Archive for the ‘Self Presentation’ Category
Parties in negotiation are often eager to gain an edge in the maneuvering. Plans sometimes are made to walk away in anger as a strategy to elicit cooperation from the other side. But is that a good idea? Researchers say faking anger is not a wise move, but expressing actually felt anger may help you in negotiations.
Why? Because if your emotion is seen as inauthentic it generates distrust. The researchers describe faking anger as “surface acting”. Surface acting is what you do when you express a feeling externally that is not the same as what you feel on the inside. According to the cited prior research, how your face looks when you “pretend” anger, is quite different from how it looks when you actually feel anger. And the other person knows and may interpret your display as “inauthentic, calculated, dishonest, and opportunistic”. On the other hand, authentic anger can make the opposition see you as “tough and unlikely to compromise” and thus, paradoxically, makes them engage. (To help the actors used in this research display “authentic anger”, they were told to remember an incident that had truly made them angry and then record the experimental script.)
The researchers looked at the impact of “surface acted anger” versus actual anger (communicated by actors using a “deep acting” strategy!) in a negotiation process. Participants were 140 university students (66 men and 74 women) between the ages of 18 and 28. They were randomly assigned to view a videotaped recording of a male negotiating a car sale with them. The person making the offer for the car described what they wanted and then, what they had concerns about with the vehicle.
There were three forms of the videotaped car purchase offer: either a faked angry presentation, a neutral presentation, or an angry presentation. They were to view the recording, decide whether to accept or reject the offer–and if they rejected the offer, to make a counter-offer. The researchers set the initial financial offer for the car at the low end of the car’s value so that a large proportion of the students would counter-offer.
And here is what the researchers found:
When you fake anger in a negotiation process, the other side is likely to “place particularly high demands on you, be relatively dissatisfied, and have little interest in working with you again” because of distrust.
The highest counter-offers were made to negotiators who faked anger, then negotiators who maintained a more neutral (aka “composed”) facade. The lowest counter-offers were made to those exhibiting a “deep acting” anger.
According to the research participants, there was no difference in what they saw as the intensity of the anger between those negotiators showing fake anger and those showing more authentic anger–they saw them as equally intense. However, they distrusted the fake angry negotiator and placed higher demands and saw the more authentically angry negotiator as tough and placed lower demands.
The researchers conclude that fake anger results in the least favorable demands from negotiation partners. Conversely, more attractive demands are made when you maintain more neutrality and the most attractive are made when you exhibit genuine anger. However–and this is the dilemma in social sciences research–these actors were not exhibiting genuine anger. They were acting and using past experiences of anger to guide their emotional expression. Even good actors display “anger” differently than you or I are likely to.
So we aren’t sure what this means for you in mediation/negotiation. Clearly, we don’t recommend you fake anger. Probably, the best bet is for you to maintain composure and emotional neutrality and take the medium counter-offer rather than the high or the low. Or if all else fails, try being genuine, whatever that might mean. If you want to settle, that is.
Côté, S., Hideg, I., & van Kleef, G. (2013). The consequences of faking anger in negotiations Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 49 (3), 453-463 DOI: 10.1016/j.jesp.2012.12.015
Flies are annoying, dirty and often disgusting creatures. They ruin picnic foods, they buzz around our quiet bedrooms as we try to sleep, and sometimes they have the nerve to land on our bodies. That is the actual fly. In this post, we are discussing the metaphorical fly.
When you find yourself caught up in the heat of the moment of a confrontation, or after someone provokes you–it is not at all uncommon to ruminate about what happened. That rumination can lead to intensifying angry, aggressive and hostile thoughts. Wouldn’t you like to disrupt that negative cycle and have fewer negative/angry thoughts? Here’s a way we can all learn from the fly crawling around on your wall.
The challenge is learning how to distance from the “heat of the moment” and disrupt the anger and reactivity. And that’s most definitely a challenge. Researchers looking at this coping skill knew they had to provoke their participants and so they relied on a “well-established procedure for provoking individuals”. Basically it went like this:
Participants were asked to listen to an “intense” piece of classical music while trying to solve 14 different and difficult anagrams. They had 7 seconds to solve each anagram, record their answer and communicate the answer to the experimenter via an intercom. The correct answer would appear on their computer screen after they communicated via the intercom. They then had to read the word aloud and use it in a sentence. After the 4th anagram, the experimenter told the participant to speak more loudly. After the 8th anagram, the experimenter asked them to speak more loudly in an impatient tone. After the 12th anagram the experimenter said in an “extremely frustrated” voice, “Look, this is the third time I’ve had to say this! Can’t you follow directions? Speak louder!”
Participants got provoked. Go figure. Then they were asked to do a second task in which they were told to “think back on” the anagram task. Some of them were told to “see the scene in your mind’s eye” (that is, to relive the experience) and others were told to “watch the scene from a distance” (that is, from the perspective of a fly on the wall). And sure enough, those asked to distance from the recollection of the provocation/anagram task were less angry and had fewer negative feelings in general.
The researchers say this means we can distance in the moment and that by distancing, we suffer fewer negative thoughts and feelings. In short, we can reduce how long angry reactions have impact on our mood.
It’s a technique I encouraged people to try back when I was a therapist. As they would describe the infuriating way they had been treated, I would ask them to float above the memory so they were viewing the scene from above. They then related the story to me as if they were an observer rather than an actor in the drama. This strategy almost always gave them insights into their own reactions and into the motivations of the provoker. We then would plan how they would prepare for the next provocation from that person and how they wished to respond “in the moment”.
The applications of this research are myriad. Learning self-distancing is an important skill for office conflicts, personal relationships, courtroom irritations and disappointments, client management, and how you find yourself reacting to that barista taking way too long to make your coffee. As you feel the bile rising, take a moment to float above and view the situation from a fly on the wall’s perspective. Give yourself some distance. Your blood pressure will thank you.
Mischkowski, D., Kross, E., & Bushman, B. (2012). Flies on the wall are less aggressive: Self-distancing “in the heat of the moment” reduces aggressive thoughts, angry feelings and aggressive behavior Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 48 (5), 1187-1191 DOI: 10.1016/j.jesp.2012.03.012
We’ve written before about salary negotiations and the discrepancy in pay for men and women. One of the issues consistently identified in the research is that men ask for more money and women often don’t. So researchers wondered (they are always so very curious) if women could begin to narrow the gender gap in salary by simply asking for more money. Pretty straightforward, right?
As it happens, women can increase their salaries by asking but they have to be much more careful than men about just how they go about asking for more money. So consider this post to be a CLE on salary negotiation when you are female.
Here’s the short version of the prior research:
Men can ask for more money directly. No one sees this as worthy of punishment or “social backlash” as the researchers call it. But when women ask directly for a higher salary they are seen as “less nice and more demanding” than women who did not negotiate, and the interviewer was “disinclined” to work with those women asking for higher salaries. Women are sensitive to this consequence for negotiating and so are less likely than men to negotiate for a higher salary.
Quite a ‘Catch-22’. The current researchers wanted to see if there were ways for women to request a higher salary that did not result in a “social backlash”. They were able to find a strategy but it requires you to negotiate very differently than you would if you were a man. While more effective, it would reasonably feel annoying to women to have to tip-toe through the process while men can breeze through the negotiations with far less concern. Regardless, it is a strategy that works. Here’s what they found:
Men are able to negotiate directly because it is expected they will negotiate directly. They are not penalized for doing what we expect them to do in an interview setting. Women, however, have to pay attention to the social outcomes (“I care about my relationships with others in this organization”) and the negotiation outcomes (“I would like more money”). If a woman just attends to the “social outcomes”, she doesn’t ruffle feathers, but the price of being “nicer” is that she gets a lower salary. If a woman just attends to the “negotiation outcomes”, she is viewed negatively and she faces an uphill battle to be liked, and is at risk of being ostracized to some degree.
So, the researchers recommend a strategy for women that includes both social and negotiation outcomes. In their study, the employee (represented on the video as either a male or a female) had been promoted to a higher level managerial position and was negotiating a higher salary. The research subjects saw the male and female interviewees use one of three scripts. Subjects (224 college educated Americans with work experience, ages 21 years to 75 years with a median age of 38, 91 women and 86 men) viewed the videos and then reacted to the interviewee’s requests and filled out questionnaires as to their sense of the individual interviewee.
Simple negotiation script: “I do have some questions with regard to the salary and benefits package. It wasn’t clear to me whether this salary offer represents the top of the pay range. I understand that there’s a range in terms of how much managers are paid in their first placement. I think I should be paid at the top of that range. And I would also like to be eligible for an end-of-year bonus. [This is the version akin to what most men use to negotiate a higher salary.]
Supervisor excuse script: “My team leader during the training program told me that I should talk with you about my compensation. It was not clear to us whether this salary offer represents the top of the pay range. My team leader told me there is a range in terms of how much managers are paid in their first placement. He thought I should ask to be paid at the top of that range and to explain that I would also like to be eligible for an end-of-year bonus.” [This is basically explained by the researchers as a “blame the male supervisor, don’t blame me” script.]
Skills-contribution script: ‘I don’t know how typical it is for people at my level to negotiate, but I’m hopeful you’ll see my skill at negotiating as something important that I bring to the job.’’ [This is explained by the researchers as a “see me as a positive contributor, not a selfish demander’’ script.]
When women used either the supervisor excuse script or the skills-contribution script, they improved both the social outcomes (i.e., willingness of the interviewer to work with the woman) and negotiation outcomes (i.e., giving her a higher salary). You might have already intuited–men using the supervisor excuse or skills-contribution scripts were not penalized for using the scripts but their outcomes were no better than if they simply asked for the money directly (using the simple negotiation script). No gain, but no penalty regardless of which one they chose.
Women’s requests for salary treatment are viewed through a very different lens than that applied to men. The researchers believe that these scripts improved women’s outcomes since they made them seem more relational (which we expect from women) and the requests for a higher salary were seen as more legitimate (thus they were granted). In short, you legitimize your request for higher salary while reassuring the interviewer that you are concerned for organizational relationships.
This study is well written (the researchers are very articulate and write in plain English). Here is part of their conclusion:
“We do not see our research as providing specific scripts that women should use but rather the outlines of one possible strategy. We recognize that some people will bristle at the practical implications of this research. For some women, the idea of crafting a relational account may feel inauthentic or even offensive: why should they conform to an unjust standard? Others may perceive relational accounts as a reinforcement of gender stereotypes… We share these concerns. If we could choose the results of our experiments, we would prefer to uncover a more liberated context for gender in negotiation.
…The motivation for this research was to offer strategies that women could use to change their personal circumstances and to send the message that, while gender constraints are real, they are not inescapable. Moreover, when women rectify gender inequalities, they do so not for themselves alone.
…Research suggests that when women break glass ceilings, they do so for others as well as for themselves. For instance, when more women gain high-status managerial positions, the gender pay gap reduces for lower level workers (Cohen & Huffman, 2007). We hope that some women will put the insights from our research into practice because every woman who reduces the gender gap in pay and authority reforms the social structures that keep women in their place.”
In essence, no, it isn’t fair. But it is a way to get a higher salary more comparable to men in similar positions. And if women do this one by one by one–it adds up to more gender equity. These researchers say the ends justify the means. We tend to agree with them.
Bowles, H., & Babcock, L. (2012). How Can Women Escape the Compensation Negotiation Dilemma? Relational Accounts Are One Answer Psychology of Women Quarterly DOI: 10.1177/0361684312455524
It’s broadly accepted that people are very poor at distinguishing between good liars and actual truth tellers. But researchers keep trying to figure out how we can do better. And for this, we are grateful.
The latest entry in this research looks at the effect of increasing cognitive load and truth telling. Cognitive loading while talking in this case involves having someone do a task that involves thought while at the same time asking them to tell you about a series of events. The task increases their cognitive load and thus results in liars slowing down (because constructing a lie is also a demand on cognition) while truth tellers do not slow as much since they are not using energy to both lie and complete the task. It’s a common research strategy and one we have written about before.
This time though the setup for the experiment is intriguing. Participants in the research were divided into groups who would receive instructions to lie and instructions to tell the truth. (This division was done randomly and not through some strong intuition or advanced perceptive power on the part of the researchers.) Those assigned to be ‘truth tellers’ sat in a room and completed five separate tasks. Those assigned to be liars observed the truth tellers through an observation window and were then asked to craft a story (aka a lie) about how they themselves completed the same tasks. Then all of the subjects from both groups completed an interview on their experience doing those tasks. The liars were given a directive to be as convincing as possible during the interview portion of the task. They were to attempt to convince the interviewer they had actually completed the task rather than merely observing it.
During the interview, participants were asked to sort objects by touch alone and only while they were responding to the interviewers questions. While the interviewer was speaking, the participant was to sit quietly, listen, and not sort. They were told there was a bucket with wooden objects in it which were either shaped like hearts, round balls or other things (i.e., blocks, cylinders and pie-shaped wedges). There were also three trays on a table. They were to place hearts on one tray, round balls on another, and any other object that was not either a heart or a ball on a third tray. Once the interview began, a curtain blocked their view of the bucket with the objects and the trays themselves–thus insuring they were unable to see what they were doing and the sorting was done by touch alone.
The sorting task was designed to increase cognitive load. That is, to preoccupy the research participant and thus result in a slower response time to interviewer questions. The researchers believed that those assigned to the lying condition would take longer to respond. Part of the interview process was also designed to increase cognitive load by asking the research participants to describe what they had done in the task room and then to describe what they had done in reverse chronological order, and then to identify the location of the objects they worked with during the tasks in relation to two other objects int the room, and then to describe the objects in the room as though they were sitting in a chair at the table in the center of the room. (I don’t know about you, but that set of questions makes my head hurt even without the sorting task they are being asked to do at the same time.)
The researchers comment that liars tend to prepare for their lies and they would likely expect to be asked to recount what they had done. However, it would be unexpected to be asked to tell the story backwards and likely they would also not anticipate the need to respond to where objects in the room were as compared to two other objects in the room. The researchers were asking both expected and unexpected questions to see if it would throw the liars off their game. So. Did they find that liars took longer to respond?
Of course they did. Although truth tellers took a while to respond as well since they were rearranging what they had done in their heads while verbalizing it to the interviewer, considering where objects were in the room in relation to each other and sorting invisible shapes into three groups all at the same time. It would take anyone a while to respond in that sort of cognitively demanding environment. But liars took even longer. And, naturally, it wasn’t just how long it took the participants to speak or the details present in what they said when they did speak that the researchers were measuring! It was also how accurately and how quickly they were able to sort the unseen objects behind the curtain as they listened to the interviewer and responded verbally.
The researchers found that when liars had anticipated the questions they would be asked, there was no difference in the level of detail in the responses from truth tellers and liars. In the case of the unanticipated question, however, liars were not as detail-oriented in their responses as were the truth tellers. Additionally, liars completed fewer accurate sorts (in the secondary task of sorting unseen objects into three separate trays) than did truth tellers. Liars appeared more focused on responding to the interviewer questions persuasively than on sorting the disparate yet unseen objects into like groups.
The researchers say their results are preliminary but they offer a suggestion for interviewers attempting to sort liars from truth tellers.
Pair expected questions with follow-up questions that are unexpected.
For example, you would ask the interviewee to “tell me everything that you can remember about the event”. This question would be expected to elicit the same level of detail from truth tellers and liars. Second, you ask an unexpected question which will be much more difficult for the liar to answer. The unexpected question could be asking for the story in reverse chronological order.
If there is a large decline in detail in the answer–you could see that as indicative of deception.
If there is not a large decline in detail, you could see that as indicative of a truthful initial response.
Obviously, this is a pretty complex study and it couldn’t be used in any sort of sworn testimony. In fact, as a strategy it isn’t sensible for internal investigations in a company or in any normal setting we can imagine (you have to run comparable subjects and compare their pattern of reactions to the suspect group, and that doesn’t really work out on the job.) What the researchers end up saying is they believe they have discovered a strategy to begin to more accurately sort liars and truth tellers, which is true if everyone works in a productivity lab. For now, perhaps it is best for you to know two things:
Researchers will continue their efforts to identify useful ways to differentiate between truth tellers and liars.
We will continue to read and blog about their efforts.
If they find a way to distinguish liars and truth tellers that you can use in court–you will read about it here! In great detail. And that’s the truth.
Lancaster, G., Vrij, A., Hope, L., & Waller, B. (2013). Sorting the Liars from the Truth Tellers: The Benefits of Asking Unanticipated Questions on Lie Detection. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 27 (1), 107-114 DOI: 10.1002/acp.2879
We’ve written often here about detecting deception. But how about teaching you how to lie effectively? In almost 600 blog posts, it’s a topic we missed. So it’s time we told you the secret to being a terrific liar.
Many of us know someone who is a really good liar. The lies just roll off their tongues effortlessly. it takes an effort to remember not to believe them. They bring truth to the old adage: “if their lips are moving, they’re probably lying”. With any luck at all, you don’t know many people like this, and you don’t have to spend much time near them. It is toxic to happiness.
But given exposure, it becomes easier to spot the constant stream of lies. We all hate to be tricked and we are so intent on identifying deception in others that even Forbes.com posts a list of ten ways to spot deception. Most of us are really ineffective liars. But some of us are exceptionally skilled at lying–to everyone.
So how do some people really excel at being a liar? Just remember another old adage: “s/he who hesitates is lost”. Liars really are “fast talkers”. New research shows lying can be a learned skill and we are about to teach you how to lie effectively. We know you will not use this power for evil. We first saw this research over at BPS Research Digest thanks to Christian Jarrett. In his post, he debunks many of the commonly accepted paths to detecting deception (such as shifty eyes, fidgeting, eye movements, et cetera) that we have covered at this blog over the years.
In this study, conducted in China, the participants had been given dates, places and other information and were then asked during the experiment if the places, dates, et cetera were relevant to them. Some were told to lie and some were not. That is, to say ‘yes’, the information was relevant to them so the response time to the spoken lie could be measured. What the researchers found, consistent with past research, is that those participants instructed to lie took longer to respond. The theory is that lying results in greater cognitive demand (you have to compose the lie) and so liars take longer to respond.
Next, the researchers educated 2/3 of the participants about the research on response speed when lying. One group was simply told about the research and told to respond faster and the other group was both told about the response speed research and given 360 opportunities to practice their speed. (That’s a lot of practice!) The control group of participants was given none of this information so researchers could assess the impact of no information versus information only versus information plus training/practice.
This time the researchers found that those who were informed but not given practice improved their reaction time when compared to the control group. But those who practiced (360 times!) improved their reaction time significantly over those who were simply informed about the research literature. Practice in responding quickly when you are about to lie really does make you better at lying! The researchers say that their work suggests “performance associated with deception is malleable and could be voluntarily controlled with intention or training”.
The more you practice lying and lying quickly–the better and more believable you become even to the skilled observer. The litigation advocacy takeaway from this research is to make sure you don’t rely on reaction time to know if someone is telling the truth or lying. Much as we would all like a sure formula for detecting deception–what this research tells us is that everyone can become a better liar. All it takes is lots of practice. That also means that all of us can be fooled.
We live in Austin, Texas, home of Lance Armstrong. Recently, we’ve had to return to yet another old adage that seems all too appropriate here: “if it seems too good to be true, it probably is”.
Hu, X., Chen, H., & Fu, G. (2012). A Repeated Lie Becomes a Truth? The Effect of Intentional Control and Training on Deception Frontiers in Psychology, 3 DOI: 10.3389/fpsyg.2012.00488