The Implications of Being Underestimated

Students

2020
Wharton

Faculty

Assistant Professor of Management

Project Summary

Have you ever been doubted by others yet still believed you could succeed in a particular task? This concept is known as being the “underdog” and despite others’ lack of faith, underdogs have been shown to succeed to in countless narratives. Nevertheless, there is still a lack of empirical evidence proving that underdogs thrive rather than fail, especially in the business context.

This past summer, my research revolved around how observer’s low expectations impact performance. In the business world it is generally agreed upon that high-expectations from supervisors result in better performance, this is known as the Pygmalion effect. However, the research which I worked on attempts to dispute this prevailing viewpoint.

During the summer I worked alongside Assistant Professor Samir Nurmohamed and Graduate Student, Tim Kundro, in the Wharton Management Department. In order to study the phenomenon known as the “Underdog effect” we partnered with Careerlink Centers in Philadelphia and created a session to instill participants with an underdog mentality. Careerlink is an employment center with the purpose of finding jobs for those who need it. In the hour-long session, jobseekers would be assigned to either the underdog, high expectations, or control condition. Their performance would ultimately be determined by their employment status 8 weeks after the initial survey.

Participating in this research project has increased my knowledge on how to conduct experimental research in a field study. Additionally, leading the Careerlink sessions has helped to refine my public speaking skills. Going forward, I hope to use the basic principles of research in other academic fields by continuing to ask questions and uncover underlying causes. I also gained skills in statistical analysis using real data. These skills will be more relevant as I hope to pursue a career in customer analytics.

The Implications of Being Underestimated