Theses Doctoral

A Cognitive Compass for a Social World: The Effects of Lay Theories on Networking Engagement

Hildebrand, Claudius Alexander

Conventional wisdom and a wealth of research suggest that effective networks are an important key to career success. Yet, why do so many people struggle to build and maintain professional relationships? In this dissertation I argue that, rather than not knowing how to network, most people feel conflicted about the idea of networking.
The present research applies a motivational framework to networking. Building on the idea of lay theories in motivational psychology, this dissertation investigates how lay theories of social intelligence influence networking engagement. Hereby, I distinguish between fixed (social intelligence is inborn and static) and growth (social intelligence can be nurtured and developed) theories of social intelligence and develop a new Lay Theories of Social Intelligence (LaySI) scale.
Results show that LaySI is a distinct construct and predicts engagement in networking above and beyond the effects of personality traits. Using multiple methodologies, including experiments and field studies, this dissertation shows that people holding fixed theories not only feel less engaged, but also are less likely to create new relationships and seek fewer opportunities to network. Tracing the mechanism for reduced engagement, this dissertation identifies two mediators by which fixed theories inhibit networking engagement: people’s attitudes toward networking as immoral and futile endeavor. Important for professionals, the present research shows that lay theories can be updated by providing new information to promote networking engagement, even among seasoned executives. By examining what people actually believe or feel about professional networking, the present research contributes to a more complete understanding of the motivational psychology of networking. Similarly, this dissertation enriches and extends traditional networks literature by demonstrating how cognitive antecedents influence the formation of relationships.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Thesis Advisors
Iyengar, Sheena Sethi
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
September 11, 2015