The Effect of Perceived Attitude Similarity on Performance Ratings

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This research consists of a laboratory study designed to test the notion that variance in performance ratings can be accounted for by the perception of the rater that the persons/he is evaluating is attitudinally similar or dissimilar to himself or herself. Student subjects were led to believe that a certain manager either agreed or disagreed with them on a number of attitudinal issues. Subjects then viewed a videotaped performance of the manager conducting a performance review with one of his problem subordinates. Subjects were asked to rate his performance using two different rating instruments -- a trait rating scale and a Behavior Observation Scale -- and to indicate personal liking for the manager. Extent of attitude similarity was manipulated on two levels with a control group . That is, some subjects were led to believe that the ratee was attitudinal l y similar to self, others that the ratee was dissimilar to self, and a third group received no information about the ratee's attitudes. The ratee's performance was manipulated on three levels. Some subjects viewed only a high performin1; manager, others viewed a moderate performer, and a third group viewed a lo w performing manager. Three different vignettes were prepared to represent the three levels of performance. Finally, a hard-performance-data condition was included to test the robustness of the attitude similarity effect. Some subjects received hard performance data, in the form of bar graphs, that was consistent with the level of performance portrayed in their videotaped vignette (i.e., those viewing the low performer received hard data indicative of low performance). It was hypothesized that perceived attitude similarity would have its greatest effect when performance was moderate, and when subjects did not receive hard performance data. The results did not support these predictions. The effect of perceived attitude similarity on performance ratings was not significant under any of the experimental conditions. Perceived similarity had a small, but significant effect on attraction; however, level of performance accounted for a far greater proportion of variance in attraction measures than perceived similarity. It was concluded that the rating task in this experiment failed to create the conditions under which perceived similarity would be most likely to exert an influence on ratings. Specifically, the rating task was not sufficiently ambiguous for student raters.