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Accounting estimates are developed in a bottom-up fashion; subordinates generate estimates that are reviewed by managers. The anchoring heuristic suggests managers may be highly influenced by subordinates’ initial estimates. However, motivated reasoning theory predicts that reporting incentives will bias managers’ review in favor of estimates that are incentive consistent, and managers will selectively attend to information that supports their preferred conclusion, including their perceptions of the subordinate. Using experimental methods I manipulate the consistency of the subordinate estimate with management reporting incentives, and the narcissistic description of the subordinate. Consistent with motivated reasoning theory, I find that managers anchor on incentive consistent subordinate estimates, regardless of subordinate narcissism, but anchor less on incentive inconsistent subordinate estimates, especially when the estimate comes from a narcissistic subordinate. I also find evidence that managers believe narcissistic subordinates act strategically in their own self-interest, and selectively attend to this belief to adjust away from incentive inconsistent subordinate estimates, but not incentive consistent subordinate estimate. My results reveal two potential weaknesses in the management review process: susceptibility to subordinate anchors, and bias created by reporting incentives.
Prior research suggests that people ignore evidence that is inconsistent with what they want to believe. However, this research on motivated reasoning has focused on how people reason about familiar topics and in situations where the evidence presented interacts with strongly-held prior beliefs (e.g., the effectiveness of the death penalty as a crime deterrent). This makes it difficult to objectively assess how biased people are in motivated-reasoning contexts. Indeed, recent work by Jern and colleagues (2014) suggests that apparent instances of motivated reasoning may actually be instances of rational belief-updating. Inspired by this new account, the current studies reexamined motivated reasoning using a controlled categorization task and tested whether people assimilate evidence differently when they are motivated to maintain a certain belief versus when they are not. Contrary to earlier research on motivated reasoning, six studies with children and adults (N = 1295) suggest that participants’ motivations did not affect their information search and their beliefs were driven primarily by the evidence, even when the evidence was incongruent with their motivations. This work provides initial evidence for the account proposed by Jern and colleagues.
The majority of trust research has focused on the benefits trust can have for individual actors, institutions, and organizations. This “optimistic bias” is particularly evident in work focused on institutional trust, where concepts such as procedural justice, shared values, and moral responsibility have gained prominence. But trust in institutions may not be exclusively good. We reveal implications for the “dark side” of institutional trust by reviewing relevant theories and empirical research that can contribute to a more holistic understanding. We frame our discussion by suggesting there may be a “Goldilocks principle” of institutional trust, where trust that is too low (typically the focus) or too high (not usually considered by trust researchers) may be problematic. The chapter focuses on the issue of too-high trust and processes through which such too-high trust might emerge. Specifically, excessive trust might result from external, internal, and intersecting external-internal processes. External processes refer to the actions institutions take that affect public trust, while internal processes refer to intrapersonal factors affecting a trustor’s level of trust. We describe how the beneficial psychological and behavioral outcomes of trust can be mitigated or circumvented through these processes and highlight the implications of a “darkest” side of trust when they intersect. We draw upon research on organizations and legal, governmental, and political systems to demonstrate the dark side of trust in different contexts. The conclusion outlines directions for future research and encourages researchers to consider the ethical nuances of studying how to increase institutional trust.