Author: Laura Gagliardone
Date: November 2016
People’s behavior is determined by their setting of goals, the motivation they feel associated with goal achievement, their evaluation of efforts toward the goals, and the resulting satisfaction or dissatisfaction. Therefore if you want to persuade people to modify their behavior, then you have to take into consideration key elements of social psychology which this article summarizes as a handy guideline based on the book entitled ‘Social Psychology and Evaluation’ written by Donaldson, S. I., & Campbell, B., & Mark, M.M. (2011). Nobody has said that it is going to be easy but it is possible especially by encouraging motivation to think and share information. As an evaluator, you will encounter difficulties and conflicts but you know that if there is a will there is a way.
WHAT IS EVALUATION? The analysis of merit, standards and measuring of performance, and synthesis of a program, policy or practice is called Evaluation. This discipline, through assessing strengths and weaknesses can help improve the effectiveness of programs, policies, personnel, products and organizations. And what a good or proper Evaluation is and how it should be done is described by the Evaluation theory that offers a set of rules, prescriptions, prohibitions, and guiding frameworks.
WHICH ELEMENTS OF SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGY SHOULD EVALUATORS KEEP IN MIND? Evaluation is undertaken by people for improving people’s life so human behavior plays an important role. Taking into consideration concepts of Social Psychology can help understand personalities, attitudes, motivations, and behaviors of individuals or groups in the context of social interactions. And prepare Evaluation findings and recommendations which can change things in better.
People’s behavior is determined by their setting of goals, the motivation they feel associated with goal achievement, their evaluation of efforts toward the goals, the resulting satisfaction or dissatisfaction, and their perception of the social rewards associated with accomplishments. Human behavior has three main determinants: personal, interpersonal, and environmental. And constraints: time, resources, and mobility.
People determine their self-development therefore if an Evaluation has the aim to change a program, policy or organization, then it has to start with identifying who are the people with high efficacy, the capacity to view impediments as surmountable through developing competencies and perseverant efforts. Those people will be more likely to accept recommendations and consequently motivate others thanks to their self-monitoring and self-drive.
Also, evaluators should always promote gender equality by fostering women’ talents and social rights given that in many societies they are subjugated and denied their liberty, dignity, and opportunities. But they can play a big role in changing people’s behavior, especially that of young individuals and children.
WHICH ARE THE SUPPORTIVE TOOLS? Evaluators who want to conduct accurate assessments should gather quality data and information and then use social networks and media to shape public consciousness. In fact, media portray human nature, social relations, norms, and structure of a society.
HOW CAN A MODEL OF CHANGE BE DESIGNED AND IMPLEMENTED? The behavior change is the result of a regulatory process that motivates an individual to readjust behavior if a discrepancy is observed between information about one’s behavior and a behavioral standard or if other ways look appealing. In due course, feedback plays an important role and evaluators are called to monitor it.
People’s commitment to goals comes from goal attractiveness and expectancy. Therefore evaluators have to identify the basic action model and its four steps: (1) definition of goals, (2) external feedback, (3) causal attribution, and (4) ability. Professional goals can be strongly influenced by organizational mission and values and may vary over time. Therefore the temporal factor is important as confidence changes and sometime decreases.
Evaluators gather data and information through asking clear questions about meaningful behaviors in a setting that allows for candid reports. It is better not share too much information and answer every question yourself, especially what respondents may infer from features of the questionnaire, including the response alternatives, the reference period, the content of related questions, the title of the questionnaire, and the sponsor of the study. Accuracy is important, therefore it is recommendable to pilot test questions, adjust them, and test again. Social psychology helps address challenges that evaluators face in practice.
Evaluators have to encourage information sharing because it is more powerful than single information. Consensus is typically an indicator of validity. Trust has been identified as a key element to both group cooperation and performance. Therefore working on conflict resolution and negotiation has shown that trust and willingness to exchange information can help negotiators find common ground and opportunities for added value beyond simple compromise. Major aspects of process losses in groups are due to coordination issues. Performance must be perceived by the group members as a group level phenomenon. When the size of the group increases, each member feels somewhat less responsible for carrying out the specific behavior.
Evaluators have to understand if the goals of each of the stakeholder group are the same. Analyzing the causes of behavior and the intention to change is useful to understand the process which can have major components: general influence, cognitive, or affective. Evaluators have to encourage positive interdependence because cooperation occurs when a person perceives that his or her own goal is possible only to the extent that others in the group also reach their goal. That is defined as cooperative learning. While negative interdependence and competition happen when people believe that their success is determined by others’ failure.
Cooperative learning is an example of the ideal relationship among psychological theory, research and practice. The social interdependence theory provides an example of how psychological theorizing and research have resulted in valuable practical applications, and of how theory, research, and practice interact in ways that enhance all three. It is important to have self-esteem and exercise self-monitoring as the more the internal dynamics of cooperation are understood, the more effective cooperative learning may be implemented.
The change will be influenced by the findings and recommendations, therefore when an evaluation occurs, individuals should think carefully about how to present information in a persuasive message. But there is always the risk that attitudes are changed through a relatively non thoughtful process. If individuals are not motivated or are not able to elaborate, then if persuasion occurs it is more likely to occur through a non-thoughtful process. Attitudes changed through a thoughtful process are stronger in the sense that they are more likely to persist over time and they are more likely to guide behavior. If one wants an evaluation to influence behavior as well as attitudes with respect to a program or policy, then one wants to foster thoughtful attitude change. Intended users of an evaluation are people who understand, value, and care about evaluation, and who actively seek information to make judgements and predict the outcomes of program activity. The social psychological literature may help explain why this evaluation approach appears to increase instrumental use.
HOW TO COMMUNICATE FINDINGS? Finding more effective ways to communicate and report evaluation results is necessary. Clear language is likely to result in an evaluation report that is simple and easy to understand. Attention to the social psychological literature might suggest other reporting techniques to facilitate thoughtful processing, such as the inclusion of thought-provoking questions or probes in reports and briefings.
For an evaluation to be credible it is necessary to create strong argument. Thinking will be biased when individuals have a defensive motive to protect existing, self-definitional attitudes and beliefs, or an impression management motive to hold attitudes and beliefs that will satisfy current social goals. Strong arguments facilitate positive thoughts and thus are easier to find strengths in and harder to find flaws in, whereas weak arguments facilitate negative thoughts and thus are easier to find flaws in and harder to find strengths in.
WHEN AND WHERE THERE MIGHT BE DIFFICULTIES? Stakeholders often have existing positions about the merit and worth of the program or policy being evaluated. The participants in evaluations are sometimes chosen explicitly to represent a particular stakeholder group. And the literature suggests techniques that may reduce bias in the elaboration of evaluation findings, in addition to methodological quality. It is necessary to promote objective rather than biased elaboration of evaluation findings and thus lessen the likelihood of misuse. Biased thinking will reduce when each stakeholder anticipates interacting with others can vary initial views.
Encouraging a learning organization increases motivation to think. Persuasion research has yielded findings that seem inconsistent with recommendations for best evaluation practice, and thus further research is needed to resolve the ambiguity. Well informed talk is a more powerful means by which to report good and bad findings and actively engage stakeholders in the shared commitment to better programs. Efforts to better integrate persuasion research and evaluation could be profitable in several ways. It might be profitable to increase stakeholders’ motivation to process and elaborate on evaluation findings.
The steps of problem solving negotiations should describe: (1) what you want, (2) how you feel, (3) the reasons for your wants and feelings, (4) the other’s perspective and understanding of what the other person wants and feels, and the reasons underlying both, (5) optional plans, (6) choice of one, and (7) formalization of the agreement with a hand shake.
During negotiations there might be conflicts which can be resolved by a neutral person called mediator who looks for an agreement that benefits everyone involved through constructive management. A high level of self-interest among individual stakeholders can lead to contentious interactions when faced with a group discussion or decision making task. Explicit commitments to foster a superordinate group identity and goals may lessen the severity of stakeholder conflicts. Framing a decision task as a fixed-pie scenario will lead to more contentious interactions than if the task is framed as having win-win potential. Involving key stakeholders in evaluation decision making from the beginning will increase primary intended use by primary intended users. A commitment to the evaluation and utilization should be sought only after individuals adjust to the evaluation process and express interest in the activity. Obtaining written commitments from an entire group of stakeholders will lead to increased levels of evaluation utilization.
Last but not least, it is important to create a more persuasive dialogue between stakeholders and evaluators.
Donaldson, S. I., & Campbell, B., & Mark, M. M. (2011). Social Psychology and Evaluation.
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