Olin School of Business
Washington University
Saint Louis, MO 63130
Telephone: (314) 935-9248
Email: hillary@post.harvard.edu


At a broad level, my research interests involve emotion in the workplace and other inherently relational phenomena within organizational behavior.  This includes the social perception of emotions and even relationships, as well as the behaviors and outcomes of competitive and mixed-motive interactions.

Elfenbein, H. A., & Curhan, J. R. (2011). The effects of subjective value on future consequences: Implications for negotiation strategies. In D. Shapiro & B. Golman (Eds.), The Psychology of Negotiations in the 21st Century Workplace. In press.

(Available upon request.)

Elfenbein, H. A., & Eisenkraft, N. (2010). The relationship between displaying and perceiving nonverbal cues of affect: A meta-analysis to solve an old mystery.  Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 98, 301-318.

The authors address the decades-old mystery of the association between individual differences in the display and perception of nonverbal cues of affect.  Prior theories predicted positive, negative, and zero correlations in performance—given empirical results ranging from r=-.80 to r=+.64.  A meta-analysis of 40 effects showed a positive correlation for nonverbal behaviors elicited as intentional communication displays, but zero for spontaneous, naturalistic, or a combination of display types.  There was greater variation in the results of studies using round robin designs yet analyzed with statistics that do not account for the interdependence of data.  We discuss implications for theorists to distinguish emotional skills in terms of what people are capable of doing vs. what people actually do.

Elfenbein, H. A., Foo, M. D., Mandal, M. K., Biswal, R., Eisenkraft, N., Lim, A., & Sharma, S. (2010). Individual differences in expressing and perceiving nonverbal cues: New data on an old question. Journal of Research in Personality, 44, 199-206.

Previous research on the link between individual differences in emotional expression and emotion recognition over six decades revealed widely varying results. A recent meta-analysis (Elfenbein & Eisenkraft, 2009) showed a positive correlation for displays elicited as intentional communication, but zero for naturalistic displays. However, the longstanding mystery dissipated interest, preventing work from using updated authoritative methods for studying individual differences. With Kenny’s (1994) Social Relations Model, we tested round robin groups in which each participant posed their emotions and later judged the expressions of each other member. The design included emotion inductions to increase expressers’ authentic experience. The resulting effect size, ρ=.51, r=.43, is larger than previously typical. Implications are discussed for theories on individual emotional skills.

Groysberg, B., Polzer, J. T., & Elfenbein, H. A. (2010). Too many cooks spoil the broth: How high status individuals decrease group effectiveness. Organization Science.

Can groups become effective simply by assembling high status individual performers? Though an affirmative answer may seem straightforward on the surface, this answer becomes more complicated when group members benefit from collaborating on interdependent tasks. Examining Wall Street sell-side equities research analysts who work in an industry in which individuals strive for status, we find that groups benefited—up to a point—from having high status members, controlling for individual performance. With higher proportions of individual stars, however, the marginal benefit decreased before the slope of this curvilinear pattern became negative.  This curvilinear pattern was especially strong when stars were concentrated in a small number of sectors, likely reflecting suboptimal integration among analysts with similar areas of expertise.  Control variables ensured that these effects were not the spurious result of individual performance, department size or specialization, or firm prestige. We discuss the theoretical implications of these results for the literatures on status and groups, along with practical implications for strategic human resource management.

Kilduff, G. J., Elfenbein, H. A., & Staw, B. M. (2010). The psychology of rivalry: A relationally-dependent analysis of competition. Academy of Management Journal, 53, 943-969.

We investigate the psychological phenomenon of rivalry, and propose a view of competition as inherently relational, thus extending the literatures on competition between individuals, groups, and firms.  Specifically, we argue that the relationships between competitors – as captured by their proximity, relative attributes and prior competitive interactions – can influence the subjective intensity of rivalry between them, which in turn can affect their competitive behavior.  Initial tests of these ideas within NCAA basketball indicate that (1) dyadic relationships between teams are highly influential in determining perceptions of rivalry (2) similarity between teams and their histories of prior interactions are systematically predictive of rivalry and (3) rivalry may affect the motivation and performance of team members.  These findings suggest significant implications for both the management of employees and the competitive strategies taken by organizations.

Eisenkraft, N., & Elfenbein, H. A. (2010). The way you make me feel: Evidence for individual differences in affective presence. Psychological Science, 21, 505-510.

How much do individuals consistently influence the way other people feel? Data from 48 workgroups suggest there are consistent individual differences both in the emotions that people tend to experience (trait affect) and in the emotions that people tend to elicit in others (trait affective presence). A Social Relations Model (D. A. Kenny, 1994) analysis revealed that, after controlling for emotional contagion, the variance in emotions that people feel is explained both by trait affect (positive affect 31%, negative affect 19%) and trait affective presence (positive affect 10%, negative affect 23%). These analyses suggest affective presence exerts as much influence over interaction partners’ negative feelings as these interaction partners’ own trait affect. Positive affective presence correlated with greater network centrality, and negative affective presence correlated with lower agreeableness and greater extraversion.

Curhan, J. R., Elfenbein, H. A., & Eisenkraft, N. (2010). The objective value of subjective value: A multi-round negotiation study.  Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 40, 690-709.

A 2-round negotiation study provided evidence that positive feelings resulting from one negotiation can be economically rewarding in a second negotiation. Negotiators experiencing greater subjective value (SV)—that is, social, perceptual, and emotional outcomes from a negotiation—in Round 1 achieved greater individual and joint objective negotiation performance in Round 2, even with Round 1 economic outcomes controlled. Moreover, Round 1 SV predicted the desire to negotiate again with the same counterpart, whereas objective negotiation performance had no such association. Taken together, the results suggest that positive feelings, not just positive outcomes, can evoke future economic success.

Elfenbein, H. A., Eisenkraft, N., & Ding, W. W. (2009). Do we know who values us? Dyadic meta-accuracy in the perception of professional relationships. Psychological Science, 20, 1081-1083.

People often need to know what others think of them - whom do we approach to collaborate, to invite out, or to seek assistance? Research on meta-perceptions shows strong evidence for generalized meta-accuracy - knowing whether the rest of the world tends to see us, e.g., as extroverted or intelligent - but less for dyadic meta-accuracy - knowing how different people view us differently. In meta-judgments of individual traits and abilities, people generally assume they make the same impression on all interaction partners, rather than differentiating their unique impressions on each person. However, for more relational constructs such as friendship, liking, humor, considerateness, and interestingness, perceivers can typically differentiate others' unique evaluations. Previous theories argued that dyadic meta-accuracy resulted by 'accident' merely from the appropriate use of heuristics. In particular, people believe their evaluations will be reciprocated by others and, when this assumption is valid, they can introspect about their opinions of others to infer others' likely opinions of them. Our study is the first to show, provocatively, that presuming reciprocity does not entirely account for dyadic accuracy. This leaves open another theoretical mechanism for achieving accuracy - namely, that individuals are also able to read cues in their social landscape in order to judge the unique impressions that they make on others. We believe that prior work may have sounded the 'death knell' too early on dyadic meta-accuracy, and therefore on attempts to explain the relationship-relevant cues that people use to attain it. This finding has important implications by suggesting people have more insight into their own relationships than previously believed. Because dyadic meta-accuracy can help us know which relationships to pursue and which to avoid, these results have important implications for the formation of social networks.

Elfenbein, H. A., Curhan, J. R., Eisenkraft, N., Shirako, A., & Baccaro, L. (2008). Are some negotiators better than others? Individual differences in bargaining outcomes. Journal of Research in Personality, 42, 1463–1475.

The authors address the long-standing mystery of stable individual differences in negotiation performance, on which intuition and conventional wisdom have clashed with inconsistent empirical findings. The present study used the Social Relations Model to examine individual differences directly via consistency in performance across multiple negotiations and to disentangle the roles of both parties within these inherently dyadic interactions. Individual differences explained a substantial 46% of objective performance and 19% of subjective performance in a mixed-motive bargaining exercise. Previous work may have understated the influence of individual differences because conventional research designs require specific traits to be identified and measured. Exploratory analyses of a battery of traits revealed few reliable associations with consistent individual differences in objective performance—except for positive beliefs about negotiation, positive affect, and concern for one’s outcome, each of which predicted better performance. Findings suggest that the field has large untapped potential to explain substantial individual differences. Limitations, areas for future research, and practical implications are discussed.

Margolis, J., & Elfenbein, H. A. (2008). Doing well by doing good?  Don’t count on it. Harvard Business Review, 86, 1, 19-20.

(Available upon request.)

Curhan, J. R., Elfenbein, H. A., & Kilduff, G. J. (2009). Getting off on the right foot: Subjective value versus economic value in predicting longitudinal job outcomes from job offer negotiations. Journal of Applied Psychology, 94, 524-534.

A 2-round negotiation study provided evidence that positive feelings resulting from one negotiation can be economically rewarding in a second negotiation. Negotiators experiencing greater subjective value (SV) - that is, social, perceptual, and emotional outcomes from a negotiation - in Round 1 achieved greater individual and joint objective negotiation performance in Round 2, even with Round 1 economic outcomes controlled. Moreover, Round 1 SV predicted the desire to negotiate again with the same counterpart, whereas objective negotiation performance had no such association. Taken together, these results suggest that positive feelings, not just positive outcomes, can evoke future economic success.

Elfenbein, H. A., Beaupré, M. G., Lévesque, M. & Hess, U. (2007). Toward a dialect theory: Cultural differences in the expression and recognition of posed facial expressions. Emotion, 7, 131-146.

Two studies provided direct support for a recently proposed dialect theory of communicating emotion, positing that expressive displays show cultural variations similar to linguistic dialects, thereby decreasing accurate recognition by out-group members. In Study 1, 60 participants from Quebec and Gabon posed facial expressions. Dialects, in the form of activating different muscles for the same expressions, emerged most clearly for Serenity, Shame, and Contempt, also for Anger, Sadness, Surprise, and Happiness, but not for Fear, Disgust, or Embarrassment.  In study 2, Quebecois and Gabonese judged these stimuli and stimuli standardized to erase cultural dialects. As predicted, an in-group advantage emerged for non-standardized expressions only, and most strongly for expressions with greater regional dialects according to Study 1.

Elfenbein, H. A., Foo, M. D., White, J. B., Tan, H. H, & Aik, V. C. (2007). Reading your counterpart: The benefit of emotion recognition accuracy for effectiveness in negotiation    Journal of Nonverbal Behavior, 31, 205-223.

Using meta-analysis, we find a consistent positive correlation between emotion recognition accuracy (ERA) and goal-oriented performance. However, this existing research relies primarily on subjective perceptions of performance. The current study tested the impact of ERA on objective performance in a mixed-motive buyer-seller negotiation exercise. Greater recognition of posed facial expressions predicted better objective outcomes for participants from Singapore playing the role of seller, both in terms of creating value and claiming a greater share for themselves. The present study is distinct from past research on the effects of individual differences on negotiation outcomes in that it uses a performance-based test rather than self-reported measure. These results add to evidence for the predictive validity of emotion recognition measures on practical outcomes.

Elfenbein, H. A., & O’Reilly, C. A. (2007).  “Fitting In”: The effects of relational demography and person-organization fit on group process and performance.  Group and Organization Management, 32, 109-142.

We integrate two complementary streams of research on “fit” that document positive impacts of similarity and negative effects of dissimilarity. Fit with the organization’s culture typically focuses on similarity in values whereas relational demography examines similarity in demographic attributes. Although both emphasize fit and draw on similar underlying theories, little research investigates both simultaneously. In a field study with intact teams, both cultural and demographic fit had independent effects on subsequent performance; however, “deeper” value fit effects were stronger than “surface” demographic fit.  Analyses by demographic group suggest that person-group fit has the greatest impact for individuals whose demographic background puts them at risk for poorer outcomes, particularly for socio-economic status.

Marsh, A. A., Elfenbein, H. A., & Ambady, N. (2007). Separated by a common language: Nonverbal accents and cultural stereotypes about Americans and Australians.  Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 38, 284-301.

The expression of nonverbal cues may differ systematically across cultures. Common cues used in distinct ways cross-culturally may be termed nonverbal accents. The data in this study indicate that nonverbal accents can help perceivers to distinguish the nationality of expressers. In Study 1, American participants could determine the nationality of Australian and American adults with above-chance accuracy when viewing their emotional expressions but not neutral expressions. In Study 2, American participants could also determine the nationality of Australians and Americans seen walking or waving in greeting. The accuracy of nationality judgments was also correlated with the extent to which Australian targets were perceived to conform to stereotypes about Australians. It is argued that nonverbal accents may be a mechanism that perceivers can use to apply group stereotypes.

Elfenbein, H. A. (2007). Emotion in organizations: A review and theoretical integration.  InA. Brief & J. Walsh (Eds.), Academy of Management Annals (Vol. 1., pp. 371-457.) Amsterdam: Elsevier.

Emotion has become one of the most popular - and popularized - areas within organizational scholarship. This chapter attempts to review and bring together within a single framework the wide and often disjointed literature on emotion in organizations. The integrated framework includes processes detailed by previous theorists who have defined emotion as a sequence that unfolds chronologically. The emotion process begins with a focal individual who is exposed to an eliciting stimulus, registers the stimulus for its meaning, and experiences a feeling state and physiological changes, with downstream consequences for attitudes, behaviors, and cognitions, as well as facial expressions and other emotionally expressive cues. These downstream consequences can result in externally visible behaviors and cues that become, in turn, eliciting stimuli for interaction partners. For each stage of the emotion process there are distinct emotion regulation processes, that incorporate individual differences and group norms and that can become automatic with practice. Although research often examines these stages in relative isolation from each other, I argue that each matters largely due to its interconnectedness with the other stages. Incorporating intra-individual, individual, interpersonal, and organizational levels of analysis, this framework can be a starting point to situate, theorize and test explicit mechanisms for the influence of emotion on organizational life.

Elfenbein, H. A., Polzer, J. T., & Ambady, N. (2007). Team emotion recognition accuracy and team performance. In N. M. Ashkanasy, W. J. Zerbe, & C. E. J. Härtel (Eds.), Research on Emotions in Organizations (Vol. 3, pp. 87-119). Amsterdam: Elsevier.

Teams’ emotional skills can be more than the sum of their individual parts. Although theory emphasizes emotion as an interpersonal adaptation, emotion recognition skill has long been conceptualized as an individual- level intelligence. We introduce the construct of team emotion recognition accuracy (TERA) – the ability of members to recognize teammates’ emotions – and present preliminary evidence for its predictive validity. In a field study of public service interns working full-time in randomly assigned teams, taken together positive and negative TERA measured at the time of team formation accounted for 28.1% of the variance in team performance ratings nearly a year later.

Curhan, J. R., Elfenbein, H. A., & Xu, H.  (2006). What do people value when they negotiate? Mapping the domain of subjective value in negotiation. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 91, 493-512.

Four studies support the development and validation of a framework for understanding the range of social psychological outcomes valued subjectively as consequences of negotiations.  Study 1 inductively elicited and coded elements of subjective value among students, community members, and practitioners, revealing 20 categories that theorists in Study 2 sorted into four underlying dimensions: Feelings about Instrumental Outcomes, the Self, Process, and Relationship.  Study 3 proposed a new Subjective Value Inventory (SVI) and largely confirmed its 4-factor structure. Study 4 presents convergent, discriminant, and predictive validity data for this SVI.  Indeed, subjective value was a better predictor than economic outcomes of future negotiation decisions. Results suggest the SVI is a promising tool to systematize and encourage research on subjective outcomes of negotiation. 

For more information about the SVI instrument, click on the link below:


Elfenbein, H. A. (2006). Learning in emotion judgments: Training and the cross-cultural understanding of facial expressions. Journal of Nonverbal Behavior, 30, 21-36.

This preliminary study presents data on training to improve the accuracy of judging facial expressions of emotion, a core component of emotional intelligence.  Feedback following judgments of angry, fearful, sad, and surprised states indicated the correct answers as well as difficulty level of stimuli.  Improvement was greater for emotional expressions originating from a cultural group more distant from participants’ own family background, for which feedback likely provides greater novel information.  Thus, the current study also provides suggestive evidence for cultural learning in emotion, for which previous research has been cross-sectional and subject to selection biases. 

Elfenbein, H. A., Foo, M. D., Boldry, J. G., & Tan, H. H. (2006). Dyadic effects in nonverbal communication: A variance partitioning analysis.  Cognition and Emotion, 20, 149-159.

Using Kenny’s (1994) Social Relations Model, a block-round robin design provided the first reported evidence for dyadic effects in nonverbal communication.  That is, some dyads were systematically more or less accurate than the individual-level skill of perceivers and expressors would predict.  This dyadic effect appears to be similar in magnitude to individual differences in emotional perception, a topic garnering extensive research attention over several decades.  Results generally replicated for judgments across genders and across two cultural groups.  These preliminary findings have implications for research on emotional intelligence and other models of affective skill, raising the possibility that accuracy in nonverbal communication combines individual differences with factors beyond the individual level.

Elfenbein, H. A. (2006).  Team Emotional Intelligence: What it can mean and how it can impact performance.  In V. Druskat, F. Sala, & G. Mount (Eds.), The link between emotional intelligence and effective performance (pp. 165-184). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum. Elfenbein, H. A., & Shirako, A. (2006). An emotion process model for multicultural teams. In B. Mannix, M. Neale, & Y. R. Chen (Eds.), Research on Managing Groups and Teams: National Culture and Groups (pp. 263-297).  Amsterdam: Elsevier. Foo, M. D., Elfenbein, H. A., Tan, H. H., & Aik, V. C. (2004). Emotional Intelligence and negotiation: The tension between creating and claiming value.  International Journal of Conflict Management, 15, 411-429.

As a departure from past research on emotional intelligence (EI), which generally examines the influence of an individual’s level of EI on that individual’s consequences, we examined relationships between the emotional intelligence (EI) of both members of dyads involved in a negotiation in order to explain objective and subjective outcomes.  As expected, individuals high in EI reported a more positive experience.  However, surprisingly, such individuals also achieved significantly lower objective scores than their counterparts.  By contrast, having a partner high in EI predicted greater objective gain, and a more positive negotiating experience.  Thus, high EI individuals appeared to benefit in affective terms, but appeared to create objective value that they were less able to claim.  We discuss the tension between creating and claiming value, and implications for emotion in organizations.

Elfenbein, H. A., Mandal, M. K., Ambady, N., Harizuka, S., & Kumar, S. (2004). Hemifacial differences in the in-group advantage in emotion recognition.  Cognition and Emotion, 18, 613-629.

Some researchers have interpreted findings of in-group advantage in emotion judgments as ethnic bias by perceivers. This study is the first linking in-group advantage to subtle differences in emotional expressions, using composites created with left and right facial hemispheres.  Participants from the USA, India, and Japan judged facial expressions from all three cultures.  As predicted, in-group advantage was greater for left than right hemifacial composites.  Left composites were not universally more recognizable, but relatively more recognizable to in-group members only.  There was greater pan-cultural agreement about the recognition levels of right hemifacial composites.  This suggests the left facial hemisphere uses an expressive style less universal and more culturally specific than the right, and that bias alone does not cause the in-group advantage.

Marsh, A. A., Elfenbein, H. A., & Ambady, N. (2003).  Nonverbal “accents”: Cultural differences in facial expressions of emotion.  Psychological Science, 14, 373-376.

We find evidence for subtle differences in the appearance of facial expressions of emotion across cultures, or nonverbal “accents.”  Participants viewed photographs of Japanese nationals and Japanese Americans in Matsumoto and Ekman’s (1988) JACFEE and JACNeuF sets.  These stimuli standardize posers’ muscle movements to eliminate differences in expressions, cultural or otherwise.  Participants guessed the nationality of posers displaying emotional expressions at above-chance levels, with greater accuracy than when judging the same posers displaying neutral expressions.  These findings indicate that facial expressions of emotion can contain nonverbal accents that identify the expressor’s nationality or culture.  Cultural differences are intensified during the act of expressing emotion, rather than residing only in facial features or other static elements of appearance.  This evidence suggests limitations to extreme positions on the universality of emotional expressions.

Elfenbein, H. A., & Ambady, N. (2003). Universals and cultural differences in recognizing emotions. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 12, 159-164.
   Reprinted as: Elfenbein, H. A., & Ambady, N. (2004). Universals and cultural differences in recognizing emotions. In J. B. Ruscher & E. Y. Hammer, Current directions in social psychology (pp. 48-54). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall.

Moving beyond the earlier nature-versus-nurture debate, modern work on the communication of emotion has incorporated both universals and cultural differences. Classic research demonstrated that the intended emotions in posed expressions were recognized by members of many different cultural groups at rates better than predicted by random guessing. However, recent research has also documented evidence for an in-group advantage, meaning that people are generally more accurate at judging emotions when the emotions are expressed by members of their own cultural group rather than by members of a different cultural group. These new findings provide initial support for a dialect theory of emotion that has the potential to integrate both classic and recent findings. Further research in this area has the potential to improve cross-cultural communication.

Elfenbein, H. A., & Ambady, N. (2002a). On the universality and cultural specificity of emotion recognition: A meta-analysis. Psychological Bulletin,128, 203-235.

A meta-analysis examined emotion recognition within and across cultures. Emotions were universally recognized at better-than-chance levels. Accuracy was higher when emotions were both expressed and recognized by members of the same national, ethnic, or regional group, suggesting an in-group advantage. This advantage was smaller for cultural groups with greater exposure to one another, measured in terms of living in the same nation, physical proximity, and telephone communication. Majority group members were poorer at judging minority group members than the reverse. Cross-cultural accuracy was lower in studies that used a balanced research design, and higher in studies that used imitation rather than posed or spontaneous emotional expressions. Attributes of study design appeared not to moderate the size of the in-group advantage.

Elfenbein, H. A., & Ambady, N. (2002b). Is there an ingroup advantage in emotion recognition? Psychological Bulletin,128, 243-249.

H. A. Elfenbein and N. Ambady (2002) examined the evidence for an in-group advantage in emotion recognition, whereby recognition is generally more accurate for perceivers from the same cultural group as emotional expressors. D. Matsumoto's (2002) comment centered on 3 asserted methodological requirements. This response addresses the lack of consensus concerning these "requirements" and demonstrates that none alter the presence of the in-group advantage. His analyses had a serious flaw and, once corrected, replicated the original findings. Furthermore, he described results from his empirical work not meeting a literal interpretation of his own requirements. Overall, where Matsumoto considers subtle cross-cultural differences in emotional expression a methodological artifact in judgment studies, the present authors find a core phenomenon worthy of attention.

Elfenbein, H. A., & Ambady, N. (2002). Predicting workplace outcomes from the ability to eavesdrop on feelings. Journal of Applied Psychology, 87, 963-971.

Emotion recognition, one of the most reliably validated components within the construct of emotional intelligence, is a complicated skill. While emotion recognition skill is generally valued in the workplace, "eavesdropping", or, better recognition ability with emotions expressed through the less controllable "leaky" nonverbal channels, can have detrimental social and workplace consequences. In light of theory regarding positive emotion in organizations, as well as research on the consequences of perceiving negative information, we hypothesize and find an interaction between nonverbal channel and emotional valence. Workplace ratings from colleagues and superiors are higher for eavesdropping ability with positive emotion and lower for such ability with negative emotion. We discuss implications for the complexity of interventions associated with emotional intelligence in workplace settings.

Elfenbein, H. A., Mandal, M. K., Ambady, N., Harizuka, S., & Kumar, S. (2002). Cross-cultural patterns in emotional communication: Highlighting design and analytical techniques.  Emotion,2, 75-84.

This paper highlights a range of design and analytical tools for studying the cross-cultural communication of emotion using forced-choice experimental designs. Americans, Indians and Japanese judged facial expressions from all three cultures. We use a factorial experimental design, balanced n x n across cultures, to separate "absolute" cultural differences from "relational" effects characterizing the relationship between the emotion expressor and perceiver. We illustrate use of a response bias correction for the tendency to endorse particular multiple-choice categories more often than others. Treating response bias also as an opportunity to gain insight into attributional style, we examine similarities and differences in response patterns across cultural groups. Finally, we examine patterns in the errors or confusions that participants make during emotion recognition, and document strong similarity across cultures.

Elfenbein, H. A., Marsh, A., & Ambady, N. (2002). Emotional Intelligence and the recognition of emotion from the face.  In L. F. Barrett & P. Salovey (Eds.), The wisdom of feelings: Processes underlying emotional intelligence (pp. 37-59). New York: Guilford Press.

Working papers and Forthcoming Papers available by request.