2.5 million selfie posts on Instagram to determine what kinds of identity statements people make by taking and sharing selfies.

    Nearly 52 percent of all selfies fell into the appearance category: pictures of people showing off their make-up, clothes, lips, etc. Pics about looks were two times more popular than the other 14 categories combined. After appearances, social selfies with friends, loved ones and pets were the most common (14 percent). Then came ethnicity pics (13 percent), travel (7 percent), and health and fitness (5 percent).

    The researchers noted that the prevalence of ethnicity selfies (selfies about a person’s ethnicity, nationality or country of origin) is an indication that people are proud of their backgrounds. They also found that most selfies are solo pictures, rather than taken with a group.

    The data was gathered in the summer of 2015. The Georgia Tech team believes the study is the first large-scale empirical research on selfies.

    Overall, an overwhelming 57 percent of selfies on Instagram were posted by the 18-35-year-old crowd, something the researchers say isn’t too surprising considering the demographics of the social media platform. The under-18 age group posted about 30 percent of selfies. The older crowd (35+) shared them far less frequently (13 percent). Appearance was most popular among all age groups.

    Lead author Julia Deeb-Swihart says selfies are an identity performance — meaning that users carefully craft the way they appear online and that selfies are an extension of that. This is similar to William Shakespeare’s famous line: “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players.”

    “Just like on other social media channels, people project an identity that promotes their wealth, health and physical attractiveness,” Deeb-Swihart said. “With selfies, we decide how to present ourselves to the audience, and the audience decides how it perceives you.”

    This work is grounded in the theory presented by Erving Goffman in The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life. The clothes we choose to wear and the social roles we play are all designed to control the version of ourselves we want our peers to see.

    “Selfies, in a sense, are the blending of our online and offline selves,” Deeb-Swihart said. “It’s a way to prove what is true in your life, or at least what you want people to believe is true.”

    The researchers gathered the data by searching for “#selfie,” then used computer vision to confirm that the pictures actually included faces. Nearly half of them didn’t. They found plenty of spam with blank images or text. The accounts were using the hashtag to show up in more searches to gain more followers.

    The study, “Selfie-Presentation in Everyday Life: A Large-scale Characterization of Selfie Contexts on Instagram,” was presented in May at the International AAAI Conference on Web and Social Media in Montreal.


  6. Struggling with different work identities? Your work may suffer

    April 16, 2017 by Ashley

    From the Ohio State University press release:

    Few people are just one person at work. You may be both a manager and an employee. Or you may be a salesperson who represents two very different brands.

    Now a new study suggests that how you juggle those different work identities may affect your job performance.

    Employees who believe their different identities enhance each other are more productive than others, the study found. But workers who feel their identities are in conflict see a hit to their performance.

    “We tend to think of our work role identities one at a time, as if they were completely separate,” said Steffanie Wilk, co-author of the study and associate professor of management and human resources at The Ohio State University’s Fisher College of Business.

    “But this research shows that the interactions are important. The way we manage and think about our different roles could be affecting how well we do our jobs.”

    Wilk conducted the study with Lakshmi Ramarajan of Harvard University and Nancy Rothbard at the University of Pennsylvania. Their results were published in a recent issue of the Academy of Management Journal.

    People are familiar with the concept of identity conflict and enhancement. There’s been a lot written about the tensions between the roles of women who are both mothers and employees, for example.

    But this research suggests that people can have issues dealing with different identities within the workplace, Wilk said. Companies need to be more attuned to what roles they ask their employees to take on.

    “If your employees feel they have to make trade-offs between different role identities in the workplace, they may not do as good a job,” she said.

    That’s what the researchers found when they studied 763 employees of a company that managed customer service for credit cards associated with a number of well-known brands in retail and financial services, among others.

    In this case, employees had to juggle their identities representing very different brands.

    Was being a representative for a particular clothing company’s credit card opposed to — or compatible with — the work they had to do for particular bank’s credit card?

    The researchers had a very good way to answer that question. Part of each employee’s job was to sell additional products and services to customers on calls. So the question was: Would identity conflict hurt their sales — and would compatibility help?

    Employees were asked in a survey to name the two brands they worked with most. They then rated how much they agreed with a variety of statements. These statements measured if their identification with the two brands was in conflict (“Life would be easier if I represented only one of these brands and not another”) or if working with both brands enhanced each other (“I am a better representative of one brand because I am also a representative for the other brand”).

    Results showed that employees whose responses implied identity conflict between their two brands had lower-than-average sales for the four months after they took the survey, while those who indicated their brands enhanced each other had better-than-average sales.

    “There are real-world effects for not being able to successfully juggle your identities,” Wilk said. “Your performance can suffer, as we found in this call center.”

    The researchers conducted two experimental studies that replicated many of the same results, and gave additional insight into how identity conflict or enhancement might work to affect performance.

    The studies showed that participants who thought their identities enhanced each other showed more intrinsic motivation. In the first study, for example, they were more likely to agree with statements like “I work at this job because I think it is interesting.” And intrinsic motivation, in turn, improved sales.

    The researchers also looked at how identity enhancement and conflict related to perspective-taking by participants, which was the extent to which they took on a customer’s point of view.

    Perspective-taking had an effect that surprised the researchers, at least at first — it actually reduced sales in the first study. After additional studies, the researchers think they better understand why.

    “We believe if you put yourself into your customers’ shoes too much, you may start to wonder if they really want or need what you’re selling,” Wilk said. “That can hurt performance.”

    The bottom line is that companies need to help their employees find common elements between their different identities, Wilk said.

    “There needs to be connections between the identities that make sense to your employees. If there is conflict, your employees will ruminate, take up their mental energy, and struggle with their jobs. But if the connections are there, it can help.”


  7. Study suggests self-identification as old and frail may reinforce associated behaviours

    April 12, 2013 by Ashley

    From the University of Exeter press release via EurekAlert!:

    senior_visionOlder adults who categorise themselves as old and frail encourage attitudinal and behavioural confirmation of that identity.

    This is the conclusion of a study conducted by Krystal Warmoth and colleagues at University of Exeter Medical School, which is being presented today, 9th April 2013, at the British Psychological Society Annual Conference in Harrogate, UK.

    Krystal Warmoth interviewed 29 older adults in the South West of England face-to-face. Interviews conducted asked about their experiences of ageing and frailty. Self-perception and identification related to one’s health and participation in an active life.

    One’s attitude could lead to a loss of interest in participating in social and physical activities, poor health, stigmatization, and reduced quality of life. One respondent stated it clearly, “if people think that they are old and frail, they will act like they’re old and frail”. A cycle of decline was also described whereby perceiving oneself as frail was felt to lead to disengaging in activities that could reduce the likelihood of frailty (such as, physical exercise) and, in turn, more health and functioning problems.

    Krystal Warmoth concluded that: “this study gives insight into the role of social psychological factors in older adults’ health and activity”.


  8. Study suggests targeting mental defeat among pain patients could prevent anxiety and depression

    April 8, 2013 by Ashley

    From the University of Warwick press release via HealthCanal:

    Senior Asian manA new study of Hong Kong chronic pain patients suggests that targeting feelings of mental defeat could prevent severe depression, anxiety and interference with daily activities.

    The concept of mental defeat has previously been associated with post-traumatic stress disorder, but the new study applies it to the experience of chronic pain.

    Mental defeat occurs when pain patients view their pain as an ‘enemy’ which takes over their life and removes their autonomy and identity.

    The study, published in the Clinical Journal of Pain, analysed three groups of individuals living in Hong Kong – people with chronic pain who had sought specialist treatment, people with chronic pain who did not require specialist treatment and people with acute pain.

    The chronic pain individuals reported pain in a variety of sites, with the majority in both groups identifying back pain as their predominant complaint.

    The researchers monitored levels of mental defeat through how much the participants agreed with statements such as ‘because of the pain I felt destroyed as a person’ and ‘I felt humiliated and that I was losing my sense of inner dignity’.

    When the two groups of individuals with chronic pain were compared, those who were seeking specialist treatment for their pain were found to have higher levels of mental defeat than those who did not require such treatment.

    Both chronic pain groups had higher levels of mental defeat than the acute pain group.

    The study also found that people who had a sense of mental defeat because of pain also reported higher levels of depression and anxiety as well as a higher incidence of the pain interfering with their daily lives.

    The findings of the Hong Kong study reflect earlier studies carried out in the United Kingdom, which suggests that mental defeat is common across cultures.

    The study’s lead author Dr Nicole Tang from the Department of Psychology at the University of Warwick said: “The presence of mental defeat in both Western and Eastern populations suggests that aspects of the psychological impact of pain on people’s sense of self and identity are shared across geographical boundaries.

    “We know from work in the UK that mental defeat is a significant factor differentiating chronic patients who thrive despite pain from those who develop high levels of distress, depression and interference from pain in their every-day lives.

    These findings suggest that early screening for mental defeat can predict whether a patient will go on to suffer from severe anxiety and depression.

    “Standard group pain management programmes do not have a treatment component targeting the sense of mental defeat.

    “The current development of multidisciplinary pain management services in Hong Kong presents an opportunity to address this gap with a view towards enhancing overall treatment effectiveness.”

    The study, Mental Defeat Predicts Distress and Disability in Hong Kong Chinese with Chronic Pain, is published in The Clinical Journal of Pain.


  9. Study suggests college athletes twice as likely to have depression than retired collegiate athletes

    April 7, 2013 by Ashley

    From the Georgetown University Medical Center press release via EurekAlert!:

    football diagramA survey of current and former college athletes finds depression levels significantly higher in current athletes, a result that upended the researchers’ hypothesis. The finding published in Sports Health suggests the need for more research to understand depression among college athletes.

    We expected to see a significant increase in depression once athletes graduated, but by comparison it appears the stress of intercollegiate athletics may be more significant than we and others anticipated,” says the study’s senior investigator Daniel Merenstein, MD, an associate professor of family medicine at Georgetown University School of Medicine and in the department of human science in the School of Nursing & Health Studies.

    While no research exists on depression in athletes who have recently graduated from college, the researchers hypothesized that the changes in lifestyle and loss of personal identity would put former college athletes at an increased risk for depression.

    College athletes often derive their personal identity from their sport, focusing a lot of their time on athletics in college,” the study authors write. “They are often surrounded by other athletes and frequently have an athletic identity from their peers who recognize them on campus as an athlete.”

    The authors also point out that after college athletics, there is a loss of social support from teammates, coaches and advisors, and that former athletes may not maintain peak physical condition — all possible factors for depression.

    To examine their hypothesis, the researchers sent surveys to 663 athletes; 163 former and 117 current athletes from nine different universities took part in the study. All had participated in Division I NCAA sponsored sports. Graduated athletes represented 15 different sports and current athletes represented 10.

    The analysis of the surveys revealed that nearly 17 percent of current college athletes had scores consistent with depression — double that of retired college athletes (eight percent).

    Merenstein, a family medicine physician, and his colleagues suggest that stressors experienced by college athletes such as overtraining, injury, pressure to perform, lack of free time or stress from schoolwork could contribute to increased susceptibility to depression.

    “College in general is a potentially stressful time for many students. The additional stress of playing high-level sports appears to add to that stress,” he says.

    Merenstein advises parents, friends and coaches to be aware of changes in behavior, weight and sleep of college athletes, and of all students.


  10. Study examines when emotional appeals are more effective than celebrity spokespeople

    March 9, 2013 by Ashley

    From the University of Chicago Press Journals press release via EurekAlert!:

    ShoppingEmotional appeals could be more effective than celebrities when promoting products related to a consumer’s identity, according to a new study in the Journal of Consumer Research.

    Specific emotions can help consumers strengthen their identities by providing information about how to feel a particular identity, especially when emotions are associated with distinct patterns of action. Consumers tend to choose products that bolster emotions associated with a particular identity,” write authors Nicole Verrochi Coleman (University of Pittsburgh) and Patti Williams (Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania).

    Imagine you are selling a new energy drink targeted at two different groups of consumers—athletes and business people. Each group might respond very differently to the same upbeat and energetic appeal consistent with the product’s benefits.

    In one study, athletes chose to listen to “angry” music and indicated they would pay more to see “angry” bands in concert, while volunteers chose to listen to “sad” music and were willing to pay more to attend “sad” concerts. In another study, athletes found an advertisement more persuasive when the model’s face in the ad expressed anger, while volunteers were more persuaded by a model with a sad face, and environmentalists by a model expressing disgust.

    Consumers can benefit from matching their emotional experiences to their identity. For example, turning up some angry head banging music on the way to the gym might make you a better athlete, or listening to sad love songs on the way to the soup kitchen might make you a better volunteer.

    “Identity-based marketing has generally used spokespeople but poor performance or personal issues can undermine a spokesperson’s reputation and reflect poorly on a brand. However, companies can employ identity-based marketing without directly mentioning an identity by simply incorporating emotions related to that identity,” the authors conclude.