The Influence of Source Credibility Attributions on Expectancy Theory Predictions of Organizational Choice

By Irving, P. Gregory; Coleman, Daniel F. | Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science, April 1997 | Go to article overview

The Influence of Source Credibility Attributions on Expectancy Theory Predictions of Organizational Choice


Irving, P. Gregory, Coleman, Daniel F., Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science


Abstract Hypotheses derived from expectancy theory suggest that applicants will select an organization that has the most attractive package of job features. Hypotheses derived from attribution theory likewise suggest that applicants will select the most attractive job, but that perceived attractiveness may be influenced by information source credibility and the credibility of the information content. We conducted a 2 x 2 job preview experiment with one between-subjects factor and one within-subjects factor. The between-subjects factor was information source in which the 134 participants (80 women and 54 men) were presented job information from either professional recruiters or job incumbents. The within-subjects factor was information favourability. Each participant received two previews. One preview contained only positive information about the job, whereas the other contained some negative information about the job. After exposure to the two job previews, participants completed an expectancy (job attractiveness) index for each job, a source credibility scale for each preview, and were asked their job choice intentions. We found support for the expectancy and attribution-based hypotheses. That is, participants selected the job for which the preview included some negative information more frequently than they did the job for which the preview included only positive information. Furthermore, both job attractiveness and source credibility were significantly related to job choice. However, information source was not related to perceived attractiveness of a job, source credibility, or job choice. Theoretical and practical implications are discussed. The manner in which individuals process information about organizations when selecting an employer has important implications for both recruiters and job applicants. Recruiters may benefit from enhanced knowledge about the selection process by understanding what factors lead to greater effectiveness in attracting and retaining employees. Applicants may also profit from such knowledge if they are better able to select an employer who will meet their job-related needs. For these reasons, organizational choice has been a topic of interest to researchers over the last several decades. Expectancy theory (Vroom, 1964) is the dominant theoretical basis for most research on organizational choice. Vroom posits that people prefer certain outcomes over others and that they anticipate feelings of satisfaction should they attain these outcomes. As discussed below, Vroom suggested that the model predicts various outcomes, including occupational choice, turnover decisions, and effort on the job (Mitchell, 1974). Although studies of organizational choice based on expectancy theory have yielded impressive results, they have been limited in the sense that they usually treat the information that respondents use in decision making (e.g., descriptions of outcomes and reported probabilities of these outcomes) as objective information. Respondents are assumed, then, to accept the information as factual input for processing according to expectancy theory (i.e., assessing instrumentalities and assigning valences depending on how well the described outcomes match their preferences). A potential limitation of the ability of expectancy theory to predict behaviour concerns its assumption that people are rational utility maximizers (Wahba & House, 1974). A number of organizational behaviours that have been posited as outcomes of rational decisions have also been explained by attribution theory, which suggests that individuals make decisions on the basis of very subjective perceptions. Examples of attributional approaches to organizational behaviours include the perception of leadership (Calder, 1977), self perception (Bem, 1972), reactions to persuasive communications (Settle & Golden, 1974) and organizational choice (Coleman & Irving, 1992; Irving, Coleman, & Tolliver, 1989). Expectancy and attribution theories make different assumptions regarding how information is processed during an organizational choice episode. …

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