“If stress is good for me, it's probably good for you too”: Stress mindset and judgment of others' strain
Abstract Much is known about stress and its resulting strain (i.e., negative outcomes such as burnout or impaired health), but not about how we perceive others' strain and what the outcomes of such strain perceptions are. We integrated the social-projection and stress-mindset literatures to investigate, for the first time, the effect of holding a stress-is-enhancing, versus a stress-is-debilitating, mindset on social judgments of a target's strain, on the perceiver's consequent perceptions of the target's promotability, and on his or her intention to voluntarily help the target. We argued that perceivers may project their own stress-mindsets onto others, resulting in egocentrically-biased judgments of the latter's strain. We conducted four experimental and correlational studies, among 971 fully-employed Americans and Israelis, using a novel stress-mindset manipulation. We predicted and found evidence that, independent of the effects of mood, individuals holding a stress-is-enhancing versus a stress-is-debilitating mindset were less likely to judge a target experiencing a heavy workload as suffering from burnout, somatic symptoms, or presenteeism (i.e., reduced productivity at work due to health problems). We also revealed two important downstream outcomes: whereas the lower strain judgments associated with a stress-is-enhancing mindset led to a higher estimate of the target's promotability, they also led to a lower likelihood of helping him. Taken together, our findings establish a causal link between stress-mindset and judgments of others' strain, thereby extending the novel notion of stress-mindset beyond intra-personal outcomes to inter-personal effects. Results provide a foundation for future work addressing the accuracy of judgment of others' stress experience. Highlights Stress-mindset refers to our perception of stress as enhancing or debilitating. Perceiving stress as more enhancing leads to judging others as less strained. Low strain judgments, in turn, enhance judgment of others' promotability. Low strain judgments, in turn, also reduce intentions to help others in need. These effects hold across experimental and correlational designs.
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