Posts Tagged matching

Are you a maximiser or a satisficer?

Imagine that you were receiving feedback on something you had worked on along with a colleague. Which of these two scenarios would you prefer?

  • Scenario 1: You receive great feedback from your supervisor, but your colleague receives even better feedback.
  • Scenario 2: You receive really negative feedback from your supervisor but your colleague receives significantly worse feedback.

On the face of it, Scenario 1 seems to be the best situation; you are receiving great feedback rather than negative feedback. However, in one study, certain people experiencing Scenario 2 reported feeling happier and more self confident than those experiencing Scenario 1. They would rather do better than their peers even if it meant performing much worse overall. Not everyone felt this way, though. In fact, it was only people who reported themselves as being generally unhappy who engaged in this social comparison. Happy people were just pleased to get a good report and didn’t measure themselves against other people.

What makes some people more sensitive to their relative success than to their absolute success? And what implications does this have for career decision making?

According to Barry Schwartz and his colleagues the unhappy people are ‘maximisers’ and the happy people are ‘saticficers’.

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Classics – Theory of Work Adjustment

Adjust button

If only it were that easy!

You may have noticed the theme of compromise that I have been developing over the latest few posts. Given the economic conditions, it is very likely that people will be forced to make more compromises in their careers. So it seems to make sense to explore the notion of compromise and examine how to do it well.

I’ve decided to continue this theme by introducing another classic theory. This one is primarily a matching theory, but with a bit more to it.

I have included a brief summary of the Theory of Work Adjustment (TWA) in the resources section and you might want to read that first if you are unfamiliar with it. Here I will concentrate on why I think it is interesting.

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Classics – Gottfredson

Linda Gottfredson - does she feel circumscribed or compromised?

Linda Gottfredson - is she circumscribed or compromised? I don't think so.

In 1981, Linda Gottfredson first put forward the theory of Circumscription and Compromise. It sits on the border between matching theories and developmental theories of career choice because it looks at how people’s career matching processes develop over time. It also explores the interaction of sociological factors and psychological factors that determine career decisions.

In a later article Gottfredson talks about how the theory can be applied to career guidance and counselling (‘Using Gottfredson’s theory of circumscription and compromise in career guidance and counseling’ in Career Development and Counseling: Putting Theory and Research to Workan alternative version). She recommends several different activities to foster good development of career decision making. Although the recommendations are aimed at children (and are a bit jargon-filled), they can provide a useful model for thinking about careers provision at any age.
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What’s your bias?

Imagine that a small hamlet of 600 people has been struck down by a potentially fatal disease. A health expert comes to you and offers two possible treatment programmes:

  • If you follow Programme A 200 people will be saved
  • If you follow Programme B there is a one-third probability that all 600 will be saved, but a two-thirds probability that no-one will be saved.

Which would you go for?

Now, let’s imagine that neither Programme A or B is viable. Instead, the boffin proposes another two treatment programmes:

  • If you follow Programme C 400 people will die.
  • If you follow Programme D there is a one-third probability that no-one will die and a two-thirds probability that 600 people will die.

Which would you choose now?

This probably didn’t trip you up — you may have spotted that programmes A and C are exactly the same and programmes B and D are exactly the same. However, when these choices were presented separately to two groups of people, those who were given programmes A and B mostly chose A, and those who were presented with C and D mostly chose D (Entman, R. M. (1993), Framing: Toward clarification of a fractured paradigm. Journal of Communication 43(4)  51–58.)

Presenting the options in a slightly different way with different wording resulted in people making radically different decisions. This is an example of a cognitive bias — a repeatable irrationality in the way we tend to think and make choices. This particular cognitive bias is called framing (or possibly the pseudocertainty effect), but dozens of them have been identified.
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