Journal of Behavioral Decision Making

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Why Improvement Can Trump Consistent Strong Performance: The Role of Effort Perceptions


How do evaluators form comparative judgments of improved versus consistently strong performance records with equivalent recent performance? We propose that evaluators judge those with improved records to be more deserving of future opportunities (e.g., a promotion) and that this can be explained – at least in part – by perceptions of effort investments. Specifically, evaluators rely on improvement to judge effort and hence devalue consistent strong performance. Five studies supported these propositions. Evaluators perceived greater effort investment and trait effort in individuals with improved profiles than those with consistent profiles and consequently thought that those with improved profiles were more deserving of future opportunities. We discuss implications of these results across various decision contexts. Copyright © 2017 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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