Tag: Social Sciences

Want Respect in the Workplace? Drop the Smileys

Employees who communicate with images and emojis are perceived as less powerful.

If you wish to signal power to your colleagues, your boss, or your subordinates, you should consider reducing your use of pictures and emojis in favor of words – these are the conclusions of a new study at Tel Aviv University’s Coller School of Management.

According to the researchers, “Today we are all accustomed to communicating with pictures, and the social networks make it both easy and fun. Our findings, however, raise a red flag: in some situations, especially in a work or business environment, this practice may be costly, because it signals low power. Our advice: think twice before sending a picture or emoji to people in your organization, or in any other context in which you wish to be perceived as powerful.”

Words are Powerful

The study examined the response of American participants to verbal vs. pictorial messages in different contexts. The results were clear-cut: In all experiments, the respondents attributed more power to the person who chose a verbal vs. a visual representation of the message.

To test their hypothesis, the researchers conducted a series of experiments in which various everyday scenarios were presented to hundreds of American respondents. In one experiment, participants were asked to imagine shopping at a grocery store and seeing another shopper wearing a Red Sox t-shirt. Half of the participants were shown a t-shirt with the verbal logo RED SOX, while the other half saw the pictorial logo. Those who saw the t-shirt with the pictorial logo rated the wearer as less powerful than those who saw the verbal logo.

Pictures Reveal a Desire

Similar results recurred in a range of other contexts. Because of Covid-19, online meetings using platforms such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams have become an essential organizational fixture. The researchers examined the effects of picture versus word use in this important organizational context.

Participants were asked to choose one of two co-participants to represent them in a competitive game that suited people with high social power. Critically, one co-participant had purportedly chosen to represent themselves with a pictorial profile, while the other had purportedly chosen to represent themselves with a verbal profile. Sixty-two percent of the participants selected the co-participant who chose to represent themselves with a verbal profile. Thus, employees who signal power by using words are more likely to be selected to powerful positions, compared to those who signal weakness by using pictures.

Dr. Elinor Amit from TAU’s Coller School of Management summarizes: “Why do pictures signal that a sender has little power? Research shows that visual messages are often interpreted as a signal for desire for social proximity. A separate body of research shows that less powerful people desire social proximity more than powerful people do. Consequently, signaling that you’d like social proximity by using pictures is essentially signaling you’re less powerful.”

Amit notes that such signaling is usually irrelevant in close relationships, as in communications between family members. However, in many arenas of our lives, especially at work or in business, power relations prevail, and we should be aware of the impression our messages make on their recipients. “Our findings raise a red flag: When you want to signal power – think twice before sending an emoji or a picture,” she concludes.

The study was conducted by Dr. Elinor Amit and Prof. Shai Danziger from Coller School of Management at Tel Aviv University, in collaboration with Prof. Pamela K. Smith from the Rady School of Management at UCSD. The paper was published in the prestigious journal Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes.

Investment in Social Funds Leads to a Reduction in Charitable Donations

Researchers warn that this substitution effect may impact charities negatively.

A new TAU study, the first of its kind, examined whether there is a connection between the rapid growth of investment in social investment funds and the decrease in donations to charitable organizations. The researchers studied the actual investment behavior of approximately 10,000 clients of an investment app, and found that investors switching to invest in a recently introduced social fund reduced their donations, mainly in charities supporting causes similar to those of the social fund.

However, the researchers also found that most of the investors in the social fund had not previously donated to charities, so, looking at the big picture, social funds entice more people to fund social causes.

The study was conducted by Dr. Shai Levi and Prof. Shai Danziger of Tel Aviv University’s Coller School of Management, in collaboration with Dr. Jake An of the Australian firm Raiz Investing and Prof. Donnel Briley of the University of Sydney. The study was published in the prestigious journal Management Science.

Charities Take a Hit

In recent years, investment firms have been marketing social investments (Environment, Society and Government, or ESG) as a way for investors to achieve financial returns while making a social impact. Such funds will for instance avoid investments in certain industries, like oil, and rather invest in others, like renewable energy.

In 2018, global social investment assets exceeded $30 trillion, an increase of 34% since 2016. During this same period, in the U.S., total donations to nonprofits – the traditional avenue for advancing social goals – dropped 1.1 percent to about $300 billion. Until now, the causal link between the popularity of social investments and the decline in charitable giving had not been examined.

Dr. Levi explains that the study was conducted using the unique database of the Australian digital investment platform Raiz Investment – a phone app aimed primarily at millennials, young investors with relatively small investment portfolios.

According to Dr. Levi, in 2017 Raiz added the option of investing in an ESG social fund, which invests only in companies that meet certain standards of sustainability, social values ​​and governance. Because the app is connected to users’ bank accounts, it was possible to monitor investors’ charitable donations both before and after they joined the fund. The researchers tracked the investments and donations of about 3,300 investors who invested in ESG, about 4,000 investors who invested in another, non-social fund, and another 3,300 investors in a control group, that were matched on investor characteristics to those that had switched to the ESG fund. They found that, on average, investors who contributed to charitable organizations before investing in a social fund tended to donate less afterwards – that is, some investors saw their ESG investment as a kind of donation.

Overall Effect Uncertain

Prof. Danziger points to the complexity of the findings. “On the one hand, investment firms could use social funds as a marketing ploy to attract investors. For example, say you’re told the ESG fund invests only in companies with a low carbon footprint – that doesn’t mean that you’re investing in companies in the field of renewable energy. It can mean that you’re investing in technology giants like Apple, that is, companies that are not necessarily causing damage. Our findings show that after investing in a social fund, investors reduce their traditional contributions to environmental and social nonprofits.”

“On the other hand, since 79% of investors in the ESG fund did not make any charitable contributions before investing, the overall effect must be assessed. Ultimately, the question is whether ESG contributions to society outweigh the decrease in investor donations that result from substitution. In our study, we estimate that overall, funds will have a positive impact on society only if their annual contribution to social causes exceeds 3.2% of the balance invested. In practice, this is difficult to measure, and we don’t know whether the contribution of the social funds crosses this threshold, so it is not clear whether their impact on society is positive.”

In conclusion, the researchers say, “The trend that emerged from the study indicates that investors may replace charities with social funds. This could have a major impact on charities, who will lose a significant source of income and find it difficult to continue to function.”

Rising Temperatures Fuel Increase in Violence: TAU Study

Findings demonstrate first direct link between climate change and criminal behavior.

Rising temperatures increase the likelihood of violent crimes, according to a new study led by Tel Aviv University‘s Dr. Ram Fishman of TAU’s Department of Public Policy, Gershon H. Gordon Faculty of Social Sciences

The novel findings indicate that for every 1-degree Celsius rise over the average daily temperature, the rate of violent crime spikes by one percent. The victims are generally ethnic and religious minorities, women, and political rivals.

The study is the first of its kind to link the day-to-day relationship between weather changes and criminal trends in the developing world.  

​“This is a glaring warning sign of the devastating and worrying consequences of the global climate crisis,” said Fishman, who conducted the study with partners from the UAE, India and the US. “These consequences are already here with us and are gnawing at the very foundations of social and human existence.” 

Dr. Ram Fishman (Photo: Noga Shahar)

In the context of the study, Fishman examined a representative state in India with a crime rate similar to the national average. Results from parallel studies in other countries yielded similar results according to Fishman, Head of the Sustainable Development Lab at TAU’s Boris Mints Institute for Strategic Policy Solutions to Global Challenges. He explained that the analysis performed in India can be tailored to other locations, where he expects similar results.   

The team gained unprecedented access to troves of crime records from 600 police stations in Karnataka, India. The “big data” sets included the exact date, location and type of crime reported over a six-year period. Using advanced statistical analysis methods, the researchers compared crime data to daily and seasonal weather conditions. In this way, they discovered the correlation between weather and crime at a level more accurate than previously possible. 

The researchers pointed to higher temperatures causing increased aggression as one likely factor driving this phenomenon. Further demonstrating the link between heat and higher day-to-day violent crime, the findings showed that non-violent property crimes were largely unaffected by daily weather. Fishman and team added that severe heat can cause lower agricultural yields, leading to higher unemployment rates and increased economic hardship. However, these economic motives were primarily associated with increased crime rates over time—not on a daily level. The study’s authors note that previous research in developing countries was limited. Population in these regions typically face relatively higher temperatures and are less able to shield themselves from these conditions. 

Their findings are in the December 2021 peer-reviewed issue of the Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization

New Study Presents A Gloomy Climate Future for the Middle East

But Raises Hope the Region Could Become Part of the Solution to the Climate Crisis.

A fresh study conducted by Professor Dan Rabinowitz, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Gershon H. Gordon Faculty of Social Sciences at the Tel Aviv University, surveys regional climate models for the Middle East, analyzes climate inequalities and examines threats posed by global warming to security and political stability in the region.

In a new book published by Stanford University Press entitled ‘The Power of Deserts: Climate Change, the Middle East and the Promise of a Post-Oil Era’, Professor Rabinowitz argues that the region, already hotter and dryer than most parts, could soon see exacerbated water shortages, decreased agricultural productivity, large scale displacement and conflict as a result of a deteriorating climate.

  “The tragic cases of Sudan and Syria”, says Rabinowitz, “demonstrated what could happen when shrinking agricultural outputs force millions to leave rural hinterlands and seek refuge in cities which are ill-equipped and often unwilling to absorb them”. “Global warming”, he warns, “could turn such scenarios to a new normal in the Middle East, fanning further friction between ethnic groups, damaging instability and creating conflict”.

In a chapter dedicated to climate inequality, the book demonstrates that wealthier and more technologically advanced countries in the region, which are responsible for higher per-capita emissions of greenhouse gases, have the means to adapt to the Post Normal Climate Condition and protect themselves from its perils. This while poorer neighbors, whose contributions to the climate crisis has been significantly smaller, stand to suffer most.

‘The Power of Deserts’ however offers more than somber warnings. Its latter part in fact raises the surprising, counterintuitive notion that the Middle East could eventually become part of the solution to the climate crisis. Using his deep knowledge of the region and an ability to present scientific data with clarity and poise that has made him a leading Israeli voice on climate change, Rabinowitz makes a sober yet surprisingly optimistic exploration of an opportunity arising from a looming crisis.

The past 70 years, he says, in which oil reigned supreme, helped the oil-rich countries of the Persian Gulf accumulate legendary wealth. But with renewable sources of energy now eclipsing fossil fuels in transport and in electricity production everywhere, the age of oil is coming to an end.  Add a disconcerting climate prognosis, and the oil rich countries in the Middle East now look at a precarious future. The need to calculate a different pathway going forward has become imperative.

Their best bet, Rabinowitz argues, could be exploiting solar energy.  With  more than 300 sunny days a year, abundant unproductive land, good capital reserves available for investment and a good track record of integrating new technologies in civil infrastructure,  the Gulf states could drastically expand their use of solar energy for their domestic electricity production; invest heavily in renewable technologies and capacities around the world; then, at the right moment, turn their backs on oil and natural gas completely and, using their market power in the energy market ante, carve themselves a leading role in the energy universe of the future.

“Rather than resisting the energy transition, which was underway even before Covid-19 and was accelerated since,” says Rabinowitz, “the Gulf States could switch to the ‘right’ side of history, join the struggle to curb climate change and gain respect in the eyes of many who once looked at them with suspicion and contempt. Significantly, this transformation on their part does not hinge on an ideological rebirth and the adoption of a ‘green’ outlook. It could transpire as a rare historical junction where self-preservation on the part of some works to the benefit of many others”. 

Dan Rabinowitz, Professor of Sociology and Anthropology at Tel-Aviv University, is Chairman of the Association for Environmental Justice in Israel. He was Head of TAU’s Porter School of Environmental Studies and Chairman of Greenpeace Mediterranean. He received the Pratt Prize for Environmental Journalism (2012) and the Green Globe award for environmental leadership (2016). 

TAU Joint Study: COVID-19 Deaths Dive on Weekends

TAU Economics Prof. Neil Gandal and his brother of CCNY find one city that defies trend: New York City

Tel Aviv University’s Prof. Neil Gandal from Berglas School of Economics, together with his brother Prof. Keith Gandal from City College of New York, examined U.S. COVID-19 deaths by day of the week. Mysteriously, the same pattern has repeated every single week of the pandemic: deaths rise from Tuesday-Friday and come down Saturday-Monday, hitting a nadir on Sunday or Monday. Controlling for time trends, deaths during weekends were at least 40 percent lower than on weekdays.

According to the researchers, the average death toll from COVID-19 in the U.S. has been 901 deaths on Saturdays, 682 on Sundays, and 699 on Mondays. The Sunday-Monday average then sharply rises on Tuesdays to 1,119. Wednesdays are the worst in terms of COVID-19, with an average of 1,130 deaths – nearly 95 percent higher than your average Sunday and almost 90 percent higher than your average Monday. Then, on Thursdays, the daily average begins to go down again with 1,128 deaths, followed by 1,033 deaths on Fridays.

This weekend effect does not occur in New York City. Without New York City, deaths during the Tuesday to Friday period in the U.S. are 50 percent higher than the Saturday to Monday period.

The same effect was found in COVID-19 mortality rates for the rest of the world – though much weaker; there is a 20 percent less chance of dying from the disease on weekends than on weekdays globally. Historical research shows that such a weekend effect exists for overall deaths, but it is weaker than with COVID-19. In the case of England, for example, researchers found that for every 100 deaths among patients in a hospital on Wednesday, there are 92 deaths among similar patients in the hospital on a Sunday. 

“The robustness analyses we did, and the fact that the weekend effect does not exist in NYC, suggest that our results are not likely due just to reporting issues,” says Prof. Neil Gandal. “It seems to us probable that something social or cultural is going on with overall U.S. COVID-19 deaths, corresponding to differing behaviors and attitudes tied to different parts of the week. Perhaps people tend to relax more on the weekends, even in hospitals or long-term care facilities. Meanwhile, in NYC, my brother Keith tells me, the familiar rhythms of the American week were simply wiped away between mid-March and the end of May. During that period, every day seemed the same, as in the movie ‘Groundhog Day.’ Except it was Coronavirus Day. Each day, you woke up to disbelief, dread, even horror, and soon enough, you heard the wail of ambulances. All day long, no one was on the streets. Even Times Square was empty. The sirens didn’t stop at night. Could worrying, watching the frightening news coverage of the pandemic, and ultimately panicking about COVID-19, be increasing the death toll? We leave this for future research.”

Victoria

Tok Corporate Centre, Level 1,
459 Toorak Road, Toorak VIC 3142
Phone: +61 3 9296 2065
Email: office@aftau.asn.au

New South Wales

P.O. Box 4044, Maroubra South,
NSW 2035
Phone: +61 418 465 556
Email: davidsolomon@aftau.org.au

Western Australia

P O Box 36, Claremont,
WA  6010
Phone: :+61 411 223 550
Email: clivedonner@thelinqgroup.com