Chris Bell

Chris Bell Associate Professor of Organization Studies
Chris Bell

My fellowship research is grounded in models of uncertainty management or reduction. The Uncertainty Management Model (UMM) proposes that when individuals feel uncertain, they use fairness judgments to cope with their uncertainty (Ven den Bos & Lind, 2002b). The Uncertainty-Identity Theory (UIT) proposes that when individuals feel uncertain, they identify with groups to
manage uncertainty (Hogg, 2007, 2009). System Justification Theory (Jost & Hyunady, 2005) proposes that people who are disadvantaged by a system sometimes still support it, especially under conditions of uncertainty.

Kevin McKague (Schulich PhD, 2013) and I studied rural Bangladeshi female dairy producers’ cooperatives, organized by CARE NGO, finding that the effect of group fairness and relational social capital on subjective well-being becomes stronger as intolerance of uncertainty increases. These findings counter the dominant model in humanitarian aid, whereby well-being is determined primarily by economic factors.

Sara Ruhani (BBA, 2014) and I found that justice effects are stronger when people are uncertain about the right or wrong thing to do. Nikola Peric (BBA, 2015) and I expect that social identity effects will be enhanced when considering a moral dilemma because identity prescribes moral and ethical behavior. However, justice effects will be stronger after making a moral decision because people want to be treated fairly for the decision and its outcomes. This research clarifies when and how UMM or UIT plays a role in moral reasoning and behavior.

Art Assoiants (Psychology BA, 2015) and I found that employees judge supervisors to be fairer and more ethical to the extent they are tough disciplinarians, or the employee endorses power distance, the idea that subordinates should accede to authority. Joyce Tan (BBA, 2015) and I followed up with Schulich BBAs who made first impression judgments of photos of authority figures. Ethicality was positively related to power distance and negatively to rigid authoritativeness, especially under conditions of uncertainty. This research suggests that perceptions of ethical leadership are positively related to norm enforcement (but not rigid authoritativeness) and system justification, particularly under conditions of uncertainty.

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