"Quitting When the Going Gets Tough: A Downside of High Performance Expectations" - Hengchen Dai, Berkeley J. Dietvorst, Bradford Tuckfield, Katherine L. Milkman and Maurice E. Schweitzer
The Robert B. Cialdini Prize recognizes the publication that best explicates social psychological phenomena principally through the use of field research methods and settings and that thereby demonstrates the relevance of the discipline to communities outside of academic social psychology within a given year. This year, the Cialdini Prize has been awarded to Hengchen Dai, Berkeley Dietvorst, Bradford Tuckfield, Katherine Milkman, and Maurice Schweitzer for their paper “Quitting When the Going Gets Tough: A Downside of High Performance Expectations” (published in Academy of Management Journal, Vol. 61). In this paper, Dai and colleagues usefully combine experimental and archival field data to examine conditions under which high performance and high expectations may undermine persistence, while also teasing out underlying psychological mechanisms and ruling out alternate interpretations for observed effects. Using archival data from hundreds of thousands of men’s professional tennis matches, the authors observe that after losing the first set, players who were expected to win the match (‘favorites’) are significantly more likely to quit than those who were expected to lose the match (‘underdogs’); their experimental replication further demonstrates that people facing high performance expectations are more easily embarrassed by poor performance, and are therefore less likely to persist after initial setbacks. Overall, this paper provides a memorable example of how psychological phenomena operate in the real world, through its effective blending of archival data analysis and experimental methods.
Rob Voigt, Nicholas Camp, Vinodkumar Prabhakaran, William Hamilton, Rebecca Hetey, Camilla Griffiths, David Jurgens, Dan Jurafsky and Jennifer Eberhardt for “Language from Police Body Camera Footage Shows Racial Disparities in Officer Respect”
The winners of the 2017 Robert B. Cialdini Prize are David Broockman and Joshua Kalla for their paper, “Durably Reducing Transphobia: A Field Experiment on Door-to-Door Canvassing” and Jason Okonofua, Gregory Walton, and David Paunesku for their paper “Brief Intervention to Encourage Empathic Discipline Cuts Suspension Rates in Half Among Adolescents.”
In their paper, Broockman and Kalla present the results of a door-to-door canvassing intervention among South Florida voters designed to test an intervention for reducing transphobia. Published in Science in 2016, the results of their randomized placebo-controlled field study revealed that a single ten-minute conversation encouraging voters to actively take the perspective of transgendered individuals significantly reduced prejudice for at least three months. This work not only contributes to our understanding of attitude change processes, but also provides a rare demonstration of an effective field intervention with long-term effects. The study’s methodological rigor, external validity, and societal importance make it an excellent example of the values that Robert Cialdini brought to the field of social psychology.
Okonofua, Paunesku and Walton’s paper was published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in 2016. Teachers were encouraged to adopt an empathic mindset – a mindset that focuses on students’ experiences and the negative feelings that give rise to students’ misbehavior. The effects of this mindset intervention on teachers’ disciplinary beliefs and behavior were examined. Remarkably, this simple mindset manipulation led to less punitive and more empathic discipline choices by the teachers and halved student suspension rates over an academic year. This work provides empirical support for a potentially valuable tool for improving the quality of student-teacher relationships. In addition, the methodological rigor, external validity, and societal importance of the three reported experiments make the paper an excellent example of the values that Robert Cialdini brought to the field of social psychology.
The winner of this year’s Robert B. Cialdini Prize is an article by Brett Pelham and Mauricio Carvallo: “When Tex and Tess Carpenter Build Houses in Texas: Moderators of Implicit Egotism,” published in Self and Identity. The empirical studies reported in this article employ analyses of large naturalistic datasets (e.g., census data, marriage records) to test hypotheses regarding implicit egotism (a nonconscious preference for things resembling the self). In addition to testing novel hypotheses regarding variables that may moderate implicit egotism, these results provide unique evidence documenting a variety of ways in which implicit egotism may manifest in real-life decisions with long-lasting consequences—including individuals’ decisions about who to marry, what line of work to pursue, and where to live. The article exemplifies the use of unobtrusive, naturalistic methods to test conceptually interesting social psychological hypotheses while simultaneously—and engagingly—demonstrating specific ways in which social psychological processes have relevance for everyone.
The Robert B. Cialdini Prize recognizes the publication that best explicates social psychological phenomena principally through the use of field research methods and settings and that thereby demonstrates the relevance of the discipline to communities outside of academic social psychology. The winners of the 2015 Cialdini Prize are David Scott Yeager, Valerie Purdie-Vaughns, Julio Garcia, Nancy Apfel, Patti Brzustoski, Allison Master, William Hessert, Matthew Williams, and Geoffrey Cohen for their paper “Breaking the Cycle of Mistrust: Wise Interventions to Provide Critical Feedback Across the Racial Divide” published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 2014, volume 143. Trusted constructive feedback is critical for children’s intellectual development. Yet for African American students, critical feedback is often mistrusted, seen instead as biased by negative stereotypes and prejudices. In three double-blind randomized field experiments, the authors tested two theory-driven interventions to reduce this mistrust and thereby enhance the effectiveness of teacher feedback and student performance. First, by making the teacher’s feedback “wise”—by emphasizing that critical feedback reflects high standards for the student and the belief that the student is capable of meeting those standards—African American students in the treatment condition were more likely both to revise critiqued essays and improve their quality. Second, by teaching students to attribute feedback to the teachers’ high standards and beliefs in their potential, African American students’ grades improved, reducing the White-Black achievement gap. This research also demonstrates that a small, but carefully chosen, manipulation (the sort of nudge that Cialdini has developed so masterfully during his career) can sometimes yield a large beneficial effect. Indeed, the effective manipulation within the teacher’s critical feedback was delivered in a single sentence: "I’m giving you these comments because I have very high expectations and I know that you can reach them.” By employing tightly-controlled field experimentation, designed to simultaneously test theory and create interventions to address real-world social challenges, this paper exemplifies the values Bob Cialdini brought to social psychological research.
- Yeager, D. S., Purdie-Vaughns, V., Garcia, J., Apfel, N., Brzustoski, P., Master, A., Hessert, W., Williams, M. & Cohen, G. L. (2014). Breaking the cycle of mistrust: Wise interventions to provide critical feedback across the racial divide. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 143, 804-824.
The prize this year is presented to David Sherman, Geoffrey Cohen, Kimberly Hartson, Kevin Binning, Valerie Purdie-Vaughns, Julio Garcia, Suzanne Tabrosky-Barba, Sarah Tomassetti, and David Nussbaum.Two studies demonstrated the power of self-affirmation to raise the academic performance of Latino students in middle school, thereby reducing inequality in performance between Latino and European American students. This paper exemplifies the values Bob Cialdini brought to social psychological research by using a field setting to demonstrate the value of core social psychological principles to solve important social problems.
- Sherman, D. K., Hartson, K. A., Binning, K., Purdie-Vaughns, V., Garcia, J., Taborsky-Barba, S., Tomassetti, S., Nussbaum, A. D., & Cohen, G. (2013). Deflecting the trajectory and changing the narrative: How self-affirmation affects academic performance and motivation under identity threat. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 104, 591-618.
The Robert B. Cialdini Prize is designated for the publication that best explicates social psychological phenomena principally through the use of field research methods and settings and that thereby demonstrates the relevance of the discipline to communities outside of academic social psychology. This year's Cialdini Prize recipient, Harackiewicz, Rozek, Hulleman, and Hyde's "Helping parents to motivate adolescents in mathematics and science: An experimental test of a utility-value intervention" (Psychological Science, volume 23) exemplifies these principles. Judith Harackiewicz and her colleagues sought to increase high school students' willingness to take courses in mathematics and science. Rather than attempting to persuade the students directly, however, Harackiewicz and colleagues targeted a group with substantial influence over the students: their parents. Over the course of 15 months, parents received two glossy brochures and an invitation to a password-protected web site. The brochures and web site emphasized the importance of mathematics and science to college, career, and everyday life and the ways parents could communicate this importance to their children. The intervention was highly effective. Compared to a control group, children whose parents received the brochures and web site invitation took nearly a full extra semester of math and science. Through its effective intervention, the paper elegantly demonstrates the power of the situation – in this case, the role of the family as a fundamental situational influence on children, and it reminds us that the principles of influence can serve pro-social ends--a theme that is a hallmark of the work of Bob Cialdini.
Each year the Cialdini Prize recognizes the publication that best explicates social psychological phenomena principally through the use of field methods and settings and that thereby demonstrates the relevance of the discipline to communities outside of academic social psychology. The winners of the 2012 Cialdini Prize are Richard P. Larrick, Thomas A. Timmerman, Andrew M. Carton and Jason Abrevaya for their paper entitled “Temper, Temperature, and Temptation: Heat-related Retaliation in Baseball”, published in Psychological Science, 2012, Volume 22. In this article the authors analyze data from over 50,000 major league baseball games to examine the factors that affect the probability of a pitcher hitting a batter. Consistent with past research, they find that pitchers are more likely to hit batters in hot weather, but that this effect occurs only when one of their own teammates has been hit earlier in the game. Using archival data from a field setting where passions often run high, this research demonstrates that heat does not directly affect aggression but rather facilitates aggressive responses to provocation. The authors’ clever and innovative use of field data to explore social psychological phenomena exemplifies Bob Cialdini’s genius for deriving important insights into human behavior from easily observable real-life events.
- Larrick, R. P., Timmerman, T. A., & Carton, A. M., & Abrevaya, J. (2011). Temper, temperature, and temptation: Heat-related retaliation in baseball. Psychological Science, 22, 423-428.
The 2011 Cialdini Prize goes to Ayelet Gneezy, Uri Gneezy, Leif Nelson, and Amber Brown for their paper entitled, “Shared Social Responsibility: A Field Experiment in Pay-What-You-Want Pricing and Charitable Giving,” published in Science in 2010. This article describes the results of an ambitious field experiment comparing the success of pay-what-you-want vs. fixed pricing when crossed with a promise of donating vs. not to a charitable cause. Results reveal that although a generic pay-what-you-want scheme was unsuccessful, pay-what-you-want was highly successful – and even more profitable than any other pricing scheme -- when accompanied by a promise to donate half of the proceeds to charity. In the best tradition of Bob Cialdini’s work, this study used a large-scale field experiment to illustrate how corporate and charitable interests can be aligned to benefit society, while also teaching us something important about human behavior.
Dr. Elizabeth Levy Paluck, currently at Princeton University, is the winner of the 2010 Cialdini Prize for Field Research for her article "Reducing intergroup prejudice and conflict using the media: A field experiment in Rwanda." This article was published in Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. Dr. Paluck’s experimental work measured the impact of a year-long mass media program on reducing prejudice and intergroup conflict between Hutu and Tutsi ethnic groups in Rwanda. Educational radio programs for the experimental condition were designed to influence personal beliefs and perceived norms of listeners as part of a national reconciliation program. Her results showed that listeners’ perceived norms were influenced by the radio broadcasts and that the changes in these normative beliefs then led to positive behavior changes in terms of negotiations, open dialogue, and cooperation between groups with long histories of conflict and violence. This work epitomizes Cialdini’s vision of how hypotheses derived from traditional social psychological theories can be tested experimentally in creative and yet rigorous ways in real-world settings, and, importantly, how the results of such studies might be used to address and find solutions to social problems.