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Consequences of perceiving organization members as a unified entity: Stronger attraction, but greater blame for member transgressions


Journal of Applied Psychology


Organisational Behaviour

Authors / Editors

Effron D;Kakkar H;Cable D M

Publication Year



Are Uber drivers just a collection of independent workers, or a meaningful part of UberÂ’s workforce? Do the owners of Holiday Inn franchises around the world seem more like a loosely knit group, or more like a cohesive whole? These questions examine perceptions of organization membersÂ’ entitativity, the extent to which individuals appear to comprise a single, unified entity. We propose that the publicÂ’s perception that an organizationÂ’s members are highly entitative can be a double-edged sword for the organization. On the one hand, perceiving an organizationÂ’s members as highly entitative makes the public more attracted to the organization because people associate entitativity with competence. On the other hand, perceiving members as highly entitative leads the public to blame the organization and its leadership for an individual memberÂ’s wrongdoing because the public infers that the organization and its leadership tacitly condoned the wrongdoing. Two experiments and a field survey, plus thee supplemental studies, support these propositions. Moving beyond academic debates about whether theories should treat an organization as a unified entity, these results demonstrate the importance of understanding how much the public does perceive an organization as a unified entity. As the changing nature of work enables loosely knit collections of individuals to hold membership in the same organization, entitativity perceptions may become increasingly consequential.

Available on ECCH


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