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Asymmetry of perceptions: the impact on emotions, cognitions, and conflict
Other Talks in the Series: Team Effectiveness
What makes for a great team?
- Prof. J. Richard Hackman
- Department of Psychology, Harvard University, USA
Expertise and collective intelligence: when teams are (and are not) more than the sum of their parts
- Dr. Anita Williams Woolley
- Carnegie Mellon University, USA
Hello, this is Prof. Jehn from Melbourne Business School, the University of Melbourne, and I'm going to be talking today about asymmetry of perceptions, and how that impacts emotions, cognitions and conflict. I just like to acknowledge the many collaborators I have, that have been working on this project with me.
First, I wanted to tell you a bit about myself with a research overview. I study different topics, my main one has been conflict and group performance. I've also done research on diversity and fault-lines, and that came out of the research with my PhD students. I myself was looking at conflict and the outcomes of that, and I had some very smart PhD students that said "what leads to conflict?" and I said "I'm not worried about that, I want to look at the outcomes of conflict". I realized that they were on the right track, and we needed to look at the antecedents as well, of conflict. So I got into a line of research on diversity and fault-lines, regarding group composition. I also have a side-line on ethics and dishonesty in organizations and groups, and in the airline industry and some others as well. The final topic I want to mention is my work on bicultural groups. There's been quite some research on comparative nationalities, looking at how Americans may deal with conflict different than Chinese, but my interest was always in what happens when the people are sitting at the same table, the Americans and Chinese. So I've looked at joint ventures, Sino-American joint ventures, as well as Russia, Argentina and some of these others, and how they interact when they're sitting at the same table, and how they perceive things differently. This was research from long ago, but was one of the first hints at what I'm going to talk about today, which is asymmetry of perceptions. A story to go with this is, it was actually a manipulation check. We had collected data from Chinese and American managers, and we asked them about conflicts. These are people working in the same group setting, day-to-day they are managing the joint venture, and we said "tell us about your conflicts". We were reading through this, I was a PhD student at the time, and we were reading through this and I thought "this doesn't sound like a conflict to me". I went to my advisor and she said "you know, maybe that's just a cultural difference". I said, "we need to check this, 'cause we can't go on to the next step until we find out, does everybody perceive conflict in the same way?". So we translated and back-translated all the different incidences of conflict that they gave us, and we had then another set of managers, both Chinese and American, go through reading the scenarios and saying just 'this is conflict, yes or no'. One of my most interesting findings, I think, was based on this kind of manipulation check. What we found was that the Chinese manager said "yes, this is a conflict" and then the American managers said "yes or no, this is a conflict, this is not a conflict". What we found is the overlap where the Chinese and the Americans both said "yes, this is a conflict in our group, I perceive this as an issue", was astonishing to me. It was less than 20%, which meant to us that 80% of the time, one person is perceiving conflict in the group, and the other are saying "no, there's no problem here". That was one of the first instances that we found of asymmetric perceptions within a group, and that's what I'll be talking about more today. I use many different methods, I do field studies, (surveys, archival data), I also do research in the lab where I can control what I want to manipulate (the asymmetry of perceptions or the level of conflict, etc) and I've also done some ethnographic studies to look at things more in depth.