Elizabeth Baily Wolf

Contact:

Send Email

Doctoral Student

Lizzie Baily Wolf is a doctoral candidate in the Organizational Behavior Unit. Lizzie studies social perception in organizations. In other words, her research focuses on how people form impressions of, and make inferences about, other people at work. Further, she explores how individuals use these impressions and inferences when making decisions and assessing their own potential and performance. Therefore, she examines not only how individuals perceive others, but also how they believe others perceive them (i.e., metaperceptions). She is particularly interested in how emotion, nonverbal behavior, gender, and national culture influence these processes.

In her dissertation, Lizzie is studying how evaluators' emotional expressions convey performance feedback to those whom they evaluate (i.e., performers). Evaluators often express emotion in evaluative situations (e.g., performance reviews, job interviews), because of reasons both related and unrelated to the evaluation itself. Lizzie is exploring how these emotional expressions can shape performers’ inferences about the quality of their performance and subsequent decision-making. In five experiments, she shows that different emotional expressions by an evaluator elicit different perceptions of performance quality by performers. Further, these inferences translate into decision-making in an exploding job offer scenario. She also finds that when evaluators provide an external cause for a negative emotional expression (e.g., "I'm having a particularly bad day today"), it reduces the expression's impact on inferences following the expression of a negative emotion. However, performers saw their evaluators’ positive emotional expressions as reflective of their performance regardless of whether or not an external cause for the emotional expression was provided.

Although evaluators may at times use emotional expressions deliberately to convey performance feedback in evaluations, Lizzie finds that emotional expressions are noisy and ambiguous signals. In a survey of 370 matched pairs of evaluators and performers she asked performers and evaluators immediately after their evaluations what emotions the evaluator expressed and their inferences about these emotions. She found that there are significant and systematic differences in the emotions that evaluators believe they conveyed in the evaluation, and the emotions that the performers perceived in the evaluation.

In other work, Lizzie studies a novel strategy that individuals may use to manage observers’ impressions when they express negative or inappropriate emotions at work: emotion reframing. In five experiments, she shows that individuals can attribute their emotional expressions to their “passion” (an appropriate and organizationally valued source) to improve observers’ perceptions of their competence following a display of distress (compared to not making a public attribution or attributing the expression to “emotionality”). Because individuals’ emotions are subjective experiences that arise in response to their particular subjective appraisals and interpretations, it is impossible for observers to be certain of the cause of their emotional expressions. Because individuals cannot be certain of the true cause of emotional expressions, the framing of the expression heavily influences observers’ impressions and inferences.

Lizzie also studies stereotyping and prejudice. In particular, Lizzie investigates stereotypes about and prejudice toward professional women. For example, in a cross-cultural study of the specific content of gender stereotypes, she and her co-authors find that cultural values shape the content of stereotypes about men and women. Four studies demonstrate that a nation’s national individualism–collectivism score predicts individuals' in that nation rating collectivistic traits as more—and individualistic traits as less—stereotypically masculine. Collectivistic traits (i.e., considerate, helpful, kind, unselfish, etc.) are perceived to be more masculine in collectivistic cultures than in individualistic cultures. Individualistic traits (i.e., ambitious, self-centered, assertive, independent, etc.) are seen as more masculine in individualistic cultures than in collectivistic cultures. Taken together, results support the idea that men are seen as cultural ideals: stereotypes about men more closely align with core cultural values than stereotypes about women.

Prior to HBS, Lizzie received her BA summa cum laude with honors from Connecticut College, where she double majored in Psychology and Hispanic Studies and received her CISLA certificate in International Studies. Lizzie spent semesters studying abroad in Salamanca, Spain and Rome, Italy. She also spent a summer in Madrid, Spain conducting independent research for her undergraduate thesis. 

Publications

Journal Articles

  1. Managing Perceptions of Distress at Work: Reframing Emotion as Passion

    Elizabeth Baily Wolf, Jooa Julia Lee, Sunita Sah and Alison Wood Brooks

    Expressing distress at work can have negative consequences for employees: observers perceive employees who express distress as less competent than employees who do not. Across five experiments, we explore how reframing a socially inappropriate emotional expression (distress) by publicly attributing it to an appropriate source (passion) can shape perceptions of, and decisions about, the person who expressed emotion. In Studies 1a–c, participants viewed individuals who reframed distress as passion as more competent than those who attributed distress to emotionality or made no attribution. In Studies 2a–b, reframing emotion as passion shifted interpersonal decision making: participants were more likely to hire job candidates and choose collaborators who reframed their distress as passion compared to those who did not. Expresser gender did not moderate these effects. Results suggest that in cases when distress expressions cannot or should not be suppressed, reframing distress as passion can improve observers' impressions of the expresser.

    Keywords: Decision Making; Emotions;

    Citation:

    Wolf, Elizabeth Baily, Jooa Julia Lee, Sunita Sah, and Alison Wood Brooks. "Managing Perceptions of Distress at Work: Reframing Emotion as Passion." Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes 137 (forthcoming): 1–12. View Details
  2. Visual Attention to Powerful Postures: People Avert Their Gaze from Nonverbal Dominance Displays

    Elise Holland, Elizabeth Baily Wolf, Christine Looser and Amy Cuddy

    This paper investigates whether humans avert their gaze from individuals engaging in nonverbal displays of dominance. Although past studies demonstrate that both humans and nonhuman primates direct more visual attention to high-status others than low-status others, nonhuman primates avert their gaze when high-status conspecifics engage in nonverbal dominance displays (e.g., chest pounding). In two experiments, participants were eye-tracked while viewing photographs of men and women adopting either dominant, high-power (i.e., expansive and open) or submissive, low-power (i.e., contractive and closed) nonverbal postures. Results demonstrated that humans, like primates, avert their gaze from the faces and upper bodies of individuals displaying dominance compared to those displaying submissiveness. Not only did participants look less often at the faces and upper bodies of dominance-displaying individuals, they also fixated on these regions for shorter durations. Our findings ultimately suggest that nonverbal dominance displays influence humans’ visual attention in ways that are likely to shape how social interactions unfold.

    Keywords: Nonverbal Behavior; eye-tracking; power and influence; dominance; Nonverbal Communication; Interpersonal Communication; Power and Influence;

    Citation:

    Holland, Elise, Elizabeth Baily Wolf, Christine Looser, and Amy Cuddy. "Visual Attention to Powerful Postures: People Avert Their Gaze from Nonverbal Dominance Displays." Journal of Experimental Social Psychology 68 (forthcoming): 60–67. View Details
  3. Men as Cultural Ideals: Cultural Values Moderate Gender Stereotype Content.

    Amy Cuddy, Elizabeth Baily Wolf, Peter Glick, Susan Crotty, Jihye Chong and Michael I. Norton

    Four studies tested whether cultural values moderate the content of gender stereotypes, such that male stereotypes more closely align with core cultural values (specifically, individualism vs. collectivism) than do female stereotypes. In Studies 1 and 2, using different measures, Americans rated men as less collectivistic than women, whereas Koreans rated men as more collectivistic than women. In Study 3, bicultural Korean Americans who completed a survey in English about American targets rated men as less collectivistic than women, whereas those who completed the survey in Korean about Korean targets did not, demonstrating how cultural frames influence gender stereotype content. Study 4 established generalizability by reanalyzing Williams and Best's (1990) cross-national gender stereotype data across 26 nations. National individualism– collectivism scores predicted viewing collectivistic traits as more—and individualistic traits as less—stereotypically masculine. Taken together, these data offer support for the cultural moderation of gender stereotypes hypothesis, qualifying past conclusions about the universality of gender stereotype content.

    Keywords: gender stereotypes; stereotype content; culture; individualism; collectivism; Prejudice and Bias; Values and Beliefs; Culture; Gender;

    Citation:

    Cuddy, Amy, Elizabeth Baily Wolf, Peter Glick, Susan Crotty, Jihye Chong, and Michael I. Norton. "Men as Cultural Ideals: Cultural Values Moderate Gender Stereotype Content." Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 109, no. 4 (October 2015): 622–635. View Details

Book Chapters

Presentations

  1. Men as Cultural Ideals: How Culture Shapes Gender Stereotypes

    Amy Cuddy, Elizabeth Baily Wolf, Peter Glick and Michael I. Norton

    Four studies test whether cultural values moderate the content of gender stereotypes, such that male stereotypes more closely align with core cultural values (specifically, individualism vs. collectivism) than do female stereotypes. In Studies 1 and 2, using different measures, Americans rated men as less collectivistic than women, whereas Koreans rated men as more collectivistic than women. In Study 3, bi-cultural Korean Americans who completed a survey in English about American targets rated men as less collectivistic than women, whereas those who completed the survey in Korean about Korean targets did not, demonstrating how cultural frames influence gender stereotype content. Study 4 tested generalizability by reanalyzing Williams and Best's (1990) cross-national gender stereotype data across 26 nations. National-level collectivism strongly correlated with viewing collectivistic traits as more, and individualistic traits as less, stereotypically masculine. Together, the four studies show strong support for the cultural moderation hypothesis, qualifying past conclusions about the universality of the content of gender stereotypes.

    Keywords: gender; stereotypes; Gender; United States; South Korea;

    Citation:

    Cuddy, Amy, Elizabeth Baily Wolf, Peter Glick, and Michael I. Norton. "Men as Cultural Ideals: How Culture Shapes Gender Stereotypes." Paper presented at the 15th Society for Personality and Social Psychology Annual Meeting, Austin, TX, February 15, 2014. View Details
  2. I'm Just Passionate!: Attributing Emotional Displays to Passion versus Emotionality

    Elizabeth Baily Wolf and Alison Wood Brooks

    People often express emotions at work that violate workplace display rules. In particular, expressing self-focused sadness is often viewed as inappropriate. Across three experimental studies, we find that the attributions that people make for their inappropriate emotional displays influence interpersonal perception and hiring decisions, and may shape the display rules themselves. In Study 1, we find that when a target attributed an incident of crying at work to passion, as compared to attributing it to emotionality or not making an attribution at all, it increased participants' perceptions of his or her work performance, competence, status, and dedication. In Study 2, we find that, when asked to recall a time when a co-worker cried or appeared upset at work, reflecting about how the emotional display demonstrates the co-worker's passionate nature (versus emotional nature) caused participants to rate the co-worker as a better performer, higher status, more competent, and more dedicated. In Study 3, we find that participants were more likely to hire a job candidate who, in the job interview, attributed a past incident of "getting choked up" to their passion than to their emotionality, and perceived the candidate as more competent and higher status. In addition to improving interpersonal perceptions, Studies 2 and 3 demonstrated that passion attributions also shifted people's implicit beliefs about emotional expression in the workplace broadly: workplace emotional expressions are considered more appropriate when emotional expressions were linked to passion than when they were linked to emotionality.

    Keywords: passion; Emotion; display rules; Emotions;

    Citation:

    Wolf, Elizabeth Baily, and Alison Wood Brooks. "I'm Just Passionate! Attributing Emotional Displays to Passion versus Emotionality." International Association for Conflict Management Annual Conference, Leiden, The Netherlands, July 4–7, 2014. View Details
  3. Visual Attention to Power Posers: People Avert their Gaze from Nonverbal Displays of Power

    Elizabeth Baily Wolf

    Existing literature suggests that people visually attend more to powerful/high-status people. However, previous studies manipulated target power/status via the target’s role (e.g., CEO or judge vs. mechanic or fry cook) or clothing (e.g., business suit vs. sweat suit). We hypothesized that power posing—adopting open, expansive postures, such as standing with feet apart and hand on hips—would actually elicit the opposite response: people will avert their gaze from high-power (vs. low-power) posers, deferring to their perceived authority and avoiding confrontation, a finding that would be consistent with the literature on non-human animal hierarchies. In a 2 (target power pose: high, low) X 2 (target gender: male, female) between-subjects design, participants (N = 81) were randomly assigned to view a series of photographs of either a White man or a White woman in a series of high or low power poses. Poses varied on the two nonverbal dimensions directly linked with power: expansiveness (i.e., the amount of space taken up) and openness (i.e., limbs open or closed). Each participant’s gaze behavior was recorded using an eyetracker, with a sampling rate of 60 Hz and a screen resolution of 1280 x 1024 pixels. As expected, participants looking at high-power posing targets averted their gaze from these targets (to the background of the photo) compared to participants looking at low-power posing targets. Moreover, this relationship was mediated via perceived power. The findings suggest that the way in which power is communicated—role vs. nonverbal display—can shape the course of an interaction, influencing the extent to which people do or do not visually attend to one another.

    Keywords: Nonverbal Communication; Behavior; Rank and Position; Emotions; Power and Influence;

    Citation:

    Wolf, Elizabeth Baily. "Visual Attention to Power Posers: People Avert their Gaze from Nonverbal Displays of Power." Paper presented at the 9th Biennial Conference of the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues, Charlotte, NC, United States, June 21–24, 2012. View Details

    Research Summary

    1. Winner of the 2010 Honorary Undergraduate Scholar Award.

    Area of Study

    • Organizational Behavior
    • Psychology