Stereotypes, bias and personnel decisions

Dec 03, 2008

In an article in the December issue of the journal Industrial and Organizational Psychology, Frank J. Landy questions research that is said to demonstrate that stereotypes about social groups bias personnel decisions. He argues that this research is based on faulty methods of studying the question. However, in one of 13 commentaries on Landy's article in the same issue, Madeline Heilman and Alice Eagly take issue with Landy's conclusions.

Landy reviewed experimental research on discrimination and stereotyping, including research that purports to assess automatic, or implicit, associations made about social groups. While conceding that stereotypes might play a role in the evaluation of one stranger by another, Landy argues that this research is so distant from most real work decisions (e.g. promotion, pay increase, or termination), where decision makers have experience with and information about the target of the decision, that it is largely useless for understanding employment discrimination .

He focuses on "stranger to stranger" experiments in which college students play the role of managers making decisions about hypothetical employees. Landy maintains that findings from such research cannot be generalized to the broader issues related to promotions, wage changes, or lay offs.

In contrast, Heilman and Eagly argue that experiments with college students provide only part of the research evidence concerning biased personnel decisions. They point out that research on discrimination and stereotyping occurs in natural as well as laboratory settings. They also present evidence challenging Landy's assertion that knowing someone nullifies the effects of stereotypes on decision making. Similarly, they dispute his assertion that rapidly changing work conditions negate the findings of existing research.

Heilman and Eagly maintain that understanding of sex and race discrimination gains from a wide variety of research methods, including laboratory experiments. They also argue that a comprehensive, validated theory about the conditions that promote or restrain discrimination allows generalization to the workplace regardless of time and place.

Source: Wiley

Explore further: Study shows more than half of peer-reviewed research articles published during 2007-2012 are now open access

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Should women 'man up' for male-dominated fields?

Aug 07, 2014

Women applying for a job in male-dominated fields should consider playing up their masculine qualities, indicates new research by Michigan State University scholars that's part of a series of studies on bias ...

Numbers don't tell the whole story on gender diversity

Jul 11, 2013

Along with deductions, write-offs and reconciling accounts, Australian businesses have ended the financial year with their second report on diversity strategy and compliance with the ASX Corporate Governa ...

Recommended for you

Cloning whistle-blower: little change in S. Korea

4 hours ago

The whistle-blower who exposed breakthrough cloning research as a devastating fake says South Korea is still dominated by the values that allowed science fraudster Hwang Woo-suk to become an almost untouchable ...

Color and texture matter most when it comes to tomatoes

Oct 21, 2014

A new study in the Journal of Food Science, published by the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT), evaluated consumers' choice in fresh tomato selection and revealed which characteristics make the red fruit most appealing.

How the lotus got its own administration

Oct 21, 2014

Actually the lotus is a very ordinary plant. Nevertheless, during the Qing dynasty (1644-1911) a complex bureaucratic structure was built up around this plant. The lotus was part of the Imperial Household, ...

What labels on textiles can tell us about society

Oct 21, 2014

Throughout Chinese history, dynastic states used labels on textiles to spread information on the maker, the commissioner, the owner or the date and site of production. Silks produced in state-owned manufacture ...

User comments : 0