The Effect of Economic Consequences on Social Judgment and Choice: Reward Interdependence and the Preference for Sociability versus Competence

The Effect of Economic Consequences on Social Judgment and Choice: Reward Interdependence and the Preference for Sociability versus Competence

By Peter Belmi, Jeffrey Pfeffer
2018Working Paper No. 3640

Journal of Organizational Behavior, in press

Competence and sociability (warmth) are fundamental dimensions of social judgment in organizations. However, these qualities are frequently seen as negatively related, with mixed evidence on which is more important. In three studies (N = 993) we investigated the effects of reward interdependence on the preference for sociability versus competence. We predicted that reward interdependence would elicit a more instrumental, calculative mindset, which in turn, would lead individuals to value competence more. Study 1 surveyed working adults who were in actual work groups and found that those who worked in more (vs. less) reward interdependent environments were more likely to think instrumentally and calculatively when considering potential colleagues. This mindset, in turn, was associated with a greater tendency to value competence over sociability. Studies 2 and 3 used an experimental design and found that when people imagined or anticipated working in a situation in which their economic outcomes depended in part on others, they were more likely to adopt an instrumental focus and choose a “competent jerk” over a “lovable fool”. These results call into question a vast social judgment literature that has made claims about the importance of sociability and related constructs without considering the context, and particularly the reward interdependence, often inherent in organizational contexts.

Keywords
competence, warmth, sociability, reward interdependence, interpersonal choice, social judgment, impression management