Whether you’re applying for a new job or want to portray yourself as a leader at work, you most likely have to be current on the latest technological advances in the digital age. Aside from acquiring a great wealth of knowledge, simply just owning the latest smartphone, tablet, or wearing doodad can make a difference in how people perceive you in a work atmosphere. According to a recent study published in The Journal of Product Innovation Management, investing in Google Glass or another one of the latest gadgets can help people see you as a better boss or leader.
“Familiarity with and usage of new high-tech products appears to be a common manifestation of innovative behavior,” said Steve Hoeffler of Vanderbilt and Stacy Wood of North Carolina State University, authors of the study, in the Vanderbilt University news release. “Those who are tech savvy are also perceived as authoritative on other subjects and as leaders.” While the use of high-tech innovations is clearly influenced by the product’s functional benefits, the pair wondered if the use of a new product could also provide social benefits to its consumers.
The team of researchers sought to explore what the role of impression management plays in consumers’ use of new high-tech products, especially in a work environment where innovativeness is valued by employers in two experiments. In the study, impression management — a phenomenon in social psychology — is defined as a human tendency to monitor, consciously or unconsciously, the efficacy of his or her communication of self to others. A group of actors and test subjects were used to evaluate high-tech proficiency in both experiments.
In the first part of the study, the researchers taped interviews using actors who were categorized by their appearance and other factors. The actors took down a note using an old-fashioned calendar, followed by another interview where they took out an electronic calendar and took the note that way. The test subjects viewed the interviews and evaluated which actors appeared to be more authoritative, according to Science Daily. Actors who used electronic calendars were viewed overwhelmingly viewed as being more authoritative.
In the second part of the study, the test subjects were asked to evaluate resumes that were exactly alike, with the exception of the applicants’ hobbies. The hobbies offered an indication on whether the applicants were high-tech or not. The high-tech candidates were found to come out ahead. Moreover, for both experiments, women who used technological gadgets benefitted more than their male counterparts.
Overall, the use of new high-tech products was seen as a surprisingly effective social signal of test subjects' tech savviness and innovativeness. Using the latest new gadgets even increased positive evaluations of leadership and professional success in the study. However, this effect differs based on gender as women attained stronger benefits from using high-tech products than men.
“This finding runs counter to the backlash effect typically found in impression management research in business settings,” wrote the authors of the study. “Female job evaluations typically suffer after engaging in the same self-promoting impression management strategies that benefit their male counterparts.” Moreover, the team of researchers believe actually being able to operate the devices really isn’t all that important compared to how you portray yourself to look reasonably competent about these devices.
While it seems the evolution of technology has dictated how we carry out our day-to-day activities and how we’re perceived as “smart” or “knowledgeable” by others, it has also ironically dumbed us down. A study published in Science Magazine has found the ready availability of search engines has changed the way we use our memories. When people expect to have future access to information, they tend to have lower rates of recalling the information itself and instead have enhanced recollection of where to access it. “The Internet has become a primary form of external or transactive memory, where information is stored collectively outside ourselves,” wrote Sparrow and colleagues.
While owning the latest tech toy may make you appear smart and authoritative, actually being smart is more valuable in the long run.
Hoeffler S, Wood S. Looking Innovative: Exploring the Role of Impression Management in High-Tech Product Adoption and Use. Journal of Product Innovation Management. 2013.
Liu K, Sparrow B, Wegner DM. Google Effects on Memory: Cognitive Consequences of Having Information at Our Fingertips. Science Magazine. 2014.