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November 2, 2017

From perception to reality: The role of motivated cognition in organizational network change

Abstract: Social networks can be considered cognitions in the minds of each perceiver or mutually recognized patterns of interaction. But what happens when the individual’s motivations lead to misalignment with other’s perceptions of mutual social interactions? We bring together cognitive and actual network research in showing that human motivations affect network dynamics through the mediation of social network perceptions. Using longitudinal social network data, we show that people motivated by the pursuit of status tend to under-acknowledge their dependence on others’ advice; whereas people motivated by the pursuit of communion with others tend to over-claim their helpfulness in providing advice. These self-serving network perceptions affect future networking patterns, such that status strivers tend to open new brokerage opportunities in their advice-seeking networks; and communion strivers tend to open new brokerage opportunities in their advice-giving networks. Motivated cognitions in the minds of individuals result in actual networking outcomes.

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