The Mind of the Network Broker
33 Pages Posted: 27 Jan 2020
Date Written: December 2, 2019
Adapting to network contacts’ incompatible expectations and engaging with these expectations instrumentally can elicit cognitive dissonance in people occupying network brokerage and make others perceive the brokers negatively, which can threaten brokers’ self-integrity—the sense of being a good and appropriate person. We argue that network brokers cope with the threat to their self-integrity with motivated perceptions of their disconnected contacts that help them justify the lack of social ties between their contacts: namely, brokers tend to perceive their disconnected contacts as being “meant to be disconnected.” To corroborate the mechanism underlying this hypothesis, we further argue that this perception of disconnected contacts is attenuated through self-affirmation of brokers’ personal values unrelated to the threat, because self-affirmation decreases the threat to their self-integrity and enhances their self-view. We find support of our hypotheses in an experimental study that uses a novel paradigm to experimentally manipulate network positions. We find additional and complementary support from a field study of 170 professionals working in 26 teams in the finance, fashion, and the electric power industries, where network brokers perceive disconnected alters with little intention to socially integrate. From our theory and findings, we advance a view of brokerage as a psychological phenomenon, in addition to a structural one.
Keywords: Network, Brokerage, Motivated Perceptions, Self-justification, Self-affirmation, Experiment
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