Self-fulfilling Prophecies In Social Networks: Motivation, Cognition and Network Dynamics
Social networks can be considered patterns of cognitions in the minds of perceivers or concrete patterns of interpersonal interactions. But how are these two patterns related? We bring together cognitive and actual network research in showing that cognitive biases associated with human motivations – in terms of status striving and communion striving – may predict how the actual network changes. Using longitudinal data on advice relations from a hospital department in the North of Italy undergoing a major change in technology, we show that people who strive to get ahead of others tend to distort perceptions so as to conform to expectations of their own importance; by contrast, people who strive to get along with others tend to distort perceptions of social relations so as to conform to expectations of their own sociability. Further, we show that distorted perceptions may affect actual networking patterns: people striving for status are more likely to become brokers, whereas people striving for social acceptance tend to become more central in the actual network through the indirect effect of distorted perceptions of advice interactions. We suggest therefore that cognitions in the minds of individuals can result in actual networking outcomes.