Thursday, June 14, 2012

ABC Model - Understanding Attitude

In the last blog, we looked at attitude and began our discussion to understand its nature better. In today's blog we look at the ABC model of understanding Attitude.

It is clear that only when one responds will one be able to evaluate the attitude one holds towards an individual, activity or situation. For the sake of clarity on understanding attitude, we could break it down into 3 aspects
1. Affect
2. Behavioral Intentions
3. Cognition

Affect is the emotional component of an attitude. Behavioral Intentions is the intention to behave in a certain way towards an object or a person. The third component of Cognition reflects a person's perception or belief.  To understand this better, let’s take some examples:
The sentence - "I don’t like my work" indicates the emotion/feeling one has - this reflects the affective component of an attitude.
The sentence - "I want a transfer to another department" reflects a behavior intention of the person - this is the behavioral intensions part of an attitude.
The sentence - "I believe my boss has favorites" reflects a person's belief, this is the cognitive component of an attitude.

This ABC model to understand an attitude suggests that, to completely and thoroughly understand an attitude, one must assess all three components.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Attitude and its components.

In the last blog, we looked at the various biases that occur when we attempt to attribute the results to a source. In today's blog we begin our discussion on attitude and attempt to understand it.

Attitude for our discussion would mean "a psychological tendency that is expressed by evaluating a particular entity with some degree of favor or disfavor".  This means we could have opinions and react favorably towards many things ranging from animals to politics!

One common sentence we really hear today is "I wish I could change the attitude of people I work with, and feel better about their job". There is an increasing noise in today's world about job dissatisfaction - this is an attitude people hold towards their work. This attitude is important since it defines the way one would treat his work and behave in a work place.

Understanding attitude is extremely important as managers - they need to understand the antecedent of attitude as well as the consequences of. It is extremely important to understand how attitudes are formed and how the major attitudes affect work behavior. They could then use this understanding to alter/change the attitude of their coworkers and reportees.

We would begin attempting to understand "attitude" using the ABC model in the next blog.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Biases in Attribution - where do we see them?

In the last blog, we looked at internal and external attribution that we generally do. In today's blog, we look at some of the biases that could creep in - primarily 2 of them - the Fundamental attribution error and Self serving bias. Let us begin with defining the two.

  • Fundamental Attribution Error refers to the tendency to make attributions to internal causes when focusing on someone else's behavior.
  • Self Serving Bias refers to the tendency to attribute one's own success to internal causes and one's failure to external causes.

To understand these, let us look at a scenario where a manager is asked to cite the cause of the company's employee's poor performance. The manager might claim that the employee's lack of effort or lack of ability were the causes for this poor performance. This is an example of fundamental attribution error.

If employees were asked explain the cause of their own performance problems, they could possibly blame it on the lack of support from the manager - this is an example of self-serving bias.

While the above examples explain what attribution errors are, it is important to note that attribution itself has a very close alignment with the culture of the place. The way individuals interpret the events around them has a strong influence on their behavior.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Whom do I attribute the results of my action?

In the last blog, we looked at impression management and discussed it. In today's blog we discuss some interesting things about the way we attribute the result of our actions using the attribution theory.

The Attribution theory explains how individuals pinpoint the cause of their own behavior and that of others. This behavior of ours to have an attribution to the result is natural. We are inherently curious and this is the source of our behavior of this nature.

Pretty often, in an interview we are asked to explain the cause of previous performance. In many ways the reply to this question helps the interviewer assess what our nature is with respect to attributing the outcome to. Some might attribute it to an external source others would to their internal source.

It’s a pretty common experience after exam; when we ask a student after the exam how the test had been, and why he/she thinks it happened that way, we begin to see replies like these - "I topped the exam, since I had prepared well" or "The paper was an easy one, and I think my luck was good too, so I topped it".

In the first reply, we see that the person attributes the result to an internal cause - those which are within his control. In the second one we see the attribution is to an external source to things that are not within ones control.

Result has shown that, achievement oriented individuals attribute their success to ability and their failure to lack of effort, to internal causes. Failure oriented individuals attribute their failures to lack of ability and they may develop feelings of incompetency and in extreme cases even depression.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Impression Management - Self directed and other directedd...

In the last blog, we looked at Pygmalion and Galatea effect and understood what role they play in an organization. In today's blog we talk about impression and its management.

We pretty often come across people throwing names of "big" and "famous" personalities, and their interaction with these people. Invariably every time you meet them - you listen to similar stories. If we think about why one would make such references to people we would almost instantaneously recognize that, through such actions these people attempt to control impression others have of them. Such a process by which individuals try to control the impression others have of them is called "impression management".

In the above case, we also see that individual who attempts to enhance impression of himself/herself by "Name-dropping". Such a mechanism is called self-enhancing. It is the same self-enhancing which gets one who is attending interviews to dress up carefully. Self-description pitch too could be drafted well to serve the purpose.

Another common technique that people use is that of "other-enhancing". In this technique - the focus is on the individual one is trying to impress rather than on self. Flattery is a common example of this technique.

If one is to ask, if these impression management techniques are affective here are some researched facts:
  1. Candidates who engaged with impression management were found to have obtained site visits with potential employers and were more likely to be hired.
  2. Employees who engage in impression management are seen more favorably during performance appraisal.
Having said the above, it is also important for one to realize that even this has a limit - the process if beneficial to organization if this impressions conveyed are accurate. If one engages in excessive impression management - he/she would be perceived as someone who is manipulative and insincere.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Pygmalion and Galatea effects - how they affect performance

In the last blog, we looked at stereotype and first-impression as barriers to social perception. In today's blog, we look at two affects that influence us - the Pygmalion and Galatea effects.

Having an expectation is common human tendency, when this expectation could influence to perform better there is nothing like it!

As a manager, the way we treat our subordinates is subtly influenced by what we expect them. Employees can generally be found to catch these subtle cues and can react to the expectation such as to fulfill the underlying expectation. As an example, the supervisor fails to praise a staff person's performance as frequently as he praises others. The supervisor talks less to a particular employee. If the manager/supervisor is not conscious of this aspect and is not skilled enough to realize or react to this - "he leaves scars on the careers of the young men (and women), cuts deeply into their self-esteem and distorts their image of themselves as human beings. But if he is skillful and has high expectations of his subordinates, their self-confidence will grow, their capabilities will develop and their productivity will be high. More often than he realizes, the manager is Pygmalion." [- taken from]

Galatea Effect - is found be stronger than Pygmalion effect. This is a stronger case of the well known "self-fulfilling prophecy" - In this effect the individual's opinion about one's ability and one's self-expectations about his performance largely determine one's performance.

Having mentioned about these effects it is not as direct as it sounds to be - there are number of other aspects that add to this as well - like, the organization culture, one's life experiences, family background etc.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Stereotype and First Impression Errors - how do these affect social perception

In the last blog, we looked at selective perception and projection which affect social perception. In today's blog, we look at stereotype and first-impression errors that affect the social perception.

When work teams in the current setting of companies are multicultural in nature, we quite often find members often stereotype foreign coworkers rather than getting to know them before forming and impression. Team members in the case of co-workers from the lesser economically developed countries have been found to assume to be having less knowledge simply because their homeland is economically or technically not progressive as the developed country. Such stereotypes are found to be reducing the productivity of the team overall and also reducing the morale of individuals.

Stereotype is a generalization about a group of people - it reduces the information about others to a workable level and is found be efficient for compiling and using information. They tend to get stronger when they are shared and are validated by others. These stereotypes could be accurate, however what is important is to realize that these could be wrong and be willing to learn from scratch.

We have also heard a common saying - the first impression is a lasting one; this is also quite true - we tend to remember the first perception of a person, and are generally found to be reluctant to be changing these. The First impression errors occur when we observe a very brief bit of a person's behavior in our first encounter and infer that this behavior reflects what the person is really like. This could be a major source of errors while interviewing - one would need to be cautious about this.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Selective Perception and Projection - who do they affect social perception

In the last blog, we listed the various barriers that could arise in social perception. In today's blog we discuss a few of these for better understanding.

In organizations, when you are a manager you would sometimes finds a situations where a reporting employee is not really getting along with his/her colleagues well, but the output of the employee is exceptionally good. When we evaluate the performance of the employee; many a times, we ignore the negative information regarding the employee and only choose to evaluate based on the impact of the work created. This tendency to ignore information that makes us feel uncomfortable, while only considering aspects that support our view is called Selective Perception.

We have heard the common saying - "Birds of the same feather flock together". It is surprising how much of information this saying could give us when it comes to Projections. It is our common nature to be with people who are alike, but this could create a bias in our minds which would let us o believe that all people are alike and in agreement with us. When interact with the people who do not have believe in similar things as we do, we tend to have misperceptions about these people. This nature of ours to overestimate the number of people who share our beliefs, values and behavior is called Projection, i.e. we project our personality on the people around us.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Barriers to Social Perception

In the last blog we looked at the characteristics of situation and how that influences the social perception. In today's blog we begin our discussion on the barriers to social perception.

There are several factors that could lead us to having inappropriate impressions of others - some of these are:
  • Selective Perception
  • Stereotype
  • First Impression Error
  • Projection
  • Self-Fulfilling prophesy. 

In today's blog we shall define these and continue the discussion on each of these in the next blog.

Selective Perception refers to the process of selecting information that supports our individual viewpoints while discounting information that threatens our viewpoint

Stereotype refers to the generalization about a group of people

First impression error refers to the tendency to form lasting opinions about an individual based on initial perception

Projection refers to overestimating the number of people who share our own beliefs, values and behavior

Self-fulfilling Prophecy refers to the situation in which our expectations about people affect our interaction with them in such a way that our expectations are fulfilled.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The situation characteristics that affect social perception

In the last blog, we looked at the characteristics of the target and its influence in the process of social perception. In today's blog, we look at the characteristics of the situation and the influence of this on the social perception.

The following is a our common experience as students - When we meet a professor in our class we would perceive differently, from say when we meet the professor at his room or at some other social gathering or for that matter of fact after graduation from the institute. This context of the interactions is called the "social context", and definitely these have an influence on the way we perceive the situation. Again, we would need to remember, that these contexts and situations and the corresponding behavior would also be perceived differently from one culture to another.

There are some situations, in which we get a strong cue of the appropriate behavior. In these situations, we believe that the behavior of the individual would be influenced primarily by the situation and may not be the individual's general behavior. This is called "Discounting Principle" (The assumption that an individual's behavior is accounting for by the situation).

The above two explain how the characteristics of the situation influence the social perception process. However, to get an apt understanding of the same, we would need to consider the combined effect of the characteristics of the perceiver, target and the situation. However, even a thorough understanding of these characteristics cannot free us from the barriers of social perception. We shall discuss about these in the next few blogs.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Target Characteristics and its influence on social preception

In the last blog, we looked at the characteristics of the perceiver which affect social perception. In today's blog we look at the characteristics of the target that affect the social perception.

Target typically refers to the person who is being perceived - even his characteristics influences the way we perceive him. Some of the major characteristics of the target that affect this perception are:
  • Physical Appearance
  • Verbal Communication
  • Nonverbal Communication
  • Intentions

Physical Appearance: It is pretty common knowledge that an individual’s first impression about any other person is made by the dress he wears. This common knowledge is what this characteristics talks about - but this time it’s not just the clothing, it’s the height, weight, age... and many more. To really understand this, we only need to reflect and think of a situation where in we were able to identify a newcomer or a minority in the organization with ease!

Verbal Communication involves not just the topic of discussion, but also the volume, the tone, the accent etc - All these create a mental impression which affects our perception of the individual.

Non verbal communication includes the eye contact we make with people, the body movements postures etc - all these too create an impression in the perceivers mind. Again these would also be affected by the social context of the transaction.

The intentions of the target could also affect the way we interpret the target - the impressions made when we have a boss walking into the room indicates the affect of the intentions of the target has on our social perception!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Characteristics of Perceiver that affect social preception

In the last blog, we looked at the model of social perception. In today's blog we look at the characteristic of a perceiver and how it can affect social perception.

There are several factors of the perceiver which affect social perception, but for discussion sake in this blog we would limit ourselves to understanding the influence of the following characteristics:
  • Familiarity
  • Attitude
  • Mood
  • Self-Concept
  • Cognitive Structure

Familiarity with the target is when we have multiple observations of the target. These observations help us form an impression about the individual. When we get any new information about the individual, we tend to screen out the information which is inconsistent with what we believe the person is like.

Attitude forms another major influence on our social perception - say for example, we have a department in an organization where we find only men working in there and mentally we have formed an attitude. This attitude would begin influencing us when we are taking an interview!

Mood plays a very strong influence on the way we perceive someone - we think very differently when we are happy from when we are upset. When we are in a positive mood, we tend to make a positive opinion of the people we meet!

Another factor that can affect social perception is the perceiver’s self-concept. An individual with a positive self-concept tends to notice positive attributes in another person and a similar aspect for the person with negative self-concept. A greater understanding of self allows us to have more accurate perception of others.

Cognitive structure refers to the thought pattern of an individual. Some of us tend to perceive physical traits before other traits, while others tend to focus on central traits. Cognitive complexity allows a person to perceive multiple characteristics of another personal rather than attending to a few traits.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Model of Social Perception

In the last blog, we began understanding the concept of perception and stated the various factors that influence social perception. We stated that there are 3 primary factors whose characteristics influence social perception. These are:
  1. The perceiver
  2. The target
  3. The situation

The interaction of these three could also potentially lead to certain barriers to social perception.

We could represent this through a model as shown below:

[Source: The Model is an adapted version from Fig: 3.2 of Organizational Behavior - Nelson & Quick 5th Edition]

We shall discuss these in detail over the next few blogs

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

What do I feel about you? - Perception and its Nature

In the last blog, we discussed about MBTI and the 16 preferences. In today's blog, we look at the concept of perception and introduce ourselves to social perception.

The term Perception in common parlance derives itself from the word - "perceive". The term perceive means - to recognize, discern, envision, or understand. In the context of our discussion on Organizational Behavior, the term is used a bit differently.

Perception involves the way we look at the world around us - it is the one that adds meaning to what we gather through the five sense - touch, smell, hearing, vision and taste. It is the vehicle through which we understand ourselves and our surrounding. What is of peculiar interest in the context of our discussion is a particular type called - "Social Perception".

Social Perception is the process of interpreting the information about other people. Almost all of management activities deal with perception - be it appraisal of an individuals performance or interview - it is based on how the current situation is perceived, what my individual opinions are about you (the subject of discussion or observation) and what the subject has actually done.Stated differently, we have the following factors that affect our perception:
  • characteristics of ourselves as perceiver
  • characteristics of the target of perception
  • characteristics of the situation in which the interaction takes place

Monday, May 21, 2012

Understanding the 16 personality types formed through MBTI classification

In the last blog, we understood the evolution of the MBTI framework and what the different preferences where. The set of 4 preferences lines, lead us to 16 options, the nature of which we have listed as below

Thursday, May 17, 2012

MBTI - Origin and Preferences

In the last blog, we looked at 3 broad ways in which personality was measured. In today's blog (and continuing in the next blog) we look at the most commonly used tool for assessing personality - MBTI Instrument.

Origin of the MBTI framework:
The origin of the framework could be traced to the works of Swiss psychiatrist - Carl Jung. His classic work - "psychological types" proposed that there were two basic types of people - Extroverts and Introverts. He also identified that there were two types of perceiving (sensing and intuition) and two types of judgments (thinking and feeling).

This initial work caught the attention of a mother-daughter team - Katherine Briggs and Isabel Briggs Myers who developed the Myer-Briggs Type Indicator Instrument also called MBTI. This instrument put Jung's type theory into practice.

MBTI is used extensively in Career Counseling, Team Building, Conflict Management, Understanding Management styles etc.


In this section, we shall define the 8 types of preferences:
  • Extraversion: A preference indicating that an individual is energized by interactions with other people
  • Introversion: A preference indicating that an individual is energized by time alone
  • Sensing: Gathering information through five senses
  • Intuition: Gather information through "sixth sense" and focusing on what could be rather than what actually exists
  • Thinking: Making decisions in a logical, objective fashion
  • Feeling: Making decisions in a personal, value-oriented way
  • Judging Preference: Preferring closure and completion in making decisions
  • Perceiving Preference: Preferring to explore many alternatives and flexibility

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Measuring the Individual's Personality

In the last blog, we looked at the positive and negative affects that an individual's personality characteristics could have on its work experience. In today's blog, we take the next step in understanding personality - that is to understand how we can measure personality. We would discuss briefly about the following of the various methods that are used - Projective Tests, Behavioral Measures and Self-Report Questionnaire are the ones we discuss today.

Projective Tests are ones in which, individuals are shown a picture, abstract images, or photos and are asked to describe what they see or to tell a story about what they see. This is based on the rationale that individual responds to the stimulus in a way that reflects his or her unique personality.

Behavioral measures are assessments of personality that involves observing an individual's behavior in a controlled situation. This however is not without some problems; the observer's ability to stay focused and the way observer interprets the behavior! The very fact that one is being observed also creates a distortion in the way an individual behaves.

The most common method used to measure personality is the self-report questionnaire. Individuals generally respond to a series of questions usually in agree/disagree or true/false format. There are numerous such tests that are available out of which - MBTI is commonly followed in the industry.