What Goes Up Must . . . Keep Going Up? Cultural Differences in Cognitive Styles Influence Evaluations of Dynamic Performance

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Abstract

Past research on dynamic workplace performance evaluation has taken as axiomatic that temporal performance trends produce naïve extrapolation effects on performance ratings. That is, we naïvely assume that an individual whose performance has trended upward over time will continue to improve, and rate that individual more positively than an individual whose performance has trended downward over time—even if, on average, the 2 individuals have performed at an equivalent level. However, we argue that such naïve extrapolation effects are more pronounced in Western countries than Eastern countries, owing to Eastern countries having a more holistic cognitive style. To test our hypotheses, we examined the effect of performance trend on expectations of future performance and ratings of past performance across 2 studies: Study 1 compares the magnitude of naïve extrapolation effects among Singaporeans primed with either a more or less holistic cognitive style, and Study 2 examines holistic cognitive style as a mediating mechanism accounting for differences in the magnitude of naïve extrapolation effects between American and Chinese raters. Across both studies, we found support for our predictions that dynamic performance trends have less impact on the ratings of more holistic thinkers. Implications for the dynamic performance and naïve extrapolation literatures are discussed.

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