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Lay Theories of Networking Ability: Beliefs That Inhibit Instrumental Networking

Journal Article
While touting the importance of building effective networks, scholars have paid far less attention to why so many people feel so ambivalent or conflicted about instrumental networking, and what can be done to change such attitudes. The present research provides the first empirical test of a novel theory, which argues that people are more likely to disengage from networking if they hold a “fixed theory” of networking ability—believing that how well one networks is fixed or innate rather than learned through effort—which triggers negative attitudes toward moral and instrumental aspects of networking. To test this argument, the authors first develop and validate a Lay Theory of Networking Ability scale (Study 1) and show that this scale predicts people’s attendance in networking events over a 6-week period (Study 2). Next, they show that lay theories can be experimentally manipulated, with consequences for attendance in networking events over a 4-week period (Study 3) as well as people’s affective experiences in networking events (Study 4). In all, the present research contributes to our understanding of the motivational psychology of networking by highlighting the importance of beliefs as an understudied construct in the networks literature and by introducing methods to measure and manipulate them.
Faculty

Associate Professor of Organisational Behaviour