Vanessa Bohns

Vanessa Bohns
Cornell University | CU · Department of Organizational Behavior

PhD, Columbia University

About

52
Publications
37,904
Reads
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969
Citations
Introduction
In my primary line of research, I examine the extent to which people recognize the influence they have over others across a variety of situations. Some of my additional research interests include prosocial and unethical behavior, perspective taking, and self-conscious emotions (e.g., embarrassment, guilt).
Additional affiliations
July 2017 - present
Cornell University
Position
  • Professor (Associate)
January 2016 - present
Cornell University
Position
  • Morality at Work
January 2015 - present
Cornell University
Position
  • Organizational Behavior
Education
September 2003 - May 2008
Columbia University
Field of study
  • Psychology
September 1996 - May 2000
Brown University
Field of study
  • Psychology

Publications

Publications (52)
Article
Full-text available
I review a burgeoning program of research examining people’s perceptions of their influence over others. This research demonstrates that people are overly pessimistic about their ability to get others to comply with their requests. Participants in our studies have asked more than 14,000 strangers a variety of requests. We find that participants und...
Article
Research has found people underestimate the likelihood strangers will comply with their direct requests (Bohns, 2016; Flynn & Lake (Bohns), 2008). Here we argue this “underestimation-of-compliance effect” may be limited to requests made face-to-face. We find when making direct requests over email, requesters instead overestimate compliance. In two...
Article
Full-text available
Whether people seek help depends on their estimations of both the likelihood and the value of getting it. Although past research has carefully examined how accurately help-seekers predict whether their help requests will be granted, it has failed to examine how accurately help-seekers predict the value of that help, should they receive it. In this...
Article
Full-text available
We examined the psychology of "instigators," people who surround an unethical act and influence the wrongdoer (the "actor") without directly committing the act themselves. In four studies, we found that instigators of unethical acts underestimated their influence over actors. In Studies 1 and 2, university students enlisted other students to commit...
Article
Employees at all organizational levels have influence over their subordinates, their colleagues, and even their bosses. But are they aware of this influence? We present evidence suggesting that employees are constrained by cognitive biases that lead them to underestimate their influence over others in the workplace. As a result of this underestimat...
Article
Consent is central to many of today’s most pressing social issues: What counts as sexual assault? Whom are the police allowed to search? Can they use people’s data like that? Yet despite the fact that consent is in many ways an inherently psychological phenomenon, it has not been a core topic of study in psychology. Although domain-specific researc...
Article
Full-text available
Research has found that people are much more likely to agree to help requests made in-person than those made via text-based media, but that help-seekers underestimate the relative advantage of asking for help face-to-face. It remains unknown what help-seekers’ intuitions about the effectiveness of richer media channels incorporating audio and video...
Preprint
Full-text available
Research has found that people are much more likely to agree to help requests made in-person than those made via text-based media, but that help-seekers underestimate the relative advantage of asking for help face-to-face. It remains unknown what help-seekers’ intuitions about the effectiveness of richer media channels incorporating audio and video...
Article
Workplaces increasingly use response speed as a proxy for hard work, signaling to employees that the only way to succeed is to be “always on.” Drawing on boundary theory and egocentrism, we examine a problematic bias around expectations of response speed for work emails, namely that receivers overestimate senders’ response speed expectations to non...
Article
The quietest part of my day used to be my office hours, when students could meet with me without an appointment. Why? Because no one would show up for them. I clearly advertised the time I would be available, door open, ready to answer any questions. I extolled the benefits of asking for help. And I told my students what a valuable resource their p...
Preprint
Full-text available
Workplaces increasingly use response speed as a proxy for hard work, signaling to employees that the only way to succeed is to be “always on.” Drawing on boundary theory and egocentrism, we examine a problematic bias around expectations of response speed for work emails, namely that receivers overestimate senders’ response speed expectations to non...
Preprint
Full-text available
Consent is central to many of today’s most pressing social issues: What counts as sexual assault? Who are the police allowed to search? Can they use my data like that? Yet despite the fact that consent is in many ways an inherently psychological phenomenon, it has not been a core topic of study in psychology. While domain-specific research on conse...
Article
Researchers have linked trait empathy to an individual's willingness to help others. We examine whether trait empathy also predicts people's expectations that others will help them. We posit that highly empathic people are more attuned to the emotional drivers of others' prosocial behavior-an intrinsic desire to help and the discomfort of refusing...
Article
Full-text available
A simple compliment can make someone’s day, start a new friendship, or just make the world a better, kinder place. So, why don’t people give more compliments? Perhaps people misforecast the effect their compliment will have. Five studies explored this possibility. In Studies 1a and 1b, compliment givers underestimated how positively the person rece...
Article
Millions around the globe have made a sudden transition to remote work amid the Covid-19 pandemic. Not surprisingly, this has some employers concerned about maintaining employee productivity. But what they really should be concerned about in this unprecedented situation is a longer-term risk: employee burnout.
Article
Full-text available
Consent is central to many organizational interactions and obligations. Employees consent to various terms of employment, both formal (contractual obligations) and informal (extra-role responsibilities, interpersonal requests). Yet consent has traditionally been considered a legal matter, unrelated to organizational behavior. In this article, we ma...
Article
Full-text available
Consent-based searches are by far the most ubiquitous form of search undertaken by police. A key legal inquiry in these cases is whether consent was granted voluntarily. This Essay suggests that fact finders' assessments of voluntariness are likely to be impaired by a systematic bias in social perception. Fact finders are likely to underappreciate...
Article
Full-text available
Those seeking help systematically underestimate the likelihood that strangers will help them (Bohns, 2016). However, it is not known whether this same error persists when requesting help from people with whom we interact regularly. In three experiments (the last of which was pre-registered), participants (N = 310) predicted the likelihood that eith...
Article
Full-text available
There are numerous examples of powerful people denying responsibility for others' (mis)conduct in which they played—and acknowledge playing—a causal role. The current article seeks to explain this conundrum by examining the difference between, and powerful people's beliefs about, causality and responsibility. Research has shown power to have numero...
Conference Paper
Whenever someone chooses to study instead of going to a party, or forgo dessert after dinner, that person is exercising self-control. Self-control is essential for achieving long-term goals, but isn't easy. Games present a compelling opportunity to engage in tasks that allow a player to exercise and improve self-control, and consequently provide da...
Chapter
Full-text available
Purpose We explore how, and how accurately, people assess their influence over others’ behavior and attitudes. We describe the process by which a person would determine whether he or she was responsible for changing someone else’s behavior or attitude, and the perceptual, motivational, and cognitive factors that are likely to impact whether an infl...
Article
Full-text available
In two preregistered studies, we find that initiators of unrequited romantic advances fail to appreciate the difficult position their targets occupy, both in terms of how uncomfortable it is for targets to reject an advance and how targets’ behavior is affected, professionally and otherwise, because of this discomfort. We find the same pattern of r...
Article
If your office runs on email and text-based communication, it’s worth considering whether you could be a more effective communicator by having conversations in person. It is often more convenient and comfortable to use text-based communication than to approach someone in-person. However, despite the convenience and reach of email, asking in person...
Article
Full-text available
Research has shown a robust tendency for people to underestimate their ability to get others to comply with their requests. In five studies, we demonstrate that this underestimation-of-compliance effect is reduced when requesters offer money in exchange for compliance. In Studies 1 and 2, participants assigned to no-incentive or monetary-incentive...
Article
It’s amazing the opportunities we miss because we doubt our own powers of persuasion. Our bosses make shortsighted decisions, but we don’t suggest an alternative, figuring they wouldn’t listen anyway. Or we have an idea that would require a group effort, but we don’t try to sell our peers on it, figuring it would be too much of an uphill battle. Ev...
Article
Full-text available
Sexual satisfaction is an important component of relationship well-being within romantic relationships. Yet, relatively little is known about the psychological factors that predict responses to the inevitable sexual challenges couples face. Four studies provide evidence that implicit theories of sexual attraction as either fixed or malleable predic...
Chapter
Full-text available
Help-seekers and potential helpers often experience an “empathy gap” – an inability to understand each other’s unique perspectives. Both parties are concerned about their reputation, self-esteem, and relationships, but these concerns differ in ways that lead to misinterpretation of the other party’s actions, and, in turn, missed opportunities for c...
Article
Research has shown that people underestimate their ability to influence others through social-emotional means. We demonstrate that people are more aware of their ability to influence others through economic means. In three behavioral studies, participants made actual requests (both prosocial and unethical) of other people. Requesters offered target...
Article
A key challenge of organizational life is how to coordinate many people toward the same goal. One way this can be accomplished is via the influence that people have over one another. This symposium investigates several areas where people may over- or under-estimate their influence over others at work, as well as the reasons for and consequences of...
Article
Four studies examined help-seekers’ beliefs about how past refusals affect future compliance. In Study 1, help-seekers were more likely than potential helpers to believe that a previous refusal would lead a potential helper to deny a subsequent request of similar size. Study 2 replicated this effect, and found that help-seekers underestimated the a...
Article
In this article, we outline a model of how organizations can effectively shape employees’ affective reactions to failure. We do not suggest that organizations eliminate the experience of negative affect following performance failures — instead, we propose that they encourage a more constructive form of negative affect (guilt) instead of a destructi...
Article
Traditional theories of self-interest cannot predict when individuals pursue relative and absolute economic outcomes in interdependent decision-making, but we argue that regulatory focus (Higgins, 1997) can. We propose that a concern with security (prevention focus) motivates concerns with social status, leading to the regulation of relative econom...
Article
Full-text available
Two studies of romantic couples examined the circumstances under which complementary goal-pursuit strategies (specifically, the pairing of a relationship partner who prefers to pursue goals eagerly with a relationship partner who prefers to pursue goals vigilantly) lead to positive relationship outcomes. As hypothesized, couples who reported higher...
Article
In this article, we outline a model of how organizations can effectively shape employees’ affective reactions to failure. We do not suggest that organizations eliminate the experience of negative affect following performance failures — instead, we propose that they encourage a more constructive form of negative affect (guilt) instead of a destructi...
Article
Full-text available
Two studies of romantic couples examined the circumstances under which complementary goal-pursuit strategies (specifically, the pairing of a relationship partner who prefers to pursue goals eagerly with a relationship partner who prefers to pursue goals vigilantly) lead to positive relationship outcomes. As hypothesized, couples who reported higher...
Article
Recent research (Carney, Cuddy, & Yap, 2010) has shown that adopting a powerful pose changes people's hormonal levels and increases their propensity to take risks in the same ways that possessing actual power does. In the current research, we explore whether adopting physical postures associated with power, or simply interacting with others who ado...
Article
Previous research conducted in the United States has demonstrated that help-seekers fail to appreciate the embarrassment and awkwardness (i.e., social costs) targets would experience by saying "no" to a request for help. Underestimation of such social costs leads help-seekers to underestimate the likelihood that others will comply with their reques...
Article
Full-text available
We propose a distinction between two types of interpersonal compatibility in determining partner preferences for joint tasks: outcome compatibility and strategic compatibility. We argue that these two types of compatibility correspond to preferences for similar and complementary task partners, respectively. Five studies support this distinction. A...
Article
Across four studies we demonstrate that people in a position to provide help tend to underestimate the role that embarrassment plays in decisions about whether or not to ask for help. As a result, potential helpers may overestimate the likelihood that people will ask for help (Studies 1 and 2). Further, helpers may be less inclined to allocate reso...
Article
Darkness can conceal identity and encourage moral transgressions; it may also induce a psychological feeling of illusory anonymity that disinhibits dishonest and self-interested behavior regardless of actual anonymity. Three experiments provided empirical evidence supporting this prediction. In Experiment 1, participants in a room with slightly dim...
Article
A series of studies tested whether people underestimate the likelihood that others will comply with their direct requests for help. In the first 3 studies, people underestimated by as much as 50% the likelihood that others would agree to a direct request for help, across a range of requests occurring in both experimental and natural field settings....

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