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: Engineers develop gift guide for parents

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

Engineers develop gift guide for parents

Nov 21, 2014

Faculty and staff in Purdue University's College of Engineering have come up with a holiday gift guide that can help engage children in engineering concepts.

Former Brown dean whose group won Nobel Prize dies

Nov 20, 2014

David Greer, a doctor who co-founded a group that won the 1985 Nobel Peace Prize for working to prevent nuclear war and who helped transform the medical school at Brown University, has died. He was 89.

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.