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Stanford Scholar: Surroundings May Hurt Teamwork

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NU Online News Service, Nov. 30, 2004, 3:52 p.m. EST

Exposure to business-related objects and pictures may affect how well people cooperate.[@@]

Christian Wheeler, a marketing researcher at Stanford University, has been studying the effects of business-oriented pictures and business-related objects on test participants’ behavior, according to a summary of the research.

In one study, Wheeler and other researchers gave participants $10 each and asked the participants to decide how much they were willing to share with a partner.

The partner could refuse any offer thought to be too low. If a partner rejected an offer, neither participant would receive anything.

Participants exposed to neutral pictures usually split the money 50-50.

Only 33% of the participants exposed to pictures of business-related objects offered a 50-50 split, and that difference suggests that simply looking at the pictures made the participants less interested in cooperation, according to Wheeler’s team.

Results were similar when Wheeler’s team tested the effects of exposure to real business-related objects, such as briefcases and executives pens, and compared the effects of that exposure to the effects of exposure to non-business-related objects, such as backpacks and wooden pencils.

Telling participants that the strategy game was supposed to be cooperative in nature lessened the effects of exposure to business-related objects, according to Wheeler’s team.

The researchers found that, even though many participants behaved differently when they were exposed to business-related objects, most were unaware of the possibility that they had been influenced.