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Uncommon Knowledge

Holding a drink makes you look dumb

And other surprising insights from the social sciences

Women: crippled by ethics

In her new book “Lean In,” Facebook executive Sheryl Sandberg argues that the dearth of women in upper management happens partly because women aren’t as assertive as men. But she may be overlooking another pesky personality quirk constraining women: ethics. According to a new study, one reason women don’t pursue careers in business is that they’re more averse than men to the ethical compromises associated with business. When presented with job situations that involved ethical compromises, women reported stronger negative reactions than men. Women also more strongly associated business words with immorality.

Kennedy, J. & Kray, L., “Who Is Willing to Sacrifice Ethical Values for Money and Social Status? Gender Differences in Reactions to Ethical Compromises,” Social Psychological and Personality Science (forthcoming).

Does this martini make me look dumb?

Think carefully before you pick up a drink at an office party, or perhaps especially during lunch or dinner with a prospective employer: It may make people think you’re stupid. In several experiments, researchers found that people judged someone to be less intelligent, less persuasive, and less hireable if that person ordered, held, or was seen in proximity to an alcoholic beverage. Nevertheless, when asked explicitly, most people assumed that alcoholic consumption wasn’t associated with intelligence, and business students wrongly assumed that ordering wine would make them seem more intelligent during an interview at a restaurant.

Rick, S. & Schweitzer, M., “The Imbibing Idiot Bias: Consuming Alcohol Can Be Hazardous to Your (Perceived) Intelligence,” Journal of Consumer Psychology (April 2013).

Uh-oh, the Asian guy is mad!

Stereotypes are often harmful, but sometimes they can be exploited by those who are stereotyped. In negotiation experiments, people were more apt to make concessions to an angry East Asian person than an angry person of another ethnicity—if the subjects held stereotypes of East Asians as less emotionally expressive.

Adam, H. & Shirako, A., “Not All
Anger Is Created Equal: The Impact of the Expresser’s Culture on the Social Effects of Anger in Negotiations,” Journal of Applied Psychology (forthcoming).

Tiger Woods, the business case

From 2000 to 2010, Nike paid Tiger Woods $200 million to endorse its golf products. And unlike other sponsors, Nike didn’t drop Woods after his infidelity scandal. So was the big payout worth it? In a detailed mathematical analysis of the golf ball market, researchers at Carnegie Mellon University found that “approximately 57% of Nike’s investment on the golfer’s endorsement was recovered just in U.S. golf ball sales alone…Taking into account the worldwide sales of golf balls and the sales in the apparel and other equipment that Woods also endorsed as part of the contract agreement, we believe that Woods’ contract was actually not that large. In fact, we believe that he could have commanded an even larger contract from Nike.” During the scandal, Nike took a hit, but “Nike would have lost even more had it ended its relationship with him.”

Chung, K. et al., “Economic Value of Celebrity Endorsements: Tiger Woods’ Impact on Sales of Nike Golf Balls,” Marketing Science (March/April 2013).


When globalization stops violence

When we think about globalization, we often focus on big-picture economics. But a sociologist at the University of Michigan finds that the forces of globalization extend into personal relationships within the home, too. During the past decade, the author finds, surveys “show striking changes in the proportion of women in each country who reject intimate partner violence. The changes are impressive because of the nearly uniform direction of the trend and their magnitude within a span of only five years....Nigeria had the largest change, with a 19-percentage point increase in the proportion of women who reject intimate partner violence, followed by Zambia, Kenya, Rwanda, and Armenia with approximately 15-percentage point increases in the rejection of intimate partner violence.” The evidence also points to similar trends among men. One caveat: “In most countries included in this study, the youngest respondents were among the least likely to reject intimate partner violence.”

Pierotti, R., “Increasing Rejection of Intimate Partner Violence: Evidence of Global Cultural Diffusion,” American Sociological Review (April 2013).

Kevin Lewis is an Ideas columnist.
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