Doctoral Student, nklein@ChicagoBooth.edu
1. Research Interests - General: Reputation, Brand Loyalty, Judgment and Decision-Making, Group Decision-Making
2. Teaching Philosophy and Interests:
I take business education very seriously because disseminating ideas and findings from social psychology to business students and executives is a central part of our work in academia. It is an important way in which we add value to society by conveying insights gathered from decades of research to MBA students, many of whom will be in a position to effect change in organizations and society.
3. Dissertation Research:
The Topography of Generosity: Nonlinear Evaluations of Prosocial Actions
A person’s reputation is largely based on their actions towards others. Selfish actions are evaluated negatively whereas selfless actions are evaluated positively. A wealthy person who gives 10% of his income to charity will appear more caring than one who gives none of his income. A child who shares a bite of his cookie will be liked more than one who shares none of it. In terms of one’s reputation, it pays to be nice.
Does it pay to be even nicer? Is the wealthy person who gives 50% of his income seen as more caring than one who gives away only 10%? Is the child who gives away an entire cookie liked more than the one who shares only a bite? These questions address a fundamental issue in social judgment: does behaving more prosocially lead to a consistently more positive reputation across the entire range of prosocial actions? They also address a fundamental issue for self-regulation: if a person wants to maintain a positive reputation, how exactly should he or she behave?
Six experiments examined the points in-between the extremes of completely selfish and completely selfless behavior to understand how varying degrees of prosociality affect reputations. We consistently find that evaluations of prosociality are nonlinear. Participants evaluated giving in a dictator game, donations to a not-for-profit orchestra, and divisions of desirable food items. We find that people evaluate fair actions more positively than selfish actions, but do not evaluate generous actions any more positively than fair actions. A fourth experiment finds that this pattern reflects a reputational premium given to fair actions.
Five final experiments identify comparison processes as a mechanism for nonlinear evaluations of prosociality. We find that evaluations become linear in within-subjects designs in which people can easily compare between prosocial actions of different magnitudes. We also find that evaluations of prosocial actions become linear when people have access to a history of the actor's behavior, and when people evaluate their friends (vs. strangers), about whom people possess the familiarity necessary to make comparisons between geneorus actions of different magnitudes. These findings suggest that evaluations of generous actions are myopic when done in isolation. Small acts of kindness are appreciated just as much as large ones partly because people do not spontaneously compare a given generous action to other generous actions of different magnitudes. In contrast, people more readily evaluate selfish actions in context.
Thus, although many cultures consider selflessness to be a virtue, there appears to be a disconnect between actual evaluations of prosociality and the rhetoric commonly associated with it. Those who give of themselves in the hope of being generously rewarded may end up being sorely disappointed.