Researcher: Arthur Jago, PhD Candidate, Graduate School of Business
We examined how people respond to potentially discriminatory recommendations made by either humans in organizations, (e.g. hiring managers) or artificially intelligent algorithms. Even when both agents made exactly identical decisions, people assumed that algorithms' recommendations were less discriminatory. For example, the algorithm bringing in a male candidate for an interview, rather than a female one with similar credentials, was seen as less discriminatory then when a human hiring manager did the same. We've also found that this is in part due to people's beliefs that algorithms, artificial intelligence (AIs), and other computerized agents are relatively rational, (and appear less biased), than humans who do similar work. These findings help illuminate how people respond to automation in modern society. In particular our research sheds light on how people respond to the kinds of artificially intelligent agents that are rapidly proliferating in modern workplaces.
A nonprofit premium? The domain-specific effects of instrumental vs. value-rational appeals to organizational legitimacy
Researchers: Christof Brandtner and Aaron Silverman, PhD Candidates, Sociology
We hypothesized that non-profit and for-profit organizations attract public support by using different kinds of messages in their mission statements. Do for-profit organizations benefit from signaling efficiency while non-profit organizations benefit from signaling values? To examine this question, we administered an online survey experiment to 253 volunteers from the Alumni Research Experience Program (AREP) pool. Participants evaluated two organizational profiles by expressing their level of support (e.g. willingness to patronize/donate to/promote the target organization) for each organization and the extent to which they thought each organization was efficient, moral, unusual, and authentic. The kinds of organizations participants evaluated varied by industry (grocery store vs. childcare program), sector (non-profit vs. for-profit), and mission statement (emphasized measurable outcomes vs. emphasized universal values).
We found that regardless of the mission statement, non-profit organizations received significantly greater support than did for-profit organizations because non-profits were perceived to be more moral and authentic than were for-profits. Furthermore, for-profit child-care organizations received significantly less support when they had a mission statement that emphasized values, as opposed to emphasizing measurable outcomes. Mediation analyses suggest that this penalty is due to perceived phoniness on the part of the for-profit child-care facility, which is consistent with economic research on contract failure. While this research is still under active investigation, our data do point to some preliminary inferences. First, non-profits maintain a competitive edge against for-profits in the same industry because they seem more moral or authentic in pursuit of their mission. Second, organizations that generate profits from interacting with children will earn more support if they emphasize concrete outcomes by which their charges benefit from the experience. Our next steps prior to publication are to extend the research design to further industries. This addition will allow us to evaluate what explains differences in the nonprofit premium across contexts. We also further investigate the linkages between different forms of instrumental and value-rational expressions, such as formal structures, goal statements, and activities.
Do We Like Moralizers?
Researcher: Julian Zlatev, Graduate Student, Organizational Behavior, Graduate School of Business
This study examined how people’s impressions of another person can be influenced by how strongly that person feels about moral issues – abstracting away from their specific stance on those issues. In other words, do people see others who care about moral issues (such as abortion or gun control) in a positive light, regardless of whether or not they agree with them on those issues? As expected, people who were described as caring strongly about various issues (with no information given on their specific stances on those issues) were seen as more moral, and were better liked, than those who were described as caring less about those issues. In order to make sure that people weren’t simply assuming that the individual described agreed with them on the issues, I additionally asked participants where they thought the target individual stood on the issues at hand. Results indicated that people were not assuming a shared view on the issues, and were instead forming positive impressions of people who cared about the issues regardless of what side they were on. This work suggests that one potential way to bridge the political divide may be to highlight the fact that people on both sides of an issue care strongly about it, which could engender more positive impressions of those across the aisle. I will be running follow-up studies to further test this hypothesis.
Job Candidate Opinion Study
Researcher: Andrew Pearlmutter, PhD Candidate, Organizational Behavior, Graduate School of Business
In this study, we investigated whether and how overworking behavior in job candidate would be perceived differently for men and women. We hypothesized that male overworking candidates, as compared with female candidates who overworked, would be perceived more positively as more competent and relatable than female candidates, who would be perceived more negatively by comparison for the same behavior. We did not find the gender-based differences in candidate evaluations that we hypothesized.
Moralization and Corporate Framing
Researcher: Arthur Jago, PhD Candidate, Organizational Behavior, Graduate School of Business
"Locating Moralization Within Organizations," Presented at the Academy of Management 2016 Annual Meeting, Anaheim, USA, August 2016.
How do people decide whether organizations actually care about social issues? For our study, we investigated how people perceive moralization– of different agents within organizations. Specifically, we found a disconnect: People believe individual agents (for example, a single leader) are more likely to moralize decisions compared to collective agents (for example, a leadership group). Because of this effect, people assume that individuals who communicate ideas, make decisions, or engage in prosocial behaviors moralized those activities to a greater extent than collectives who engaged in these exact same activities. In turn, when people try to figure out different organizations' values, it's not just what they do or say, but also who is doing or saying. This research carries with it numerous social and ethical implications for how organizations signal moral values to stakeholders.
Across seven studies, we explore how people asymmetrically attribute moral values to individual versus collective agents within organizations. Broadly, we find that people believe collectives moralize less than individuals (Studies 1-2). We demonstrate using both mediation (Study 3) and moderation (Study 4) strategies that this occurs because people dehumanize collectives and believe they use fewer emotions when making decisions. Exploring this effect further, we find that people are more willing to attribute moralization to real organizations that they strongly associate with an individual leader, compared to organizations they associate with no specific individual (Studies 5a and 5b). Finally, we explore one consequence of this effect: when individuals make organizational decisions, compared to collectives, people believe those decisions will be both more resistant to external pressures and more universally applied to other business situations (Study 6). We discuss the practical and social implications of people’s asymmetric attributions of moralization.
Self-Licensing and Political Behavior
Researcher: Seth Werfel, Graduate Student, Political Science
The goal of this study was to explore the direction of spillover effects associated with prosocial behavior. The hypothesis was that initial prosocial behavior (prior behavior that was intended primarily to benefit others rather than oneself), that is framed as progress toward a goal will induce negative spillover, while initial prosocial behavior that is framed as commitment toward a goal will induce positive spillover (when prior behavior increases the likelihood of future behavior). This hypothesis was tested in the context of subjects' voluntary participation in AREP itself, which was randomly framed as either progress or commitment toward social science research. The outcome variable measured support for increased federal funding of social science research. The results of the study indicate that there was no statistically significant different in levels of support across all experimental conditions. This null finding may be attributed to either a lack of statistical power, a weak operationalization of the treatment, or an incorrect hypothesis.
“Multiplexity and the Tolerance of Failure” Presented at the Academy of Management 2016 Annual Meeting, Anaheim, USA, August 2016.
“Multiplexity and the Tolerance of Failure” Presented at the American Sociological Association 2016 Annual Meeting, Seattle, USA, August 2016.
Exchange relations rely on the mutual confidence that each party will fulfill its contractual obligations. When one party fails to meet its obligation, the contract is broken and the exchange relation should cease. Yet, examples abound of such relations continuing despite transactional failures. This study considers the role of relational dimensionality, or multiplexity, in the maintenance of underperforming ties. Multiplexity, or relational dimensionality, is the "overlap of roles, exchanges, or affiliations" (Verbrugge 1979). In other words, two people may know each other as friends, coworkers, classmates, and many other relational dimensions. We expect multiplexity to provoke a re-evaluation of an exchange actor’s identity hierarchy. If the actors’ identity hierarchies are similar, the exchange relation will be strengthened and failure will be tolerated. We leverage the salience of transactional failure in the context of startup investments to experimentally evaluate the effect of multiplexity on relational commitment. We find that the effect of multiplexity depends on the population, supporting the role of identity distance in actor bonding.
From Rags to Riches? Labor Market Experiences among College-Educated Adults from Low-Economic Backgrounds
Researcher: Natassia Rodriguez Ott, PhD Sociology; Stanford Latino Entrepreneurship Initiative, Graduate School of Business
This survey-based study was part of a larger dissertation on the consequences of low social origins (e.g. low income, low parental education background) among young college-educated adults. In this work, I argue that the relevance of social origins among college graduates grew over the past thirty years and, among recent cohorts, low social origins negatively influence early career outcomes. This particular research examined social capital as a mechanism by which social origins can influence labor market outcomes among college graduates.
Results showed that low social origin graduates tend to hold strong ties in a few career areas while high social origin graduates develop many weaker ties across numerous career areas during college. One place these differences are discernible is in respondents’ open-ended survey responses on their advice to graduating seniors. High social origin respondents responded with suggestions for a variety of ties to utilize, stating “network, network, network,” “contact alumni,” and “talk to faculty mentors and supervisors from internships.” Low social origin respondents, on the other hand, gave answers that assumed these ties did not yet exist; examples include “join(ing) campus groups that prepare students for the interview process” and “find(ing) mentors who can show them the ropes.” These disparate answers indicate that high and low social origin graduates not only differed in their approaches to figuring out post-college plans, but also in the readily available resources they might use to identify desirable career options. Another area where differences in network composition are apparent is in the resources respondents report using during their school-to-work transition. Most high social origin graduates report going to a range of people for job-related information including their parents, extended family, and previous job connections. Most low social origin graduates, on the other hand, report using only few personal ties and mostly relying on public postings.
"Who Would You Fund?" Study
Researcher: Lynn G. Chin, PhD 2012, Assistant Professor, Sociology, Washington and Lee University
This experimental study was designed to investigate whether evaluations of male and female leaders are differentially impacted by the structure of the organizations they lead. There were two ideal types of organizational structures in this experiment: hierarchical versus egalitarian. Respondents were probed to see whether stereotypes about organization structure interact with gender stereotypes to shape perceptions of men versus women's leadership abilities, regardless of leadership style.
AREP experimental data turned up mixed results. I did not find any gender differences attribution of responsibility for corporate outcomes between male and female CEOs when directly asking respondents the degree to which they found CEO's responsible for company outcomes. However, I did find that when egalitarian companies succeeded, the recommended pay increase for female CEOs was less than for male CEOs.
Social Beliefs and Consumer Preferences
Researcher: Elizabeth Horberg, Postdoctoral Scholar, Sociology
In this study, we explored how relatively affluent people think and feel about their own wealth--as fair or unfair, deserved or undeserved--and whether those experiences predict their attitudes toward material possessions. As expected, we found considerable variation in people's experiences of their own wealth: Some reported feeling wealthier than they deserve to be whereas others indicated that their level of wealth is fair and well-deserved. Moreover, people who view their wealth as unfair and undeserved expressed less interest in owning designer label possessions, and were less likely to own luxury vehicles, compared to people who view their wealth as fair and deserved. These results could indicate that people who feel undeserving prefer to downplay or conceal their wealth from others whereas people who feel highly deserving prefer to signal their high socioeconomic status to others.
Related conference paper: Piff, P.K., Horberg, E.J., and Monin, B. (2015, February). An Embarrassment of Riches: Defining, Refining and Understanding the Novel Concept of "Wealth Guilt." Paper presented at the 16th Annual Meeting of the Society for Personality an Social Psychology, Long Beach, CA.
This experimental study seeks to assess the extent and comparative degree of discrimination in labor and housing markets. The Alumni REP pool provided valuable assistance with testing and validating the survey experiment design with a non-college-aged population. Our overarching hypotheses test the relative degree of discrimination between markets and demographic categories.
Publication of Results Pending
Motivational Sources of End of Life Care Planning
Researcher: Tamara Sims, PhD 2013, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Psychology
In this two-part study, we sought to identify what motivates people to plan for end of life care. In the first part of our survey, we found that people strongly preferred an appeal to plan for end of life when it encouraged them to do so for their loved ones compared to other appeals that did not focus on socioemotional aspects of end of life planning. These findings indicate that end of life decisions are socially and emotionally meaningful rather than individualized and clinical.
In the second part of our study, we explored how making end of life more of a concrete reality affects people's motivation to think about and discuss their own death. To do so, we randomly assigned half of our participants to a control group where they viewed a current photo of themselves and the other half to a "concrete end of life" group where they viewed an age-progressed version of their photo. We found that across the life span, people seeing the age-progressed photo reported being less willing to think about and discuss death and dying. These findings suggest that when end of life becomes a reality, people may avoid planning for it.
Related conference paper: Sims, T., Carstensen, L.L., & Goldstein, M.K. "Health Status Moderates the Role of Future Time Perspective in End-of-life Planning. As part of Sims, T. & Nothoff, N. "May the Source be with you: Motivational Sources Underlying Older Adults' Optimization of Health and Well-being." Gerontological Society of America, Washington D.C., November 8, 2014.
Using Attributions about Well-being To Relieve Stress
Researcher: Alexandra Gatherer Russell, PhD Candidate, Psychology
My research investigates the relationship between individuals’ beliefs and the coping styles that they endorse. Specifically, I investigated whether differences in implicit theories of well-being (or beliefs that well-being is malleable or fixed) are related to the coping strategies that individuals endorse. Literature on implicit theories in other domains shows that beliefs about the malleability of specific attributes have important consequences for relevant behaviors and outcomes (see, e.g., Blackwell, Trzesniewski, & Dweck, 2007; Dweck & Leggett, 1988). For instance, people who think that intelligence is malleable see academic difficulties and even failures as challenges, temporary setbacks, and opportunities for learning, while individuals who view intelligence as fixed view effort negatively, thinking it signifies low intelligence. As a result, these individuals respond poorly to failures and setbacks, withdrawing from schoolwork and getting worse grades in challenging subjects over time, while those with malleable views of intelligence respond adaptively to setbacks and do better in school over time (Blackwell et al., 2007; Dweck & Elliott-Moskwa, 2010; Dweck & Leggett, 1988).
This prior research on implicit theories in other domains led me to hypothesize that holding a malleable theory of psychological well-being would lead people to endorse and engage in more adaptive coping behaviors in the face of stress. I also expected that believing that well-being is malleable would make people more interested in learning about and improving their well-being and happiness. Prior to the study run using A-REP participants, I first ran a study that found that those with a more malleable conception of well-being are more likely to endorse adaptive responses to stressful scenarios. Next, I ran a study investigating whether those imparted with a more malleable conception of well-being are more likely to 1) endorse adaptive responding to stressful situations and 2) show interest in learning about well-being, stress and happiness, and I found that this was indeed the case. Using A-REP participants, my final study investigated whether those given a more malleable conception of well-being are more likely to take advantage of an opportunity to relieve situationally-induced stress with a mindfulness exercise. Study 3 also investigated whether those given a more malleable conception of well-being would be more likely to embrace goals and priorities related to happiness and well-being. As hypothesized, my results confirmed that those taught to have a more malleable conception of well-being were more likely to spend time on a mindfulness exercise after experiencing a mild stressor. These individuals were also more likely to embrace goals and priorities related to happiness and psychological well-being.
We found that Stanford alumni rated first generation college applicants higher than continuing student applicants on several positive attributes such as intelligence, confidence, and sophistication. When asked whether the alumni would recommend a first generation college applicant or a continuing one, the alumni sample showed some preference for the first generation student (though this finding is only marginally significant by conventional statistical significance standards).
Research on cultural taste and status is ongoing within this project.
Research results were presented at the Group Processes Pre-Conference at the 2013 American Sociological Association National Conference.
This research examines how neoliberal health beliefs direct, amplify, and justify expressions of prejudice and acts of discrimination. Specifically, I investigate whether health promotion programs foster organizational cultures that legitimate the expression of anti-fat attitudes and contribute to increases in weight-based discrimination in employment decisions.
In this study I use an experimental design to examine whether fat employees are evaluated more negatively and receive lower recommendations for promotion when they are evaluated in a company that has an employee health promotion program. Preliminary findings indicate that fat employees are less likely to receive recommendations for promotion than thin employees and are offered lower bonuses than thin employees. Findings from this study also suggest that fat employees are viewed as less competent and hardworking when health promotion is primed. When employees are evaluated for the same company without an employee wellness program differences between fat and thin employees on such traits as intelligence, self-control, self-confidence, organization, laziness, and efficiency are not significant.
These findings suggest that health promotion beliefs motivate evaluators to use assumptions about body size and behavior to make judgments about the work ethic and abilities of others. By examining the beliefs and attitudes that generate and motivate weight-based discrimination this study provides a key insight into the findings of previous studies that document the pervasiveness of fat discrimination across a variety of domains. This research also contributes to the study of stigmatization, stereotypes, and discrimination processes within organizational settings and proposes new applications for the prejudice justification and suppression model.
Exploring Explanations for Singleness
Researchers: Corey Fields, Professor of Sociology, & Karen Powroznik, Ph.D Candidate, Sociology
Research results were presented at the 2013 Society for the Study of Social Problems Conference.
This study explores perceptions of singleness by examining differences in the explanations given for why an individual is single. Using an online experiment we investigate how people’s explanations differ according to the race and gender of the single person. Our main finding is that men are thought to be more in control of their dating lives than women. Women’s singleness is believed to be determined by factors outside of a woman’s control and this gender difference is most pronounced for Black women. Beliefs about why a person is single influences how they are viewed by others and this has consequences for future success in the dating market. We found that participants were least willing to set up the single white man, who was seen as most in control of his dating successes and failures.
Selecting a Committee Member
Researcher: Emily Zitek, PhD '10, Psychology, with Jessica Cameron and Valerie Jones Taylor
In this study, we were interested in how perceptions of a candidate for a Stanford committee leadership position depend on the candidate’s gender and the current makeup of the committee. Participants learned about the “Future Campus Committee,” and they were told that its purpose was to draft long-term goals for the campus, including construction and traffic management plans. Participants then read about the person being considered for the leader of this committee as well as the current gender composition of the committee (i.e., whether the committee had mostly men, mostly women, or an even split). The committee’s current gender composition did not affect participants’ perceptions of the candidate, but the candidate’s gender did. Participants slightly preferred the female candidate to the male candidate. For example, they thought the female candidate was more qualified than the male candidate, even though everything except the gender of the candidates was the same. We believe this result may demonstrate that people are now beginning to see the value of increasing the number of women in leadership roles.
Dynamics in Peer-to-Peer Lending Markets
Researcher: Sarah Harkness, PhD Candidate '11, Sociology
One of the key ways individuals accumulate new wealth is first through the receipt of credit, yet the process of obtaining credit is potentially fraught with bias. Researchers have examined various lending processes and have consistently documented group-level disparities in funding outcomes. New forms of credit markets have been developed with the partial intent of mitigating these inequities. They allow peers to finance each other without having to go through conventional lending institutions whose members may, perhaps inadvertently, use discriminatory underwriting methods. Known as peer-to-peer lending markets, these online forums allow individuals to publicly display their lending requests and credit information in the hopes of finding lenders who will finance them. In these markets, much as in more traditional lending scenarios, borrowers tend to display their personal information, which reveals many indicators on which bias and discrimination may be based. In this project, I examine one type of indicator by assessing the extent to which status and trustworthiness systematically bias funding decisions while controlling for classic measures of creditworthiness. I expect that lenders use status as an indicator of creditworthiness, in that they will entrust their resources to higher status individuals whom they assume have the competence to use the funds faithfully and repay the loan.
To assess implicit bias and discrimination in lending practices, participants evaluated a series of systematically varied loan applications using two different methodologies. Both studies reveal that assessments of status and trustworthiness strongly influence all types of funding decisions. Additionally, the results demonstrate the importance of examining the effects of status indicators, such as gender, race/ethnicity, and education, in consort as the combinations of these characteristics yield striking results. For instance, while white males are highly advantaged in terms of their loan outcomes overall, they are strongly penalized for demonstrating a lack of educational development. The intersections of race and gender also show that African American males continue to be highly disadvantaged in a wide variety of lending decisions, while the funding that African American females receive is similar to that of white males. Overall, these results suggest that status indicators influence assessments of creditworthiness in complex ways, but, more generally, status and trustworthiness appear to be a source of systematic bias in lending.
This study addresses one potential path through which preexisting status divisions and social inequalities perpetuate themselves by demonstrating that those who are advantaged by their characteristics in all levels of the socio-economic hierarchy will have their economic and social circumstances enhanced by virtue of their status distinctions, while lower status individuals will not be so privileged and may even be harmed. By examining the decision-making processes behind lending, this project also helps illuminate how implicit bias and assessments of competence that vary by status groups may affect funding decisions in traditional credit markets more broadly. Obtaining credit allows many individuals to eventually generate new wealth. Yet, wealth accumulation is one of the predominant disparities of our time, thereby making the examination of the mechanisms underlying the receipt of credit so important.
Clarifying the conditions under which growing organizational diversity is most likely to have positive rather than negative outcomes is a critical challenge of the 21st century. While valuing diversity has emerged as a popular buzzword for organizations, little research has investigated the social psychological impact of this movement. This study examined how different types of cues regarding diversity influence management decisions, intergroup attitudes and beliefs about diversity.
Two diversity strategies were examined – a business case rationale for diversity and a legal rationale for diversity. A business case emphasizes the profit and performance benefits of diversity, such as innovation, improved problem solving and addressing diverse market needs. A legal rationale emphasizes the need for diversity to comply with antidiscrimination laws and preventing litigation. Despite the perceived legitimacy of profit based rationales endorsed by Corporate America, I found that a “business case” for diversity generated more resistance to inclusion than legal rationales that emphasized antidiscrimination law. Participants exposed to antidiscrimination law were more likely to acknowledge institutional bias, express a value of diversity, and recommend a minority candidate for promotion than those exposed to a business case for diversity.
These results suggest that framing may influence the effectiveness of diversity efforts, including the ability to reduce inequality and promote social change. Although the business case for diversity is a common rationale for inclusion, it may generate negative intergroup attitudes that restrict the positive outcomes that organizational leaders anticipate. Beyond scientific merits, results can be used by leaders to better evaluate alternative policies, structural arrangements, and training strategies that seek to institutionalize the value of diversity.
P&P Mall: Product Information Website Study
Researcher: Dean Eckles, PhD Candidate ‘13, Communications
In this study we investigated how people's perceptions of what their attitudes are based on and their beliefs about what their attitudes ought to be based affect the certainty of those attitudes. In somewhat more technical language, we investigated the interactive effects of preferred and perceived attitude bases on attitude certainty. Participants evaluated a number of consumer products which were presented with the (ostensible) evaluations of these products by others (peer opinions). Of course, since little other product information was available, these peer opinions affected participants' attitudes towards the products. Likewise, participants who said that one ought not to use such majority opinions in determining one's own attitude were less influenced by these peer opinions. Following this initial product evaluation, participants were given random feedback about whether their attitudes were based on the consensus information. When participants were told they likely based their attitude on consensus information but also think one ought not to do so, their attitude certainty was reduced following the feedback.
This study was a first investigation into such metacognition -- thinking about one's own thinking process -- in persuasion. This work is part of a larger investigation into individual differences in persuasion. Our previous work has demonstrated large individual differences in how people respond to particular influence strategies. This research helps to explain why some of these observed differences exist. We hope to help push psychological research towards better accounting for variation among people. Applications include commerce, political communication, coaching, and behavior-change support.
Race as a Determinate of Just Criminal Punishment
Researcher: Beth Red Bird, PhD Candidate '11, Sociology
The policy discussion of criminal sentencing is rife with controversy. The result of such debate is a cornucopia of sentencing legislation that allows judges varying degrees of freedom. Sentencing scheme types include: simple, determinate sentences (exact number of years in prison), indeterminate or open-ended sentences (e.g., 5 to 15, 20 to life), and options for probation (instead of incarceration) or parole (post-incarceration supervision). Judges are responsible for decisions on whether to incarcerate, how long to incarcerate, and whether to require parole.
Supporters of judicial discretion argue that legislative guidelines require stricter sentences for crimes more likely to be committed by black defendants. The most commonly cited of these is the gross disparity between sentences for similar amounts of crack cocaine (with its significant presence in the black community) and powder cocaine (largely used by whites). Conversely, proponents of sentencing schemes argue that judges sentencing with no legislative structure impose almost universally harsher sentences for non-white defendants. A large number of studies have found that race is significantly correlated to length of sentence1. Given sentence disparities identified by prior research, the question is: how do sentencing schemes affect the fairness of sentences?
This project utilized the experimental method to isolate the causal effect that socioeconomic and demographic factors have on assessments of a just sentence at four levels: (1) decision on length of incarceration within determinate sentencing structures; (2) decision on length of incarceration within indeterminate sentences; (3) decision to increase sentence due to special circumstances, and; (4) decision to decrease sentence due to special circumstances.
Results show that black defendants are more likely than whites to be given longer sentences. In addition, when respondents were asked to evaluate the defendant’s likelihood of reoffense, blacks were considered more likely to reoffend and were correspondingly more likely to receive an increased sentence. However, when respondents were asked to evaluate the defendant’s likelihood of successful reintegration, black defendants were more likely to receive a reduced sentence. Overall, the results indicate that blacks are more likely than whites to be sentenced at the extremes of the judicial sentencing range.