Doctoral Student

Elizabeth Baily Wolf

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

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

In her dissertation, Lizzie is studying how evaluators' emotional expressions can 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 four 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.