The Impact of Visual Cues on Judgment and Perceptions of Performance

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The Impact of Visual Cues on Judgment and Perceptions of Performance

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Title: The Impact of Visual Cues on Judgment and Perceptions of Performance
Author: Tsay, Chia-Jung
Citation: Tsay, Chia-Jung. 2012. The Impact of Visual Cues on Judgment and Perceptions of Performance. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University.
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Abstract: No matter what domain, the judgment of performance occupies a key area of investment. Experts are trained and societal institutions are constructed to judge performance, and to identify, develop, and reward the highest levels of achievement. This research demonstrates that experts are just as vulnerable as novices to being confounded by the vision heuristic--the dominance of visual information over more relevant evaluation metrics. Using a multi-method approach spanning laboratory experiments, surveys, interviews, and field data, this research explores the impact of visual information on judgment and decision making in performance contexts. The first paper indicates that professional musicians use primarily visual information to judge music performance, even when they report that sound is most important to their evaluations. The second paper highlights the underlying mechanisms that account for the dominance of visual information. Additional work elaborates on the generalizability of the vision heuristic to management domains. The third paper suggests that visible cues about leadership and team dynamics matter more to expert judges than the group performances themselves. In another set of studies, venture capitalists and investors are found to neglect the content of entrepreneur pitches, instead overweighting dynamic visual cues. Finally, the latest study demonstrates that the visual performance cues displayed by firm managers can lead financial analysts to make less accurate forecasts of firm performance. In sum, this research shows that both laymen and experts rely heavily on visual information in their judgments; this dominance extends to organizational contexts, where it can strongly bias performance assessments. These findings have implications for the optimal design of processes for professional selection and advancement, and communication in organizations.
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