Differential framing of situational strength: an individual differences-based conceptualization of work contexts
Wiita, Nathan Ellis
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"Strong situations" have been shown to decrease behavioral variability, thereby attenuating the criterion-related validity of non-ability individual differences for criteria such as job performance (Barrick&Mount, 1993; Meyer, Dalal,&Bonaccio, 2009). However, it has been suggested that individuals, based on individual differences in implicit motives, may impute discrepant psychological meaning to social stimuli like situational strength--a process sometimes known as differential framing (James&McIntyre, 1996). If different psychological interpretations are attached to strong situation stimuli (e.g., Meyer, Dalal,&Hermida, 2010), an interesting behavioral "double-edged sword" is possible. On the one hand, behaviors pertinent to "primary criteria" (i.e., criteria for which external situational influences and pressures lead to targeted behavioral homogeneity) may occur among those who would not normally engage in them. But, at the same time, behaviors pertinent to "secondary criteria" (i.e., unintended, unforeseen, and potentially reactionary behaviors and/or attitudes) might also increase for some individuals (i.e., those with certain implicit motive characteristics). In other words, high situational strength may simultaneously constrain behavioral variability in primary criteria while serving as a stimulus for differential framing, thereby expanding variability on secondary criteria. The purpose of the present dissertation was twofold: 1) to explore the degree to which situational strength is differentially framed, and 2) to ascertain how the differential framing of situational strength may lead to unintended secondary outcomes. Study 1 findings indicate that, to a partial extent, situational strength is differentially framed by individuals with different implicit motives. Study 2 findings are largely consistent with extant situational strength theory, though partially inconsistent with study predictions.