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Uncommon Knowledge

Taking the lead, from CEOs to the NBA

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From glass ceilings to sandbags

After collecting data on executives at public companies, researchers found that, after the hiring of a female or minority CEO, white male executives identified less with the company and felt less valued by it, than when a white male CEO was hired — even controlling for how these white male executives felt before the CEO hire, whether they were contenders for the CEO job, and other factors. The more negative a white male executive’s sentiment, the less likely he was to mentor subordinates and help fellow executives, especially if they were women or members of minority groups.

McDonald, M. et al., “One Step Forward, One Step Back: White Male Top Manager Organizational Identification and Helping Behavior Toward Other Executives Following the Appointment of a Female or Racial Minority CEO,” Academy of Management Journal (forthcoming).

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Play it forward

In NBA playoff games, a favored team is substantially more likely to win a game if it knows it will play a weaker-than-expected opponent in the next round. (This situation arises when the future opponent advanced to the next round by beating a better-seeded team.) Also, contrary to expectations that teams need rest, favored teams are more likely to win a game if they’ve played more games during the playoffs. Betting markets do not appear to have priced in these effects.

Hill, B., “Shadow and Spillover Effects of Competition in NBA Playoffs,” Journal of Sports Economics (forthcoming).

Tip to restaurants: Show, don’t tell

According to an analysis of menus and Yelp reviews for restaurants in Los Angeles, restaurants with menus that brag about their authenticity — e.g., “only the most authentic Mexican fare” — got worse ratings. Likewise, in an experiment, people had lower expectations for an Italian restaurant when its profile included the claim “We are truly an authentic restaurant!” than when it made the claim “We prepare the same dishes every day for your family!”

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Kovács, B. et al., “The Perils of Proclaiming an Authentic Organizational Identity,” Sociological Science (January 2017).

Longer life, but more strife

While public-health innovations in the middle of the 20th century did improve health and longevity in the developing world, they also spurred civil wars and conflict. Specifically, countries that grew bigger populations — because they benefited more from public-health innovations — subsequently experienced more conflict. This may help explain why, despite economic predictions, improvements in health and longevity in the developing world have not yet allowed it to catch up with the developed world on standards of living.

Acemoglu, D. et al., “Population and Civil War,” National Bureau of Economic Research (April 2017).

Dying to kill animals

In a series of experiments, college students who were primed with the idea of death — by viewing the subliminal message “DEAD,” or by seeing a T-shirt with a skull and the word “death” printed all over it — were subsequently more willing to accept the killing of animals, but not humans, than participants who viewed the subliminal message “PAIN” or “FAIL.” The effect seems to allow people to compensate for feelings of mortality by enhancing feelings of power and invulnerability. The effect vanished when researchers took steps to enhance participants’ self-esteem.

Lifshin, U. et al., “The Evil Animal: A Terror Management Theory Perspective on the Human Tendency to Kill Animals,” Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin (forthcoming).

Kevin Lewis is an Ideas columnist. He can be reached at kevin.lewis.ideas@gmail.com.


Kevin Lewis is an Ideas columnist. He can be reached at kevin.lewis.ideas@gmail.com.

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