School of Business • Faculty Research
Research Synopsis: “Service Robots’ Anthropomorphism: Dimensions, Factors, and Internal Relationships.”
In the study “Service Robots’ Anthropomorphism: Dimensions, Factors, and Internal
Relationships,” recently accepted for publication by Electronic Markets, researchers Shengliang Zhang, Xinfeng Lin, Xiaodong Li, and Ai Ren set out to evaluate the dimensions of anthropo- morphism in service industry robots as well as customers and potential customers reactions to and levels of comfort with those robots. To do so, the study first needed to establish an acceptable definition of anthropomorphism and a uniform set of factors and easy-to-parse dimensions of anthropomorphism.
The study parses a wide variety of literature from multiple domains and specialties, reviewing the relevant definitions and understandings concerning anthropomorphism in robots and inanimate objects imbued with or assigned human qualities. Anthropomorphism is a nuanced and complicated construct without a single working definition that clearly states what is and what is not anthropomorphic, especially in the eyes of the consumer and their perception of the technology. Inappropriate design or implementation of anthropomorphic service robots can cause discomfort in the consumer or a feeling of eeriness akin to the uncanny valley theory. However, appropriate design, aided by a model proposed in the study, can avoid conjuring images of HAL or Dr. Who’s Dalek in the consumer’s mind by pinpointing the customers’ expectations compared to the services provided by the robot.
The study relies on in-depth interviews with 103 respondents focused on open-ended questions and participatory dialogue to establish an acceptable framework. The questions asked respondents to imagine themselves in consumer and designer positions and probed their conceptions of service robots and their levels of anthropomorphism. The result of the interviews culminated in the establishment of 15 specific factors that represented the interview responses. Through word frequency analysis, the study singled out attributes such as humanoid contours, a human-like voice, and semantic understanding, populating a list of 111 potential anthropomorphic attributes of service robots. With those 111 entries, the study then smoothed the contours of the data, organizing it into four primary dimensions comprised of 15 unique attributes – mission completion, or the ability to complete an assigned task to the customer’s satisfaction, user sensory experience, artificial intelligence, and unique human characteristics. The study stands as the first to rank the importance of anthropomorphic factors in the context of service robots.
As the study notes, the four primary dimensions represent the core areas that determine the
customer’s perception of the robot’s level of anthropomorphism. The inability of some robots to adapt to a common situation, such as the inability of a service robot to find a free spot on the table to lay down a dish, can break the spell of the user’s experience. Here, the study also considers the managerial implications of a tool that allows for an in-depth analysis of anthropomorphism as it relates to their client’s experience. The study’s multi-faceted framework is an easily navigable standard against which to measure which factors and anthropomorphic attributes to focus their time and resources towards developing. Decision makers can also use the proposed model to better choose which emerging technologies might help their companies and organizations design and implement anthropomorphic robots to enhance their customers’ experience, especially considering factors such as strong communication skills and relevant responses.
The most significant implication of the study concerning business management is the flexibility of the proposed model. Beyond the scope of the study’s research, the model's features can be used to examine the anthropomorphism of any number of related avenues of robotics. Tool design and implementation of robots that best serve the needs of the companies deploying them can rely on a standard model such as this to evaluate their effectiveness and determine the best path toward optimization and integration. Future studies can also depend on the proposed framework and quantitatively examine the model with surveys, experiments, and big data to develop a more
detailed measurement scale to test a specific robot’s degree of anthropomorphism. With the market value of service robots forecasted to reach nearly $700 million by 2023, the proposed model seems poised to allow businesses to make the most informed decisions possible in implementing the technology.
Synopsis written by William Gallagher
School of Business • Faculty Research
Research synopsis: On A Holistic View of Supply Chain Financial Performance and Strategic Position
In his 2022 article, “On a Holistic View of Supply Chain Financial Performance and Strategic Position,” published in The Engineering Economist, Dr. Chih-Yang Tsai addresses the question of information asymmetry gaps and the possible disadvantages between trading partners and potential competitors. Sifting through data requires access to the right kind of data and dedicated hours of labor to identify the most relevant information necessary to assess the financial performance of a company and its supply chain strategies. The study’s stated goal is to identify a potential decision support tool to close the advantage gap for companies that may not possess the resources to assess trading partners and competitors’ supply chain strategies sufficiently. The tool must meet three primary goals: low access barriers to information and data processing, easy-to-understand data analysis and explanation of business implications, and consistent performance that a company can rely on.
The article offers a machine-learning approach that creates an easy-to-view 2D map, placing potential trading partners and competitors in clusters based on the similarity of their financial performance patterns and supply chain strategies. The article compares the implementation of machine learning in analyzing time series data to artificial vision. The comparison is apt, as artificial vision allows the bearer to extract patterns and clusters from data and translate them into understandable shapes and contours.
Dr. Tsai lays out the threefold method as including a forecasting module to unveil underlying patterns in the financial time series, a cluster and feature selection module that analyzes potential common financial performance patterns, and finally, a composite measures and visualization module that plots the desired variables on the 2D map based on the degree of similarity in their financial performance and supply chain strategies. Utilizing available time series data from the New York Stock Exchange and NASDAQ from 2002 to 2019, the study identified three strategic clusters through the time series data. Two strategic clusters lined up with established characteristics of Fisher’s efficient and responsive supply chain strategies, while a third fell in between the two.
Without requiring a deep knowledge of financial analysis, the machine-learning model offers a clear and comprehensible tool that relies on easily accessible and regularly released financial statements. As noted in the study, the proposed machine learning approach achieves all three stated design goals as a low-cost and high-performance decision support tool that allows companies to assess and refine their supply chain strategies in the larger market. Dr. Tsai goes on to highlight potential avenues for further research and study around machine learning as implemented in facilitating supply chain strategy decision-making, such as evaluating potential performance gaps as indicated by the distance between clusters, as well as possible continuing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on supply chain strategies in the coming years.
Synopsis written by William Gallagher
School of Business • Faculty Research
Research synopsis: Multiculturalism within individuals: A review, critique, and agenda for future research
Spurred by increasing migration, our world has become increasingly diverse. Individuals may move to new cultures, children may grow up with multiple cultures, and in general individuals may be influenced by different cultures. For example, there are Chinese-Americans, Indian-Australians, and Turkish-Germans. As such, assuming that our employees, leaders, or customers only have one national culture may not be helpful in understanding how they feel, think, or behave. Professor Davina Vora and a team of researchers from around the world examined existing research on multiculturalism in five different fields (anthropology, management, marketing, psychology, and sociology) to develop a comprehensive definition of multiculturalism and suggest some implications of individual-level multiculturalism for business in their review article entitled “Multiculturalism within individuals: A review, critique, and agenda for future research,” published in the Journal of International Business Studies.
What is individual multiculturalism?
Vora and colleagues examined nearly 200 scholarly articles to determine how individual-level multiculturalism has been defined in the past. They found five themes, which broadly revolved around three main components: knowledge, identification, and internalization. This led them to define multiculturalism within individuals as the degree to which an individual knows, identifies with, and internalizes more than one societal culture. Knowledge concerns a person’s level of understanding of norms, beliefs, values, behaviors, and language(s) of more than one culture. Identification refers to the extent to which individuals see themselves as members of multiple cultures. Internalization is more cognitive in nature and refers to the extent to which cultural values, beliefs, and assumptions are reflected in an individual’s own values and beliefs, thus driving behaviors. Vora and colleagues suggest that multicultural individuals may have different levels of knowledge, identification, and internalization with respect to each of their cultures and explain that these cultures are not bounded by national-level culture such as “American” or “Japanese.” For example, cultures could be related to a region within a country (e.g. Bengali and Gujarati cultures – two states within India that have different cultures), cultures that spans multiple countries (e.g. Arab culture), or a hybrid culture that blends different cultures into one distinct one (e.g. Métis).
Why does this matter to business?
As the article points out, migration across the world continues to grow, and levels of cultural diversity in even the smallest of communities are continuing to increase. In the past, employers might have been able to assume their employees to be monocultural, members of a single cultural community. But that assumption no longer serves the best interests of organizations or individuals.
Companies can benefit from the skills and abilities of multicultural individuals, though certain conditions may need to be met for these individuals to act based on their unconscious skills and abilities.
Vora and colleagues suggest that individual-level multiculturalism both influences and is influenced by the organizational context. Specifically, social networks and power dynamics within a company can facilitate the skills and abilities of multicultural individuals.
They argue that the networks of relationships within a company play an important role in the enactment of multiculturalism. Here are some examples:
- If the organization encourages interaction between cultures and welcomes the diversity of values, ideas, and behaviors of different cultures, multicultural individuals are likely to feel comfortable enacting all their cultures. This could encourage them to build social networks across cultural boundaries, which can benefit the organization.
- Multicultural individuals may be better able to build and maintain network ties with people of different cultures, which could facilitate knowledge sharing between individuals, groups, and
- Multicultural individuals may bridge different cultural groups, explaining different cultural reasons for attitudes and behaviors as well as mitigating conflict between different
On the flipside, if the organization does not value cultural differences or close links between different cultural groups, multicultural individuals may not reach out to those of different cultures, may feel pressure to act like the dominant group, and may not draw upon their inherent understanding of different cultures to bridge cultural differences, develop innovative solutions, and facilitate knowledge sharing within the company.
Vora and colleagues also suggest that organizational power dynamics that emphasize and favor one dominant cultural group can lead multicultural individuals to suppress their various cultures. This could lead to negative psychological effects on multicultural individuals and potentially to non-compliance with company rules. But multicultural individuals also could help to change the organizational power dynamics in the company. For instance, considering their knowledge of and affiliation with different cultures, they may be aware of factors inhibiting others’ career success. Perhaps there are human resource policies that are unintentionally making it more difficult for lower-status individuals to be recognized for their talent and promoted. Maybe culturally- biased norms and values make it more difficult for the majority group to recognize other groups, or perhaps a lack of mentorship makes it challenging for some cultures to move up in the organization. In addition, particularly in companies operating internationally, multicultural individuals may draw upon their different cultures to recognize opportunities for reverse innovation and/or shift power imbalances among different units.
Vora and her co-authors have pulled together a comprehensive and future-oriented view of individual multiculturalism that will guide future research in international business. For businesses, this work highlights the importance of recognizing cultural diversity in the workforce, potential benefits of tapping into multicultural individuals’ skills and abilities, and the need to develop an open, inclusive environment that enables diversity to tap into such benefits.
Authors: Davina Vora, Lee Martin, Stacey R. Fitzsimmons, Andre A. Pekerti, C. Lakshman, and Salma Raheem
School of Business • Faculty Research
Research Synopsis: Why do consumers think it is fair to pay more when buying from producers versus retailers?
As we witnessed during the darkest lockdowns of the COVID-19 pandemic, consumers can always find ways to shop. We can buy the same product from a variety of different vendors, including the producer, department stores, boutiques, or membership stores. And, we can buy that product in the store, online or on our mobile device. But what are our perceptions of a fair price for that product, and how do they vary based on the channel we buy from? Do we feel differently about pricing in a department store versus direct from the producer?
This question was explored by Professor Gabriel Gonzales and his co-authors, Lisa Bolton and Margaret Meloy, in their 2020 article, “Why do consumers think it is fair to pay more when buying from producers versus retailers?” published in Marketing Letters, https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs11002- 019-09507-6.
Gonzales and his colleagues investigated perceptions of price fairness with adults attending a university graduation ceremony. They asked participants to think back to a recent purchase, and to consider what would be a fair price for the item on the store’s website and on the brand’s website. In a second study, they asked brides-to-be to consider what they expected to pay for their wedding gown, and what they think would be a fair price at a specialty wedding shop and from the brand’s website. In both studies, participants indicated that they think it is fair for producers/brands to charge more than retailers.
The authors posit that consumers place a higher value on activities of the producer than the activities of the retailer. So, what can retailers do to affect that perception? Gonzales and his co-authors propose directions for future research to explore this question. For example, are there experiences that the retailer can offer that increase consumer perceptions of value? How do consumers value innovative markets and business models like direct-to-consumer brands? What are perceptions of secondhand goods versus new products? What role can price transparency play in consumer price fairness perceptions?
Finally, as sustainability concerns grow in importance, researchers might explore how consumers view price fairness in various channels in the sharing economy. How will consumers hold companies accountable for the downstream effects of consumption?
Gabriel E. Gonzales, Assistant Professor of Marketing, School of Business, SUNY New Paltz, Lisa E. Bolton, Professor of Marketing, Smeal College of Business, The Pennsylvania State University Margaret G. Meloy, Professor of Marketing, Smeal College of Business, The Pennsylvania State University
School of Business • Faculty Research
Research synopsis: Sustaining Organizational Operations During an Outbreak: Problems, Needs, and Opportunities for Information Systems
The COVID-19 pandemic has extensively affected social systems and business interactions and thereby also substantially impacted the economy. Regulatory measures introduced during the pandemic keep many organizations from operating as usual, requiring new practices and policies. As society and businesses have become exceedingly dependent on information systems (IS), it is critical to understand how an outbreak like the COVID-19 pandemic impacts the effective and efficient functioning of IS in sustaining organizational operations.
In a recent paper, Professor Roztocki and his co-authors, Wojciech Strzelczyk (Kozminski University, Warsaw, Poland) and H. Roland Weistroffer (Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA, USA), based on a review of the published literature, identify and discuss issues associated with sustaining reliable IS services during or after an outbreak, as well as new or changing needs for IS due to the newly created conditions, and also new opportunities for IS that may arise after the outbreak. This article provides a synopsis of their paper entitled “Sustaining Organizational Operations During an Outbreak: Problems, Needs, and Opportunities for Information Systems”, published as free access in Information Systems Management (https://doi.org/10.1080/10580530.2020.1821133).
To better understand the context of their research, the authors look at the definitions of outbreak, epidemic, and pandemic. Surprisingly, there seems to be some confusion as to the precise definition of a pandemic, how to assess its severity, and how to determine when it starts and when it ends. This ambiguity about when exactly an outbreak of a transmittable disease constitutes a pandemic and the lack of set policies about when authorities may impose special rules and restrictions makes the business environment unpredictable.
The authors discuss various issues related to keeping the existing IS running, as well as meeting shifting demands for specific services and information technologies (IT) caused by new rules and restrictions. Such issues include many people having to work from home, placing new emphasis on online tools and social media, and also increased absenteeism of essential employees, causing difficulties in providing some critical services. The importance of an appropriate IT infrastructure, including Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems, to allow for quick access to collected data and facilitate knowledge sharing, is emphasized. Enhanced communication and rapid training in new technologies may become particularly important issues during an outbreak.
The authors also point to new opportunities for improving or extending IS in the aftermath of a catastrophic outbreak, as customary business operations are adapted to new circumstances. This may include changes in working environments, increased remote learning and education, new consumer buying patterns, and enhanced e-government services. Also, new IS may be important for better preparing for future catastrophic events. Besides strengthening the information and communication infrastructure, this may include new decision support systems for predicting and managing such events.
Narcyz Roztocki, School of Business, State University of New York, New Paltz, NY, USA, Wojciech Strzelczyk, Department of Accounting, Kozminski University, Warsaw, Poland H. Roland Weistroffer, School of Business, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA, USA
School of Business • Faculty Research
Research synopsis: Implications of Emotional Labor on Work Outcomes of Service Workers…
Human service organizations provide essential care to vulnerable populations, helping these individuals to achieve independence, success and life satisfaction. Employees of human service organizations are required to engage emotionally as they care for the people they serve. In fact, the success of the human service organization depends in large measure on the intangible, affective abilities of the employees. In a recent study, Dr. Helena Costakis and her co-authors explored “emotional labor” as an occupational requirement and its connection to job satisfaction, burnout and intentions to quit. This article describes the findings of their study, “Implications of Emotional Labor on Work Outcomes of Service Workers in Not-for-Profit Human Service Organizations” published in Human Service Organizations, Management, Leadership and Governance (https://doi.org/10.1080/23303131.2020.1818157)
Emotional labor describes the work we do when we are required to display emotions consistent with employers’ expectations. Employees might do this by “surface acting”, putting on a smile or a look of concern, without actually feeling that way inside. Or, employees might instead make the effort to genuinely change their feelings to align with their emotional display, through a technique called “deep acting”.
Previous studies have shown that surface acting, faking your emotions, results in worse outcomes for employees, as they experience a sense of dissonance between their real feelings and their actions.
Costakis and her colleagues examined the implications of emotional labor, both surface and deep acting, on job satisfaction, burnout and intentions to quit using a sample of human service agencies’ employees working in direct care, psychosocial service and supervisory roles.
Results show that emotional labor was experienced differently across roles. Supervisors experienced the highest level of emotional labor. These middle managers play a critical role in motivating direct care workers, translating policies and dealing with frequent funding and staffing shortages. It stands to reason that they would need to regulate their emotions as they manage their staff.
Further, they find that deep acting is related to higher levels of job satisfaction and lower levels of burnout than surface acting. Surface acting is also related to higher prevalence of intentions to quit. Costakis and co-authors suggest that the effort to actually realign feelings with outward expressions can pay benefits to workers and may be an important area of employee training and development to support this strategy.
Although it is not typically acknowledged as an occupational requirement, Costakis and collegues’ work shows that emotional labor is connected to important organizational outcomes. Training to bring awareness to emotional labor and healthy emotional regulation strategies can be the beginning of a more rewarding work life for employees, and more positive organizational outcomes.
Learn more about emotional labor by reading this article, or The Managed Heart: Commercialization of Human Feeling, by Arlie Hochschild.
Helena Costakis, DBA, Assistant Professor of Management, School of Business, SUNY New Paltz, New Paltz, NY firstname.lastname@example.org; Holly Gruhlke, DBA, Dean of the College of Education, Business, and Applied Sciences, Dickinson State University; Yuhua Su, Ph.D.
School of Business • Faculty Research
Research synopsis: The Family Business Label: A Marketplace Advantage?
Family-owned businesses are a significant part of our economy accounting for as much as 64% of the US gross domestic product and employing roughly 100 million workers. Almost half of entrepreneurs come from a family business background. Family business success is critical to local economies, so it is important to share empirical research that examines the impact of family business strategies.
With this in mind, this article reviews the findings of a 2020 study by Professor Anyuan Shen and Professor Surinder Tikoo entitled, “Family Business Identity, Consumer Product Evaluations, and Firm Size,” published in the Journal of Product & Brand Management (https://www.emerald.com/insight/content/ doi/10.1108/JPBM-10-2018-2057/full/html).
At the heart of this study is the question, “should a family promote its family business identity to differentiate itself from nonfamily competitors”? Answers to this question have been mixed, with studies finding that family businesses are seen as trustworthy, having brand authenticity, being socially responsible, and focusing on quality. But other studies have found that family businesses are seen by some as being less efficient, less professional or even irrational. Consumers may see “family business” as a category and evaluate businesses within that category according to particular pre-conceived ideas. We see many examples of companies featuring their family business status in their branding, relying on positive associations, for example “SC Johnson, a family company” for example. Smaller, regional businesses use a similar strategy, like Adams Fairacre Farms, a family owned and operated business in the Hudson Valley.
Shen and Tikoo first surveyed some consumers to understand consumer perceptions of family business, and to determine whether and how family business identity and the size of the firm affect product evaluations. The survey revealed that consumers tend to perceive family firms as small in size, but the “family business” categorization could sway their perceptions of quality positively or negatively. They then conducted an experiment and found that evaluations of a family business are affected by the size of the business. Negative perceptions of family business are accentuated when consumers know the business is small in size, but those negative perceptions are reduced when they know the business is large. So, for perceptions of family business, bigger is better.
So, what can we learn from Shen and Tikoo’s work? First, family businesses need to understand that accentuating their family business status could have both positive and negative impacts. And second, since most family businesses are small, they may want to be careful when communicating information about their company size. Overall, the label “family business” may not be a strong differentiator in the marketplace.
As always, we have to be judicious in our application of research findings to business practice. We hope you use these findings as a jumping off point to explore your family business strategy, and to learn more about how you can steer your family business toward sustainable success.
Anyuan Shen, Ph.D., Professor of Marketing, School of Business, SUNY New Paltz, New Paltz, New York email@example.com
Surinder Tikoo, Ph.D., Professor of Marketing, School of Business, SUNY New Paltz, New Paltz, New York firstname.lastname@example.org