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www.giselajonsson.seGisela JönssonExam paper for Theories in social psychology, HT 2011Stockholm University THE IMPLICATIO...
www.giselajonsson.seNow, the science of recruiting and selection            important aspects of the job. If extraversion ...
www.giselajonsson.seincreases a candidate’s chance to be short-           important when the female applicant hadlisted (B...
www.giselajonsson.semore frequent and there the whole point is to         an observer’s attribution of someonesnot be anon...
www.giselajonsson.seharmful to the employer. That those methods             to display that can not easily be attributed t...
www.giselajonsson.seWhen instructed to fake positive or negativejob attitudes, students were not able to do so          Bo...
www.giselajonsson.seUhlmann & Cohen, 2007). This was                       When it comes to decision making moreparticular...
www.giselajonsson.seseem to be in favor of a more, not less,               But I think that one thing that we can learnana...                                           ReferencesBing, M. N., LeBreton, J. M., Davidson, H. K., Mi...
www.giselajonsson.seHuffcutt, A. I. & Arthur, W. (1994). Hunter and Hunter (1984) revisited: Interview validity forentry-l...
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The implications of implicit social cognition on employee selection a review


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The implications of implicit social cognition on employee selection a review

  1. 1. www.giselajonsson.seGisela JönssonExam paper for Theories in social psychology, HT 2011Stockholm University THE IMPLICATIONS OF IMPLICIT SOCIALCOGNITION FOR EMPLOYEE SELECTION: A REVIEWBackground In Sweden, a typical recruiting process starts maybe with a notice for the job posted on aEmployee selection is an area of job board or corporate homepage, or just byorganizational activity that, like much of asking around for someone suitable, oftenorganizational research, is often said to have a without even drafting a thorough profile forbig gap between what science knows and the job. Second comes the first selection,practitioners do (Nowicki & Rosse, 2002). It based on CV:s and letters, an instrument ofhas even been described as the “greatest which the validity is not as thoroughlyfailure of I-O psychology” that we have not researched as for example the interviewbeen able to convince employers to use the (Bright & Hutton, 2000).decision aids, such as tests & structuredinterviews, that research has shown reduce After this there is typically interviews of theerror in prediction of employee performance unstructured, low validity kind (Huffcutt &(Highhouse, 2008). Arthur, 1994), and there may be a decision, based mainly on gut feeling.11This description I admit is based mainly on my personal experience working as a recruiting assistant, oncoursework in employee selection from the master’s program in Personnel, Work and Organization that I amcurrently undertaking, as well as discussions with many friends working in recruiting after having finished ourdegree’s from the candidate program in Personnel, Work and Organization and yet other friends having applied tovarious jobs, mostly as entry level professionals or just above. 1
  2. 2. www.giselajonsson.seNow, the science of recruiting and selection important aspects of the job. If extraversion isgives a different idea of how recruiting should evaluated through informal interview andbe done in order to achieve the best prediction general mental ability (GMA) through a pen-of future performance. Much of it centers and-paper test, they will consider extraversionaround three different types of testing: tests of more important. But, when presented with thegeneral mental ability, of personality, and opposite situation, so that GMA was assessedintegrity tests to try and protect against with unstructured interview and extraversioncounter-productive work behaviors (Nowicki with a test, GMA was considered the more& Rosse, 2002). Also, theoretically, it is better important competency (Highhouse, 2008).to use the most valid instruments early in theprocess, such as these tests, to make sure that As much employee selection research focusesa bigger share of those candidates left are of on tests, it seems to draw mostly fromthe “good enough” kind (so that it matters psychometrics, and personality psychologyless if you use methods with low validity after for the relevance of the personality tests.that). It is also quite clear from the literaturethat structured interviews have superior In this paper I will focus instead on howvalidity compared to more informal lessons from social psychology, moreinterviews, and that with a properly structured specifically implicit social cognition, caninterview you can reach the validity of mental inform the science of recruiting & selection,ability tests (Huffcutt & Arthur, 1994). and discuss implications both for recruiters and candidates. Implicit social cognition is ofProponents of evidence based recruiting are course highly relevant for intuitive decisionalso more fond of tests generally than making about other people, which is whatSwedish managers seem to be, especially tests happens when using unstructured interviews.of general mental ability which is generallytouted as having the highest predictive power The research question is thus: how(see for example Hunter & Hunter, 1984). can implicit social cognition informAmong American managers, 28 % of employee selection practices andcompanies responding to a survey by the recommendations?American Management Association reportedusing some kind of cognitive ability test, and Implicit social cognition & the application19 % used some kind of personalitymeasurement (Huffcut & Arthur, 1994). The job application, of which the focus willSwedish numbers have been more difficult to generally be the résumé, is usually the firstcome by. A survey by Swedish test company point of contact between applicant and theCut-e report 70 % of 424 companies do use organization. The goal of the applicant is tosome kind of test in some of their selections, make a good enough impression, be short-but of these only 19 % use tests even when listed and called back for the next step in theselecting regular workers (Jakobsson, 2011). selection process, often the interview(s).One study found that managers’ preferences Not surprisingly, having an educationalfor the unstructured interview is so strong that background and job experience that isit will warp even what they consider perceived as relevant to the job at hand 2
  3. 3. www.giselajonsson.seincreases a candidate’s chance to be short- important when the female applicant hadlisted (Bright & Hutton, 2000). Including them. Interestingly, the applicants were notpositive competency statements about stereotyped; women and men were seen asyourself (such as “I am a good equally “educated” or “streetwise” forcommunicator”) has also been shown to example. What changed was criteria for beingimprove chances, though the mechanism is competent, so that it was tailored to thenot entirely clear. Including competency gender that was “supposed” to fill the role.statements was correlated with higher ratings This shows that what it means to beon form factors such as layout & design of the competent for a job is not necessarilyrésumé as well, suggesting they contribute to something objective.a kind of overall positive impression of therésumé (ibid). Simply claiming some positive In the described cases, being a competentthings about yourself, even without backing police chief means being a man first, andthem up with some kind of proof, seems to whatever that man is perceived to be second.increase your chances of going further in the Interestingly, Uhlmann & Cohen also mentionselection process. that perceiving one’s judgment as bias free predicted greater gender bias. It is as if theCandidates with female or foreign names are participants’ brains have already laid downat a disadvantage at this point of the process, the rules, implicitly, and their consciouswhich has been shown many times with both selves then deem it perfectly rational to pickexperimental and field studies (Marlowe, the man as most competent as he clearly fillsSchneider & Nelson, 1996; Bursell, 2007). As the criteria better -- criteria that werefor exposing implicit bias, I find a series of determined in an instant by their sexist brainsstudies by Uhlmann & Cohen (2005) to be without them being aware of it. I suppose itespecially enlightening. In one study they makes sense in the way that the more implicitshow that when judging applicants for a and automatic a bias is, the less aware atraditionally male job (police chief), person will be of having any bias and theparticipants judge the importance of different more convinced that they are being objective.criteria for the job differently, depending onwhether the male/female applicant fulfills Luckily, Uhlmann & Cohen (2005) also foundthem or not. That is: if the male applicant is a cure for this particular discrimination. Bydescribed as educated (rather than streetwise), making managers commit to the criteria forthen education is judged as being important. the job before knowing the gender of theIf the man is not educated, then education is applicant, the effect disappeared. For non-judged as less important. commited managers, the same effect as previously described was replicated.Even traditionally feminine traits, such asbeing family oriented, were deemed more The detrimental effect of having the wrongimportant when possessed by the male name mentioned above might be helped byapplicant. The reverse effect was seen when anonymizing applications, but in reality Itested for a more feminine but similar status think this is not going to be a very commonjob, as women’s studies professor. There practice. For example, hiring through socialdifferent traits were deemed as more media channels will probably only become 3
  4. 4. www.giselajonsson.semore frequent and there the whole point is to an observer’s attribution of someonesnot be anonymous but rather “be a brand”. If I behavior is disturbed when the observer iswant employers to be able to google me and cognitively busy (Gilbert, Pelham & Krull,find out things about me that I want them to 1988). What Gilbert et al. showed was thatknow, I can’t at the same time be anonymous. when doing only one task, observing, theThis is where Uhlmann & Cohen’s suggestion automatic attribution of behavior tosaves the day. According to their study, at personality would be “corrected” by theleast, it seems to make anonymization slower, more cognitively demandingirrelevant. What is needed is a decision about processes to actually be about the situationand commitment to criteria before seeing the where appropriate. But when observing whileapplications. Of course, that was only also doing a different, distracting task thedemonstrated for gender and so the effects for “correction” did not happen, leading to anative vs. foreign names may be different. more shallow inference of cause and effect,However, the same kind of discrimination by one could say. The study by Gilbert et al. wasconstructing criteria has been shown in not in an employee selection setting, but Iracially prejudiced people between black/ believe that by using a more structuredwhite candidates (Hodson et al, 2002), so I interview, it is possible to lower the cognitivethink it is plausible that Uhlmann & Cohen’s load for the interviewer. By structuring thesuggestion may have similar effects in such interview, they have to be less active ascases. perceivers, and not spend cognitive resources thinking about their next question - and thisImplicit social cognition & the interview might have a positive effect on their judgment.In employee selection literature, the hiringinterview has a bad reputation. Based on a A structured interview, with predeterminedwidely cited meta-analysis by Hunter & questions in a fixed order, decreasesHunter (1984), interviews are seen to have a discrimination (Bragger, Kutcher, Morgan &low predictive value compared to for example Firth, 2002) as well as raises the validity formental ability tests (Huffcutt & Arthur, 1994). predicting job performance (Huffcutt &However, a later meta-analysis by Huffcutt & Arthur, 1994). One might suspect that aArthur (1994) shows both that interviews reason for the higher validity is precisely thatoverall have a somewhat better validity than it decreases discrimination. The kind ofpreviously thought, and that structuring the discrimination biases that have been shown ininterview has the biggest effect on increasing experimental settings where identicalvalidity of interviews. In their analysis the candidate descriptions have been used, suchdegree of structuring was rated on two as Uhlmann & Cohen (2007), can in mydimensions, structuring of topics & questions opinion only be described as irrational andor structuring of judging answers. faulty. To judge one candidate as better at the job because he has a male name, compared toIt is relevant of course to consider why a more an identical candidate with a female name, isstructured inteview would be better than a to make a wrong judgment. From thatmore informal one. A clue might perhaps be perspective, biased judgment in employeethe concept of cognitive busyness, in which selection is not only unfair to employees but 4
  5. 5. www.giselajonsson.seharmful to the employer. That those methods to display that can not easily be attributed tofor selection that are less biased against some situational factor will likely bewomen and minorities would also be of attributed to your personality.higher validity is also in line with thisreasoning. A more structured interview would Implicit social cognition & testsalso be more strictly related to the job criteriaor some other, predetermined, points of When testing in a selection setting, it shouldinterest. This leaves less room for ambiguity be avoided to remind the candidate of his orand thus, for prejudice to “fill in the blanks” her gender, age or ethnicity because that kindas it tends to do (Uhlmann & Cohen, 2007). of priming can affect how well the candidate does at the test. Men have been shown toAs a candidate you obviously have less power perform poorer at tests of recognisingto decide anything about how the process emotion, if they are first reminded that theyshould be done, so all you have to work with are men or it is made apparent that the test isis yourself. It may improve your chances in about empathy, activating stereotypes aboutan interview to make use of the “chameleon men and empathic ability (Ickes, Gesn &effect”, that is by letting yourself subtly Graham, 2000). Cultural prejudice isfollow the body language of the interviewer, ingrained also in us individually, even thoughimitating their speech patterns, et cetera. This we may explicitly hold a different viewtype of imitation has been shown to increase (Devine, 1989), and they can be activated andliking between people (Chartrand & Bargh, affect performance. In studies examining how1999). However, it is easy to see how this gender primes affect performance incould go wrong and you probably shouldn’t mathematics, it has been shown that it is nottry too hard, or the interviewer might instead required that you prime specifically the beliefthink you are trying to mock them. that “women are bad at math” to get women to perform poorer. Seemingly all that isIn a study by Williams & Bargh (2008) it is needed to activate this belief, is to ask ashown that holding something warm makes woman her gender (Steele & Ambady, 2006).you perceive others as more warm, and makesyou more altruistic. Here the imagination can All tests that start out asking demographicreally go wild: what else will influence your questions, then, may be setting up somebehaviour without your knowledge? Will participants to fail.eating crisp bread give you more “bite” in aninterview? Of course, controlling every little Much of organizational studies is dominateddetail in your environment is not possible. by explicit research methods such as differentBut it may be wise as a candidate to prime kinds of self-reporting measures (Bing,yourself in some positive ways. Hold LeBreton, Migetz & James, 2007). Makingsomething warm so that you’ll be more greater use of implicit methods wouldfriendly. Think of professors or books and improve the validity of studies through a kindwear glasses to bring out your competence, or of triangulation effect, but may also beimagine a time that you were being super attractive to practitioners because you can’tsocial, or super confident, if that is what the fake implicit results like you can a normaljob will require. Any behaviour you are seen self-reported personality test, for example. 5
  6. 6. www.giselajonsson.seWhen instructed to fake positive or negativejob attitudes, students were not able to do so Bodenhausen & Richeson (in Baumeister &on an implicit association test (IAT) while Finkel, 2010, p. 351) refer to a study of thethey were being able to do so in explicit judgment of evidence in a legal context wheremeasures of job attitudes (Haines & Sumner, it was shown that initial judgment is based on2006). stereotypes and that all evidence later reviewed was seen as confirming the initialThere are concrete ideas for using implicit judgment. If stereotypes were not activatedtests in employee selection, for example until after the evidence was reviewed, it didJohnson & Steinman (2009) present the idea not influence the final decision. Stereotypesof using an IAT as a way of measuring seem to work similar to some physicalemployees’ attitudes toward their supervisors. processes, for example the creation of pearls.But if that supervisor is black and the One little irritant sets off a reaction that buildsemployee white, it’s possible that some racial up around the original, very small irritant.bias against black people would show in the Similarly, once a small, implicit prejudice isIAT even though that employee actually quite activated everything following will tend tolikes their supervisor. And in either case, what gravitate towards it, fall in line with the initialmatters most in the workplace is surely how prejudice and thus bias what we think we seepeople behave, not their implicit associations. and the decisions we make. One could argue that a biased recruiter is made blind to realitySo a word of caution is appropriate. Maybe which surely is not the point of havingwe should be glad that implicit testing has not recruiters, rather than some computerreally caught on in Sweden, as I think there program picking whom to hire.could also be a risk of over using differentimplicit tests in pursuit of the “true” person. Finding a recruiter that has as little implicitAs several studies have shown, implicit and prejudice as possible against people of colour,explicit attitudes do not always agree, but I women or different age groups wouldthink it would be a mistake to assume the therefore, in my opinion, be better and IATsimplicit preference for something is always could, at least theoretically, aid in this pursuit.more “true” than explicit preferences. Implicittests should be used to illuminate and explain The second way to tackle bias andbehavior, not to seek out “secret truths”. discrimination is of course in the selection process rather than focusing on the selector.However, one idea that springs to mind when We can try to avoid making for examplediscussing implicit prejudice is that the IAT ethnicity or gender a salient factor, by notmethods would have their uses for selecting asking that kind of questions.the selector, like a recruiter or any person thathave making decisions about and selecting One of the worst ways to combat bias is to beother people as a big part of their job. As an content that whoever is hiring do not consideremployer we would wish to be fair, both to themselves to be “a racist” or “a sexist” andgive candidates an equal chance but most of leave it at that. In fact, believing you areall to give ourselves a fair chance to find the “objective” has been shown to correlate withbest candidate. being more biased (Uhlmann & Cohen, 2006; 6
  7. 7. www.giselajonsson.seUhlmann & Cohen, 2007). This was When it comes to decision making moreparticularly true for men. When men thought generally, there is some research that suggestthat they were objective, or when they were “gut feeling” may not be such a bad way toprimed to think of themselves as objective, decide after all. Dijksterhuis, Bos, Nordgren,they were a lot more biased against women in & van Baaren (2006) report on studies thathiring context experiment (Uhlmann & show that when making complex decisions,Cohen, 2007). “passive deliberation” proves superior to active deliberation as well as impulseThe field of social psychology as a whole decisions. However, their study was onlyseem to imply that anyone can be racist, or about different consumer decisions, notsexist, and especially if you are a member of decisions about people. A similar studythat high status group of “white, Swedish measured how pleased people were with theirmen” as hiring managers in Sweden often are. decision of picking a certain poster, afterBodenhausen & Richeson (Baumeister & having explicitly thought and written aboutFinkel, 2010, p. 360) bring up the point, their reasons for liking or disliking thealthough still debated, that for example black different posters, or not having to do so. As itpeople are less prone to ingroup bias than turns out, those who introspected aboutwhite people are. Sometimes stigmatised reasons to prefer one poster over anothergroups even display an outgroup bias. That is, chose different posters than those who wereit may be a misnomer to call it ingroup/ not asked to introspect, and were less satisfiedoutgroup bias at all when in fact it is a “white with their choice of poster at the follow upgroup bias.” (Wilson, Lisle, Schooler, Hodges, Klaaren & LaFleur, 1993).All things considered, it would seem that theperson least fit to judge others for jobs in In the light of studies like these, it isSweden is a white Swedish man using definitely plausible that hiring managersunstructured interviews as his primary could make better decisions when letting theirselection method, especially if he thinks he is unconscious process information rather thancapable of “being objective”. My point being constricted by what the conscioushowever is not that other people are likely to cognitive system can do. One of thedo better but that it would be wise to use proponents for basing decisions on your “gutmore structured methods, that can feelings”, Gerd Gigerenzer, makes the case bycompensate for human fallibility. contrasting a very complex scheme for diagnosing heart disease with a much simplerImplicit social cognition & the decision “rule of thumb”-system in which you use fewer data points but get better decisionsMaybe it is redundant to make a section about (Gigerenzer, 2007). One could argue that if“the decision,” as the whole of the employee “buying a car” is not much like hiring aselection process is about decisions, in several person, maybe diagnosing disease is more atsteps. However, I still wanted to make a few the same level of complexity. But all the samepoints about the decision making specifically. the science done on actual employee selection, discrimination and implicit biases 7
  8. 8. www.giselajonsson.seseem to be in favor of a more, not less, But I think that one thing that we can learnanalytical approach to employee selection. from these studies is that not being aware of bias does more harm than good, so we shouldConclusions educate ourselves and those we can. There is much to learn from the area of implicit socialWhen it comes to employee selection, the cognition that is highly relevant to employeeschizm remains between what research seems selection. I also think it is not meaningful toto imply as best practice - structured think about the human brain or cognitiveinterviews, deciding on criteria beforehand, systems as being faulty, or being good or bad.using tests and generally leaving little room It is what it is. If we’re very implicitlyfor selector discretion and “gut feeling” - and prejudiced, it is because our brain havewhat practitioners seem to prefer: more learned it from the environment it has been in.intuition, informal interviews. The point of all this is not to lay blame at prejudiced recruiters but to make it clear howIt is perhaps not surprising that recruiters and we can build systems, processes, that workhiring managers would like to think that they with our nature instead, in accordance withpersonally add something valuable, values that we may hold, such as fairness &something “extra” that makes it important due process, for the benefit of both employersthat they themselves play an active role in and job seekers. And through the study ofmaking the decisions, rather than leaving it to implicit social cognition it is clear that suchan algorithm of tests & structured interview processes are important, that leaving it up toanswers. Maybe it feels threatening to learn the individual recruiter to try to be bias freeabout all the biases and prejudice that the and make good predictions is simply ignorantsocial psychology flavor of brain is riddled of what human cognition is capable of in anwith - better to believe in your own good environment that is not without biases.judgment.Gisela Jönsson has a bachelors degree in work & organizational psychology and worksas a research assistant at Stockholm University.Website: www.giselajonsson.setwitter: @giselaj 8
  9. 9. ReferencesBing, M. N., LeBreton, J. M., Davidson, H. K., Migetz, D. Z. & James, L. R. (2007). Integratingimplicit and explicit social cognitions for enhanced personality assessment: A general frameworkfor choosing measurement and statistical methods. Organizational Research Methods, 10 (2),346-389.Bodenhausen, G. V. & Richeson, J. A. (2010). Prejudice, stereotype and discrimination inBaumeister, R.F. & Finkel E. J. (Eds.) Advanced Social Psychology: The State of the Science.New York: Oxford University PressBragger, J. D., Kutcher, E., Morgan, J. & Firth, P. (2002). The effects of the structured interviewon reducing biases against pregnant job applicants. Sex Roles, 46 (7/8), 215-226.Bright, J. E. H. & Hutton, S. (2000). The impact of competency statements on résumés for short-listing decisions. International Journal of Selection and Assessment, 8 (2), 41-53.Bursell, M. (2007). What’s in a name? - A field experiment test for the existence of ethnicdiscrimination in the hiring process (Working paper 2007:7). Stockholm University, TheStockholm University Linnaeus Center for Integration Studies (SULCIS).Chartrand, T.L., & Bargh, J.A. (1999). The chameleon effect: The perception–behavior link andsocial interaction. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 76, 893-910.Devine, P. G. (1989). Stereotypes and prejudice: Their automatic and controlled components.Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 56, 5–18.Dijksterhuis, A., Bos, M.W., Nordgren, L.F., & van Baaren, R.B. (2006). On Making the RightChoice: The Deliberation-Without-Attention Effect. Science, 311, 1005-1007.Gigerenzer, G. (2007). Gut feelings: The intelligence of the unconscious. New York: Viking.Gilbert, D.T., Pelham, B.W., & Krull, D.S. (1988). On cognitive busyness: When personperceivers meet persons perceived. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 54, 733-740.Haines, E. L. & Sumner, K. E. (2006). Implicit measurement of attitudes, stereotypes and self-concepts in organizations: teaching old dogmas new tricks. Organizational Research Methods, 9,536-553.Highhouse, S. (2008). Stubborn reliance on intuition and subjectivity in employee selection.Industrial and Organizational Psychology, 1, 333-342. 9
  10. 10. www.giselajonsson.seHuffcutt, A. I. & Arthur, W. (1994). Hunter and Hunter (1984) revisited: Interview validity forentry-level jobs. Journal of Applied Psychology, 79, 184–190.Hunter, J. E. & Hunter, R. F. (1984) Validity and Utility of Alternative Predictors of JobPerformance. Psychological Bulletin, 96 (1), 72-98.Ickes, W., Gesn, P. R. & Graham, T. (2000). Gender differences is empathic accuracy:Differential ability or differential motivation? Personal Relationships, 7, 95-110.Jakobsson, J. (2011, May 5). Sju av tio företag använder sig av psykologiska tester. September 25, 2011 from, R. E. & Steinman, L. (2009). Use of implicit measures for organizational research: Anempirical example. Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science, 41 (4), 202-212.Marlowe, C. M., Schneider, S. L. & Nelson, C. E. (1996). Gender and attractiveness biases inhiring decisions: Are more experienced managers less biased? Journal of Applied Psychology, 81(1), 11-21.Nowicki, M. D. & Rosse, J. G. (2002). Managers’ Views of How to Hire: Building BridgesBetween Science and Pratice. Journal of Business and Psychology, 17 (2), 157-170.Steele, J. R. & Ambady, N. (2006). “Math is hard!” The effect of gender priming on women’sattitudes. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 42, 428-436.Uhlmann, E. L. & Cohen, G. L. (2005). Constructed criteria: Redefining merit to justifydiscrimination. Psychological Science, 16 (6), 474 - 480.Uhlmann, E. L. & Cohen, G. L. (2007). “I think it therefore it is true”: Effects of self-perceivedobjectivity on hiring discrimination. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes,104, 207-223.Williams, L.E., & Bargh, J.A. (2008). Experiencing physical warmth promotes interpersonalwarmth. Science, 322, 606-607.Wilson, T. D., Lisle, D. J., Schooler, D., Hodges, S. D., Klaaren, K., & LaFleur, S. J. (1993).Introspecting about reason can reduce post-choice satisfaction. Personality and SocialPsychology Bulletin, 19, 331-339. 10