A rich literature dating back decades suggests that people are averse to backing down from publicly-held positions when confronted by contradictory evidence; however, John, Jeong, Gino, and Huang take things a step further in this recent study: exploring the consequences of obstinacy with particular emphasis on external perceptions of intelligence and confidence. Through a pitch-competition-based field study and several follow up experiments, the authors find fairly strong evidence to suggest that refusing to back down leaves a bad impression on others with investors viewing entrepreneurs much more favorably if they are willing to back down in the face of contradictory evidence than if they hold firm. The authors argue that this relationship is driven by the tendency of investors to perceive those who back down as being more intelligent than those who do not—though they also seem to view those who back down as being less confident than those who do not. In industries where intelligence is most highly prized, therefore, a willingness to back down may be particularly advantageous—though it may be disadvantageous in industries where confidence is most highly prized. Bringing the study to a close, the authors present evidence which suggests that participants are much more likely to back down when allowed to do so in relative privacy (thereby allowing them to save face). The practical applications of this study are substantial for both entrepreneurs and managers.
John, L., M. Jeong, F. Gino, and L. Huang, “The self-presentational consequences of upholding one’s stance in spite of the evidence,” Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes 154 (2019): 1-14. Accessed via JSTOR.