Monday, September 14, 2020

We generally find extreme runs of success by individuals to be more captivating; people appear to be more moved by individual success than group success

Walker, J., & Gilovich, T. (2020). The streaking star effect: Why people want superior performance by individuals to continue more than identical performance by groups. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Sep 2020.

Rolf Degen's take:

Abstract: We present evidence in 9 studies (n = 2,625) for the Streaking Star Effect—people’s greater desire to see runs of successful performance by individuals continue more than identical runs of success by groups. We find this bias in an obscure Italian sport (Study 1), a British trivia competition (Study 2), and a tennis competition in which the number of individual versus team competitors is held constant (Study 3). This effect appears to result from individual streaks of success inspiring more awe than group streaks—and that people enjoying being awe-inspired. In Studies 4 and 5, we found that the experience of awe inspired by an individual streak drives the effect, a result that is itself driven by the greater dispositional attributions people make for the success of individuals as opposed to groups (Study 6). We demonstrate in Studies 7a and 7b that this effect is not an artifact of identifiability. Finally, Study 8 illustrates how the Streaking Star Effect impacts people’s beliefs about the appropriate market share for companies run by a successful individual versus a successful management team. We close by discussing implications of this effect for consumer behavior, and for how people react to economic inequality reflected in the success of individuals versus groups.

General discussion, from the Jesse Taylor Walker's PhD Thesis, August 2019

Although past researchers have exerted considerable energy studying streaks of success and failure, very little attention has been paid to the conditions that influence whether or not observers want a given streak to continue. The original aim of this work was to fill that gap. In the first eight studies, we identified a reliable bias such that people desire streaks of success by individuals to continue more than identical streaks by groups. We demonstrated two mechanisms that drive this effect. One key factor is that people experience a greater sense of awe at the prospect of seeing an individual continue a run of dominance than a group. A second is that people take the other competitors into greater consideration when a group is on a streak than when an individual is on a streak. The remaining studies illustrated how the implications of this work extend far beyond people’s preference for the continuation of streaks of success by individuals. Chapter 3 demonstrated ways in which the Streaking Star Effect can impact consumer behavior. We found that consumers were willing to pay more for products associated with individual runs of dominance than group runs of dominance, presumably because products associated with individual dominance are imbued with greater feelings of awe. As an additional extension, we showed how the psychology underlying the Streaking Star Effect may be used to influence attitudes toward inequality. In Chapter 4, inequality was judged to be more acceptable and fair when people perceived the top rung of the income ladder to be occupied by a successful individual as opposed to a successful group. - 69 - The differing attributions that people make for individuals and groups is at the root of many of these findings. Part of the reason that individual dominance is more awe inspiring may be because people tend to make greater dispositional attributions for the behavior of individuals than groups. Similarly, we found in Chapter 4 that people are more likely to make dispositional attributions for the success of wealthy individuals than wealthy groups. Mechanisms themselves often have their own psychological explanations, and these results raise the question as to why people make more dispositional attributions for individuals as opposed to groups. Although other research has supported this attributional pattern (Critcher & Dunning, 2014), no work has identified why people may follow this pattern when making judgments about individuals and groups. One possible explanation is that groups are more abstract than individuals, which may lead people to focus on different factors when making judgments about individuals and groups. The concrete nature of an individual target may call to mind specific characteristics like the target’s will and determination. These kinds of characteristics may seem especially difficult to ascribe to an abstract group of people who do not possess a single consciousness. As a result, outside social and environmental forces may be seen as acting more easily on a group of people than on specific individual. The ultimate reason, though, as to why people follow this attributional pattern is beyond the empirical goals of this work and would be better addressed by future research. Although we have explored at great length a condition that dictates whether people prefer a streak of success to continue, we have not examined the preferences people may have when the streak in question is one of failure rather than success. Do people prefer individuals to discontinue losing streaks more than they prefer groups to dis-continue identical streaks? While - 70 - people are often sensitive to the plight of a long-suffering individual (e.g. Small & Loewenstein, 2015), anecdotal evidence suggests that the preference for losing streaks to end may not follow the same kind of pattern as winning streaks. As an example, for over 100 years, The Chicago Cubs had suffered the longest championship drought of any professional team. But in 2016, they made it to the World Series and defeated the Cleveland Indians. The national reaction leading up to the World Series suggested that many people everywhere, regardless of location or prior allegiance, were pulling for the Cubs to end their run of futility (this author included). The number of people jumping on the Cubs’ “Bandwagon” was so great that it inspired a series of popular memes in addition to several news articles noting the sudden nationwide popularity of the Cubs (Linder, 2016). It seemed possible that the prospect of witnessing the Cubs’ put an end to over 100 years of losing may have been awe-inspiring in its own right. In a more formal test, we asked 200 participants on Mturk to imagine that an individual Calcio player or Calcio team had failed to qualify for the playoffs for 6 consecutive years. We then asked how much people would like to see these streaks come to an end. We suspected it may be possible that the prospect of a team ending a losing streak may inspire greater awe than individuals ending losing streaks (a reversal of the Streaking Star Effect). But this did not prove to be the case. In fact, there was no difference in the amount that participants wanted to see the individual end his of run futility and how much they wanted to see the team do the same. It is possible that people do want to see a team turn around a stretch futility (maybe even more than they would want that team to continue a streak of success) but people appear equally interested in seeing an individual on a run of futility turn around his fortunes.

No comments:

Post a Comment