Archives: References

“I’m Not Mopping the Floors, I’m Putting a Man on the Moon”: How Nasa Leaders Enhanced the Meaningfulness of Work by Changing the Meaning of Work

It is assumed that leaders can boost the motivation of employees by communicating the organization’s ultimate aspirations, yet evidence on the effectiveness of this tactic is equivocal. On some occasions, it causes employees to view their work as more meaningful. At other times, it causes them to become dispirited. These inconsistent findings may in part be explained by a paradox: the very features that make ultimate aspirations meaningful—their breadth and timelessness—undermine the ability of employees to see how their daily responsibilities are associated with them. To understand how leaders can help employees resolve this paradox, I analyzed archival evidence to explore the actions of President John F. Kennedy when leading NASA in the 1960s. I found that Kennedy enacted four sensegiving steps, each of which helped employees see a stronger connection between their work and NASA’s ultimate aspirations. When this connection was strongest, employees construed their day-to-day work not as short-term tasks (“I’m building electrical circuits”) but as the pursuit of NASA’s long-term objective (“I’m putting a man on the moon”) and the aspiration this objective symbolized (“I’m advancing science”). My findings redirect research by conceptualizing leaders as architects who motivate employees most effectively when they provide a structural blueprint that maps the connections between employees’ everyday work and the organization’s ultimate aspirations.

“Monkey See, Monkey Do?”: The Effect of Construal Level on Consumers’ Reactions to Others’ Unethical Behavior

This research examines how and why reactions to other consumers’ unethical behavior differ among consumers and vary in different situations. Drawing on construal level theory, the authors propose that the relationship between other consumers’ unethical behavior and focal consumers’ unethical behavior is moderated by focal consumers’ construal level, and self-expressiveness mediates this moderating effect. Specifically, consumers at higher construal levels tend to view their behavior as more self-expressive and are thus less likely to imitate other consumers’ unethical behavior. Study 1 indicates that focal consumers who have a chronic tendency to construe information at high levels are less likely to replicate other consumers’ unethical behavior than those who have a chronic tendency to construe information at low levels. Studies 2, 3a and 3b show that when primed with higher-level construals, consumers are less likely to follow other consumers’ unethical behavior than when primed with lower-level construals. The mediating effect of self-expressiveness was tested and supported in Study 1 and Study 3b. These findings help to better understand consumers’ reactions to other consumers’ unethical behavior.

Perceived Psychological Distance, Construal Processes, and Abstractness of Entrepreneurial Action

In this paper we develop the concept of abstractness as an underlying theoretical structure of entrepreneurial action, specifically to connect individual perception of psychological distance to entrepreneurial action. We draw on construal level theory to model distance and abstractness, using construal as the mechanism where, in new venture creation, entrepreneurs are expected over time to engage in more abstract action when they perceive greater psychological distance. Based on longitudinal data from 350 entrepreneurs, results from cross-lagged panel analysis indicate that psychological distance shapes the actions of entrepreneurs over time through social distance and hypotheticality. These findings advance entrepreneurial action research, practice, and pedagogy by showing that the apparently implicit relationship between entrepreneurial perception and entrepreneurial action may actually be quite explicit, when abstractness of action is seen as a construal-mechanism-based function of psychological distance.

Going Pro-Social: Extending the Individual-Venture Nexus to the Collective Level

The aim of this Special Issue is to demonstrate how drawing on multidisciplinary insights from the literature on prosociality can broaden the individual-opportunity nexus to make room for a variety of actors. Five feature articles emphasize the collective level of the analysis, underscoring the social distance between the entrepreneurs and the different communities they serve. Leveraging construal level theory, we abductively derive an organizing framework that helps us articulate how stretching or compressing social distance can transform initial opportunities into occasions for serving the greater good. We identify two distinct mechanisms present in all five empirical studies that explain how the needs and hopes of many others may add creativity, consistency and connectivity to one’s venture. We also connect these abductive insights with the two editorials that follow this introduction and nudge our collective attention towards the research opportunities awaiting our academic community once we begin to relax the egocentric reference point that, until recently, has defined the discipline of entrepreneurship.

Seeing the Big Picture: A Within-Person Examination of Leader Construal Level and Vision Communication

Despite the importance of leader vision communication to effective leadership, little is known about what prompts leaders to communicate a vision in the first place. Drawing from construal level theory, we examined the within-person relationship of leader construal level in the morning with vision communication during that workday. Leadership self-identity, or the extent to which “being a leader” is central to one’s self-concept, was specified as a cross-level moderator of the daily construal level–vision communication relationship. We tested our predictions using an experience sampling design across 15 consecutive workdays. In total, we obtained a total of 394 matched morning and afternoon surveys from 44 mid- to high-level managers. Results revealed that a high-level construal level in the morning was positively associated with vision communication during the day but only when leadership self-identity is high (vs. low). We discuss the theoretical implications of our findings, in particular with regard to the emerging field of visionary leadership as well as the emerging literature that uses construal level theory to explain leadership phenomena.

Consumer Reliance on Intangible Versus Tangible Attributes in Service Evaluation: The Role of Construal Level

The services marketing literature has traditionally characterized intangibility as the most critical distinction between services and goods, but in practice service production and consumption often involve both intangible and tangible elements. While prior research has examined and debated service intangibility from the firm’s perspective, what is missing is an understanding of how consumers weigh the relative importance of intangible versus tangible attributes in their service evaluation. Drawing on construal level theory, the authors propose that consumers with a high (vs. low) construal level rely more on intangible (vs. tangible) attributes in service evaluation. Furthermore, the effect of construal level on service evaluation is mediated by imagery vividness, with service type (e.g., experience vs. credence services) serving as a boundary condition. The authors conduct two field studies and two lab experiments and find that under a high construal level, consumers rely more on intangible attributes in their service evaluation and choice formation; under a low construal level, consumers rely more on tangible attributes in their service evaluation and choice. The findings not only offer new insights to help reconcile the disparate perspectives on service intangibility in the literature but also have practical implications on service firms’ positioning strategies that vary across time (e.g., advance selling vs. on-site selling) and space (e.g., near vs. distant outlet), as well as which attributes to emphasize in their marketing communications.

Construal Instructions and Professional Skepticism in Evaluating Complex Estimates

This study investigates the use of audit evidence documentation instructions that promote the collection and processing of evidence with high-level construals (broad, abstract interpretations of the evidence). Abstraction can help a person piece together individual pieces of information or evidence and better enable a person to see the big picture of what the collective information portends. The results of an experiment suggest that auditors think and act with more professional skepticism when using the documentation instructions that promote high-level construals as compared with auditors using documentation instructions promoting low-level construals (specific, detailed interpretations of the evidence, akin to current audit practice) and with auditors not given documentation instructions. Further, the high-level construals foster better processing of the collected evidence. The study also provides preliminary evidence that task complexity could interfere with professional skepticism.

Seeing the Big Picture: The Effect of Height on the Level of Construal

Drawing on research on grounded cognition and metaphorical representation, the authors propose and confirm in five studies that physical height, or even the mere concept of height, can affect the perceptual and conceptual levels of mental construal. As such, consumers who perceive themselves to be physically “high” or elevated are more likely to adopt a global perceptual processing and higher level of conceptual construal, whereas those who perceive themselves to be physically “low” are more likely to adopt a local perceptual processing and lower level of conceptual construal. This difference in construal level also affects product choices that involve trade-offs between long-term benefits and short-term effort. The authors address alternative accounts such as vertical distance, visual distance, and perceived power. By highlighting the novel relationship between height and construal level, these findings contribute to research on grounded cognition and construal-level theory while also providing practical suggestions to marketing managers across a variety of domains.

The Effect of Construal Level on Time Perceptions, Confidence in Judgements and Future Preferences

This paper aims to examine how activating an abstract versus concrete construal as a retrieval cue – prior to providing estimates but after exposure to the stimulus – affects retrospective duration estimates of a hedonic experience, the kind of experience one might wish to repeat. Recent research has examined the effect of construal mindsets on prospective time perceptions (Hans and Trope, 2013) as well as the prediction of future durations (Kanten, 2011; Siddiqui et al., 2014).

Time Pressure Reverses Risk Preferences

In this research, we offer the hypothesis that time pressure reverses risk preferences. That is, people are typically risk-averse over gains and risk-seeking over losses, as predicted by prospect theory, but we propose that people under time pressure are risk-seeking over gains and risk-averse over losses. This is because people under time pressure perceive the maximal possible outcome – that is, the best possible gain over gains and the worst possible loss over losses – to be more likely to occur, such that they use it as their reference point and not the status quo to evaluate all other outcomes. As such, they perceive intermediary gains relative to the best possible gain as relative losses, which results in risk-seeking, and they perceive intermediary losses relative to the worst possible loss as relative gains, which results in risk-aversion. We conclude by situating our research among prior work generally and with prospect theory specifically.