Oliver Hahl Research

Turning Back the Clock: Crises of Commitment, Demand for Authenticity, and the Symbolic Value of Inferior Technologies

What are the contexts in which inferior technologies will be celebrated and used symbolically to increase audience esteem for the user? Building on research that shows how organizational factors shape demand in an industry, I argue that inferior technologies can be re-purposed for their symbolic value when the industrial context causes an audience to re-interpret previously valued symbols as representations of a domain more committed to economic reward than the audience. Through a mixed methods approach I analyze the changing symbols in venue design for professional baseball (MLB) throughout the twentieth century, showing that the celebration of inferior technologies arose in response to a “commitment crisis” in the league, whereby shifts in MLB labor relations caused audiences to re-interpret the recently valued larger stadiums and advances in technology as merely attempts to increase economic reward at fans’ expense. In these de-legitimized symbols’ place MLB playing venues that prominently displayed inferior technologies from MLB’s past were celebrated as symbols of re-commitment to the fans and the game. I rule out alternative arguments by comparing these dynamics in MLB with those in professional football (NFL) at the same time. Finally, I discuss, more generally, how organizational factors can influence audience perceptions about the mercenary motives for performance in a domain—perceptions that can increase the symbolic value of inferior technologies and symbols from a domain’s past.

Pictures Left to Right: Pic 1-“Entrance Philadelphia Baseball Field, Shibe Park,” ca. 1913. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress. Reproduction Number LC-USZ62-79895; Pic 2-Yankee Stadium circa 1923 from Wikipedia; Pic 3-Riverfront Stadium, Cincinnati, OH; Pic 4-The Ballpark at Arlington from Paul's Ballparks

The Denigration of Heroes? How the Status Attainment Process Shapes Attributions of Considerateness and Authenticity
with Ezra Zuckerman

We develop theory and report on experiments to clarify why high-status actors are often regarded as less considerate and more inauthentic than low-status actors. We argue that this tendency is consistent with the idea that status is accorded on the basis of an actor’s capability and commitment, and that it stems from two features of the typical status attainment process: (a) the incentive structure, in that the benefits of a high-status position encourage actors to feign capability and commitment, leading to suspicions of inauthenticity; and (b) the interaction processes (deference and public competition), in which the high-status actor must assert its superiority and another’s inferiority, leading to suspicions of inconsiderateness.  Three experimental studies are designed to validate this theory. Based on the “minimal group” paradigm, our studies ask subjects to evaluate two arbitrary social categories based on members’ performance in a joint cognitive task.  These studies also help rule out an alternative hypothesis, which explains that the negative correlation between status and morality derives from a psychological need to view the world as just–leading evaluators to compensate those who lack status with higher attributions on other dimensions of worth.  Implications are drawn regarding high-status insecurity and the sources of instability in status hierarchies.

May I Deviate, Please? Status Effects on Anticipatory Impression Management
with Renee Richardson Gosline

How can firms effectively reduce penalties for categorical deviance? Past research on organizational impression management indicates that firms can minimize penalty for deviance by pre-emptively using verbal accounts, or language that presents deviant behavior in a way that makes it acceptable to an audience. However, this work has yet to explore the role that organizational status plays, a factor that has also been shown to affect how audiences interpret a firm’s activities. This paper builds a bridge between these perspectives by showing how organizational status influences the effectiveness of anticipatory impression management tools like pre-emptive verbal accounts. We propose that high-status firms, unlike middle-status counterparts, are more effective at avoiding penalty for deviance when they employ the use of assertive verbal accounts that convey confidence. We design a series of experiments to test this argument in the context of the food industry. Specifically, we show that high-status firms are better off when they do not appear deferential, or overly apologetic, in anticipatory impression management signaling – while the opposite is true for middle-status firms. Mediation analysis shows that the same type of framing differently affects perceptions of skill and confidence depending on the status of the firm, but that too much perceived effort in framing the deviance will lead to negative results. Our findings support the claim that an organization’s attempts to manage audience impressions with verbal accounts must be aligned with the perceived status of the firm, such that status positively interacts with confident styles of anticipatory impression management and negatively interacts with more deferential styles.

Knowledge Assymetry in Brokerage
with Jason Davis and Olenka Kacpyrczyk
Brokers hold an important social position in any network and the returns to brokerage have been well documented. Emerging research focuses on why some individuals occupy high performing brokerage positions while others do not. Drawing on prior research about cognitive social structures, we develop a sociocognitive model of brokerage that links brokerage position and performance to network knowledge heterogeneity. We argue that individuals are most likely to occupy the broker’s position and have greater brokerage performance under the condition of knowledge asymmetry – that is, when brokers know about the lack of connection between alters, and the alters lack knowledge of the other alter’s relationship with the broker. We illustrate these ideas using cognitive social structure advice network data from a high technology organization. We further document the contingency of knowledge asymmetry on broker’s reputation. A broader theoretical contribution is a better understanding of how network cognition underlies brokerage, an important phenomena from which power is derived and maintained in organizations and markets.