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A new methodology to measure impression management - A linguistic approach to reading difficulty
2005-05, Merkl-Davies, Doris M., Brennan, Niamh, McLeay, Stuart
Previous studies on impression management in the form of reading ease manipulation use readability formulae, such as Flesch, Fog, and Lix, and cloze scores. Readability formulae are based on word and sentence length and thus constitute crude measures of reading difficulty. Cloze scores do not measure comprehension, but inference. This study uses an approach based on linguistics and psychology, overcoming the validity problems inherent in readability formulae and cloze scores. This is achieved by means of (1) basing its assumptions of what constitutes text on research carried out by discourse analysis, a sub-discipline of linguistics, (2) by means of basing its assumptions of readability on psychological assumptions of comprehension difficulty. What is more, it uses an objective and quantifiable method of measuring readability by means of using computer-assisted corpus analysis. The four measures of reading difficulty in this study are based on the grammatical devices within and between sentences and include the following: (1) amount of cohesive ties within and between sentences, (2) distance between grammatically linked expressions, (3) proportion of new and given information, (4) amount of pronouns in a given text.
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Impression management and retrospective sense-making in corporate narratives : a social psychology perspective
2011-04, Merkl-Davies, Doris M., Brennan, Niamh, McLeay, Stuart
Purpose – Prior accounting research views impression management predominantly though the lens of economics. Drawing on social psychology research, we provide a complementary perspective on corporate annual narrative reporting as characterised by conditions of ‘ex post accountability’ (Aerts, 2005, p. 497). These give rise to (i) impression management resulting from the managerial anticipation of the feedback effects of information and/or to (ii) managerial sense-making by means of the retrospective framing of organisational outcomes. Design/methodology/approach – We use a content analysis approach pioneered by psychology research (Newman et al., 2003) which is based on the psychological dimension of word use to investigate the chairmen’s statements of 93 UK listed companies. Findings – Results suggest that firms do not use chairmen’s statements to create an impression at variance with an overall reading of the annual report. We find that negative organisational outcomes prompt managers to engage in retrospective sense-making, rather than to present a public image of organisational performance inconsistent with the view internally held by management (self-presentational dissimulation). Further, managers of large firms use chairmen’s statements to portray an accurate (i.e., consistent with an overall reading of the annual report), albeit favourable, image of the firm and of organisational outcomes (i.e., impression management by means of enhancement). Research limitations – The content analysis approach adopted in the study analyses words out of context. Practical implications – Corporate annual reporting may not only be understood from a behavioural perspective involving managers responding to objectively determined stimuli inherent in the accountability framework, but also from a symbolic interaction perspective which involves managers retrospectively making sense of organisational outcomes and events. Originality/value – Our approach allows us to investigate three complementary scenarios of managerial corporate annual reporting behaviour: (i) self-presentational dissimulation, (ii) impression management by means of enhancement, and (iii) retrospective sense-making.