Saturday, September 28, 2013

Attribution in Action....

Attribution in Action*

I want to share two illustrations from the classroom. Both examples are published research studies that were conducted with elementary school children in their classrooms with their teachers. Thus, these examples are not laboratory studies of influence, but rather are real-world events. This makes their outcomes useful and interesting for us. The first study concerns getting kids to clean up the classroom. The second involves improving math performance and self-esteem.
Littering. A constant battle with younger children is to get them to clean up after themselves. Especially in the classroom where there are twenty or thirty kids, neatness really makes a difference. How can you get kids to be neater?

Our first example made kids neater with Attribution Theory. They set the kids up such that the kids performed a desired behavior, then were provoked to think about why they did that behavior. And, of course, the situation was set up so that the children would make an internal attribution ("I did it because I'm that kind of kid"). Here's what happened.

First, the researchers established a baseline for littering. They visited the 5th grade class just before recess and handed out little candies wrapped in plastic. After the kids went to the playground, the researchers counted the number of candy wrappers that were on the floor or in the waste can. And there were many more wrappers on the floor than in the can, of course.

Now, the study. Its simplicity is going to surprise you. Over the next two weeks people visited this classroom. For example, the principal stopped in for a little chat and on her way out she said, "My, this is a neat classroom. You must be very neat students who care about how their room looks."
And one morning the class arrived to find a note on the blackboard from the custodian which said, "This is the neatest class in school. You must be very neat and clean students."

Finally, the teacher would make similar kinds of comments throughout the two week training period ("Neat room, neat kids"). That's all the researchers did.
Then they came back for a second visit again just before recess. And again they handed out little wrapped candies. This time when they counted whether the wrappers went on the floor or in the waste can, they found a lot more wrappers where they belonged: In the garbage. There was a very large change in the littering and cleaning up behavior of the kids.

Let's review this simple study and make sure we understand what happened. First, we use candy wrappers before and after as an objective measure of littering. Second, we have a variety of sources observing the classroom and offering explanations ("neat room, neat kids").
Also realize the things that were not going on. None of the sources modeled the correct behavior, so the kids were not copying a source with observational learning. None of the sources provided consequences of reinforcement, nor were rewards or punishments given for specific acts of behavior. None of the sources provided "arguments" about why kids should be clean and not litter. All the sources did was provide attributions.

(A little side note: The researchers also tried another treatment along with the attribution training. They called it the "Persuasion Treatment." With a different classroom, all the various sources essentially gave the typical adult lectures about cleanliness and neatness. They said all the things good teachers say about littering. It had no effect on the candy wrapper test. Kids, huh? Back to the main point.)
The analysis the researchers made is this. When the kids heard, "neat room, neat kids," they had to think about what had happened. In essence, they had to answer the question, "Explain why the room is neat?" And their answer was simple.

"The room is neat because we don't litter. We're the kind of people who pick up after ourselves."
In other words the children made internal attributions. And if you believe that you are the kind of person who is neat and does not litter, what happens when you have a candy wrapper? That's right, you throw it away in the waste can.

Math Achievement and Self-Esteem. Our second study goes much deeper, I think, in illustrating the impact of attribution. Littering behavior is an obvious thing. It is also a fairly simple behavior that does not depend on a lot of other factors. So, it should be easier to change. But what about something like math achievement or enhancing a child's self-esteem? These things are complex. They are related to other factors (ability, persistence, training with math and family, life experience, peer support with esteem). Can we change a child's math performance or self-esteem with attribution?

Here are the details on the second study. First, the researchers used before and after measures of math achievement and self-esteem with 2nd grade students. Second, the researchers developed simple, little scripts for each student. All the teacher had to do was read the folder provided for each student, then say or write the appropriate statement. Thus, this study was highly automated. Each teacher simply followed the instructions in a preplanned, scripted way. Third, the researchers had three different kinds of treatment. Kids either got the attribution training or they got the "persuasion" training or they got "reinforcement" training. The study lasted eight days.
Here's the attribution training. The teachers would say or write to the student:
  1. "You seem to know your arithmetic assignments very well."
  2. "You really work hard in math."
  3. "You're trying more, keep at it!"
Here's the persuasion training. The teachers would say or write to the student:
  1. "You should be good at math."
  2. "You should be getting better grades in math."
  3. "You should be doing well in math."
Here's the reinforcement training. The teachers would say or write to the student:
  1. "I'm proud of your work."
  2. "I'm pleased with your progress."
  3. "Excellent progress."
Before we look at the results, again let's analyze what is happening here. In the attribution training, the children are given explanations for their behavior. They are told that their math performance is due to internal factors ("You are a good math student, you try hard in math"). Thus, we would assume that these kids will make internal attributions. Now, even if this is true and the children do explain their behavior with internal attributions, will it translate into higher math scores? It is one thing to believe that you are good at something. It is another thing to be good.

First, consider the self-esteem results. After all the training was over, all the kids had higher self-esteem (on a self report scale). But interestingly, children in the attribution groups had the greatest increases in self-esteem.

Next, what about those math scores? That is the really important and interesting part of this second study. The children took two tests after training. One occurred immediately after the eight training days. The second was given two weeks later. Each test was composed of twenty math problems.
Kids with attribution training averaged 17.5 on the first test and 17.8 on the second test. (The baseline for everyone was 15). Kids with persuasion training averaged 15.5 and 15.0. The kids with reinforcement training averaged 16 and 16. Thus, the students with attribution training scored one to two points higher than other groups and maintained that advantage during the two weeks following the training. (The standard deviation was approximately 1.0 so these mean differences are quite large.)

Time for reflection . . . the training here was really quite simple. Each teacher followed a script of written or verbal statements. All the teacher did was provide the statement to each kid. So, the teacher would mosey over during seat work and say to a child, "You really work hard at math." Or the teacher would write on a homework assignment, "You are good at math." That's it. That's all that was done. 

(*Ref: Internet sources)

Sunday, September 22, 2013

How people explain things???

One of the most amazing features of human beings is this: They can explain anything. Maybe it comes from the fact that we are parents and our children keep asking us, "Why?" And as older, superior beings, we just naturally have the proper explanation to our kid's request. ("Why did I drop that sofa on my foot? I did it to show you what a severe bruise looks like, that's why.")

No matter the cause, we have a strong need to understand and explain what is going on in our world. Because people must explain, it opens up some interesting influence possibilities. Think about it for a minute. If you can affect how people understand and explain what is going on, you might be able to influence them, too.

First, let's understand the basic principles of how people explain things. Then we will look at applications. 

Attribution Theory

There is a theory about how people explain things. It is called Attribution Theory. The theory is really quite simple despite its rather strange sounding name. (When you see the term, "attribution," you should think of the term, "explanation," as a synonym.) The theory works like this.

When we offer explanations about why things happened, we can give one of two types. One, we can make an external attribution. Two, we can make internal attribution. An external attribution (get ready for this) assigns causality to an outside agent or force. Or as kids would say, "The devil made me do it." An external attribution claims that some outside thing motivated the event. By contrast, an internal attribution assigns causality to factors within the person. Or as the sinner would say, "I'm guilty, grant me forgiveness." An internal attribution claims that the person was directly responsible for the event.

Here are some common examples. You are taking lot of efforts to achieve your targets however when it comes the target achievement,  You take a peek and see, ahhhhh, below targets. You think about these disappointing results for a minute and realize what a lousy manager you've got and how he is not supporting you and how unfair the target set were and . . . you make a lot of external attributions. What caused the below targets? Events outside of you. External things.

Now, on the next review you take a peek and see, ahhhh, a above targets. Well, what can I say? When you're hot, you're hot. If you've got it, flaunt it. Some people are born great. Where's the causality? Inside of you, right?

You assign causality to factors within the person and make internal attributions.
Okay, this is real simple. When the world asks us, "Why?" we provide either an internal attribution or an external attribution. Pretty obvious, but what has this got to do influence?
Consider this chain of events.
  1. The world asks me, "Why?"
  2. I provide an attribution.
  3. My future behavior depends on the type of attribution.
Now, if we can control the attributions people make, then we can influence their future behavior, right?

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Advertisements and gender

In my childhood, when we would watch TV, we usually were equally interested in commercials broadcasted on Door Darshan. It was the only channel that time. Commercials were not much professionalized and were at early stage.  Today the world has been changed. Consumerism is pampered, branding is important and advertisements are required to sell your product. Life style has been changed, disposable income is at hand. There are lots of avenues available to spend the money. Most of the time, you don’t need cash in your bank account.

This all has been major impact on our life. Companies muscle consumer ego while selling their products.

Our personalities are used to sell the product. There is a struggle between our “ego” which wants “pleasure” and our “superego” which asks us the “reason”. However pleasure has been dominant on your super ego (reason). In fact, advertising and marketing strategy is to create this struggle. Products symbolically satisfy consumers pleasure needs, substitute the product for the real thing.

However the question is why pleasure is co-related to sex by these companies? Every commercial in TV, Print etc has fundamental message that “if you own the particular product, you will get the pleasure” (which is acceptable), but then they go further and propagate, “if you own the particular product, you will get your dream woman where sexuality is explicitly broadcasted.

India is more sensitive and such issues, after the Nirbhaya case and sensitization towards gender equality; it is the question why such ads are broadcasted.  

Why does advertising use sex as an appeal to the consumer? Because it works. Sex is the second strongest of the psychological appeals, right behind self-preservation. Sexual desire’s strength is biological and instinctive. For many products it is possible to find (or invent) a sexual connection. The effectiveness of sex in advertising is gender linked. Men have minimal criteria for sexual desire. Basically, they are concerned with a woman's anatomy -- as long as a woman looks young enough and healthy, she is desirable.

In advertising it is easy to get a man's attention by using women's bodies and associate getting the woman if he buys the product. In general, female models are placed in sexually exploitative and compromising positions, sexually submissive postures, and with sexually connotative facial expressions. Media definitions of sexual attractiveness promote either extreme thinness or a thin waist with large hips and breasts. The sexual connection is much easier to set up for men than for women.  

At the other side, the use of sex in advertising to women is more difficult. Although the use of healthy, fit men may attract their attention and create desire, willingness to engage in intercourse is rarely aroused strictly because of a man's body. For a woman, sexual desire is a complex mixture of such factors as money, power, prestige, etc. To sell to a woman, advertising relies on that modern idea about how men and women relate -- romance. Although an ad may use a man's body as an attention getting device, he is usually shown in a romantic rather than sexual context.  

They assume unconscious motives influence consumer behavior. So called market research tries to identify these underlying unconscious forces (e.g., cultural factors, sociological forces).
Marketers should therefore better understand the target audience and how to influence that audience by engaging other strategies. After all women should not be viewed as an object and should be equally respected.

Sunday, September 08, 2013

What Makes a Good Workplace? Part-7

Item 11: "In the last six months, someone at work has talked to me about my progress."

We have all had the infamous annual or semi-annual job performance review with our manager. The first two minutes of the review are usually focused on what the manager likes about us and our work, and the remaining 58 minutes are spent on our "areas of opportunity" (the things we are weak at and should improve upon). We usually walk out of this meeting feeling deflated and, while we have a clearer understanding of what we don't do well, we have little understanding of what we do well.

The best managers recognize that this time to discuss the progress and growth of employees is an opportunity to help them understand themselves better and to give them a clear perspective on how their contributions are really making a difference to the organization. This is why the value of quality, individualised feedback is one of the 12 key discoveries.

One of the paradoxes of hiring and retaining talented employees is that they tend to lack an intuitive understanding of how their talents manifest themselves in specific behaviors. They need objective feedback as to how they can focus these talents to become more productive -- feedback managers can provide. Such managers understand that, because talents are innate and natural, it is impossible to not use one's talents. So, instead of trying to change individual employees through centering on their weaknesses, great managers feel compelled to help them gain self-understanding and knowledge about the talents they possess and how they are applied every day at work.

Talent never becomes "talented" until an employee has a role that uses that talent. Great managers are always holding up a mirror to employees and encouraging them to "look in the mirror"-- to know themselves well and to know the roles in which they will most likely succeed. The world's greatest managers can answer some basic questions about every one of their employees. Some of these are:

·         what do employees enjoy the most about their current and previous work experiences
·         what attracted them to come to work for the organization
·         what keeps them there
·         what are employees' strengths, talents, skills and knowledge
·         what are their goals for their current roles
·         how often would they like to meet to discuss their progress
·         are they the kind of people who will tell me how they're feeling or will I have to ask
·         what are their personal goals or commitments
·         what is the best praise and recognition they have ever received
·         what have been the most productive relationships they have had with a mentor or manager and what made them so special Talent only responds in relationship to another human being.

Thus, feedback must be specific to the individual, and must be given in the context of a positive employee-manager relationship. The last words of Item #11 -- "my progress" -- are a significant part of this Item. Employees must walk away from any discussion of their growth with a clearer understanding of who they are, instead of who they are not.

Item 12: "This last year, I have had opportunities at work to learn and grow."
The need to learn and grow is a very natural instinct for human beings. Finding more efficient ways to do our jobs is one way we learn and grow. Where there is learning, there is innovation and a breeding ground for a more positive and refreshing perspective toward our perceptions of self and others.

In today's work environment, productivity does not come from working harder; it comes from working "smarter." This is why work environments that reinforce and promote learning are attractive to employees.

We have all worked with people who have stopped learning and growing. They suddenly have all the answers, and become unable or unwilling to see alternative solutions. Their attitude infects both the workplace culture as a whole and their coworkers, individually. It limits the very growth and innovation that creates competitive advantages for today's companies. Why do people become unwilling to learn and grow? Because learning and growing involve risk--the risk of challenging the status quo. Change brings about unfamiliarity, and with unfamiliarity comes insecurity.

Great managers recognise that they face a challenge every day: How do you create a culture that is open to new ideas and allows employees the opportunity to explore possible implications of those ideas without fear of rejection or retribution? Great managers know that, initially, good ideas are not always perfectly thought-out, executable strategies. Good ideas are often abstract, and need discussion so they can be defined and sculpted toward the best possible outcomes. This process takes time and energy; time and energy are limited resources. Nevertheless, the investment of time and energy is imperative to making good ideas useful. For employees, the creation of a culture receptive to new ideas also involves significant belief and trust in their managers and teams.

A company's future is dependent upon the learning and growth of its individual employees who are close to the action. Great managers, employees and teams are never quite satisfied with current ways of doing things. They always feel a slight tension about finding better, more efficient ways to work. 


Sunday, September 01, 2013

What Makes a Good Workplace? Part-6

Item 9: "My associates (fellow employees) are committed to doing quality work."

Highly productive employees tell us there is a vast difference between being named to a team and actually identifying with that team. We have all experienced being assigned to a team or a workgroup--our manager assigns us, and our name is added to the team roster. Just because our names are added, however, doesn't mean that we psychologically join the team, especially if we are afraid the other team members don't share our commitment to producing quality work. Helping all members identify the team characteristics that will result in a quality product can lead to insights into greater efficiency and increased productivity. Trusting that one's co-workers share a commitment to quality is a key to great team performance.

When employees are asked, "Are you committed to quality?" they all answer in the affirmative. This reflects employees' natural, human tendency to think highly of the work they produce. Since they all give the same answer to this question, however, the question does not differentiate the most productive workgroups from those that are less productive. Instead, employees' answers to the question, "My associates are committed to doing quality work," are much more revealing. Employees want their co-workers to share their commitment to quality, and want to be part of an organisation that challenges and enables them to excel.

Often, the definition of quality sets the tone of a workplace culture. If quality is defined as the absence of defects or mistakes, we send a strong message to employees that encourages them to cover up mistakes or problems quickly, with little attention or exposure. In the best workplaces, managers realize that human beings will make mistakes, and can learn from correcting them. In these workplaces, quality is defined as the process employees use to recognize a problem and work toward its solution. In healthy workplaces, employees understand that a customer's loyalty can actually increase if the employees take a positive approach toward solving a quality problem. The best managers and workgroups do not scapegoat; rather, they see quality issues as a challenge to improve their product or service and, thus, to increase customer loyalty.

A problem can also bring out a greater sense of teamwork in a workplace. Employees who are committed to doing quality work look at a problem as a challenge to improve their team cohesiveness. They use the power of the team not only to overcome the crisis, but to correct the process to avoid future problems, and move on to greater productivity and quality. Interestingly, some of the most productive teamwork is observed during these times of crisis. The excellence and the spirit of teamwork that emerge from dealing effectively with problem situations are the stuff of great workplaces.

Item 10: "I have a best friend at work."

Human beings are social animals, and work is a social institution. Often, it is a place where long-term relationships are formed, from networking relationships, to friendships, to marriages. In fact, if you did not meet your spouse in college, chances are you met him or her at work. The evolution of quality relationships between people is a very normal process, and is an important part of a healthy workplace. In the best workplaces, employers recognize that employees want to forge quality relationships with their coworkers, and that company loyalty can be built from such relationships.

This item -- "I have a best friend at work" -- is clearly one of the most controversial of the 12 traits of highly productive work groups. In answering this item, many employees do not stumble over the word "friend" since they have many friends at work. Instead, they may get stuck on the word "best" because they feel the term implies exclusivity, and they have trouble identifying one "best friend" among their friendships with their coworkers.

Gallup discovered the power of this item in identifying talented work groups -- that the strongest agreement with this item occurred in the most productive work groups. Because some employees had difficulty with the item, Gallup went back to those groups and softened the word "best" to "close" or "good," or excluded the word "best" entirely. When this was done, however, the item lost its power to differentiate highly productive work groups from mediocre work groups. This suggested that the item's use of the word "best" actually pinpoints a dynamic of great work groups.

Gallup has also observed that employees who report having a best friend at work were:

·         43% more likely to report having received praise or recognition for their work in the last seven days
·         37% more likely to report that someone at work encourages their development
·         35% more likely to report coworker commitment to quality
·         28% more likely to report that, in the last six months, someone at work has talked to them about their progress
·         27% more likely to report that the mission of their company makes them feel their job is important
·         27% more likely to report that their opinions seem to count at work
·         21% more likely to report they have the opportunity to do what they do best every day

While companies often pay significant attention to the loyalty employee’s feel toward the organization, the best employers recognize that loyalty also exists among employees toward one another. All employees have "leaving moments" when they examine whether to leave or stay at an organization. The best managers in the world observe that the quality and depth of the relationships that employees have with others on the job will be a critical component that affects their decision to stay or to leave.

This item also cuts to the issue of trust between coworkers. When strong loyalty is felt in an employee work group, employees believe that their coworkers will help them during times of stress and challenge. In this day of rapid-fire change, reorganization, mergers and acquisitions, having best friends at work may be the true key to effective change integration and adaptation. While employees who have best friends at work do not report lower levels of stress on the job compared to those who do not have best friends, they do identify significantly higher levels of healthy stress management. 


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