Dr. Fei Song: Bringing Social Psychology into the Boardroom

Fei Song
Photo by Mark Blinch

Dr. Fei Song
Associate Professor, Human Resources Management and Organizational Behaviour
Ted Rogers School of Business Management
2015 Research Mentor

The separation of personal and professional interests is one of the fundamental tenets of good business, but is it possible to disconnect the two completely?

Dr. Fei Song’s research into executive compensation suggests perhaps not. Her study (with Chen-Bo Zhong, Rotman School of Management), entitled “You scratch his back, he scratches mine and I’ll scratch yours: Deception in simultaneous cyclic networks” suggests inflated executive pay may be the result of an “indirect reciprocity effect” wherein personal self-interest informs how executives and aspiring executives choose to compensate others at their level.

Dr. Song’s research isn’t limited to the boardroom, however. It also examines a range of eclectic organizational behaviour topics, from trust and reciprocity, fairness, cooperation and competition, individual and group decision-making, conflict management, to ethicality and morality of decision-making at both the individual and group level – all from the point of view of how social psychology affects organizational behaviour.

Dr. Song also researches diversity factors such as gender and cultural norms in decision-making and socioeconomic behaviour. What are the differing leadership identities, preferences, propensities, and styles manifested by men and women, and how do they affect policy implications for management and society?

When discussing the persisting gender-gap in leadership phenomenon, Dr. Song quotes social psychologist Kurt Lewin: “Any movement toward genuine social change is bolstered by rigorous, empirical discovery.” In other words, “the more we understand the gender gap in leadership roles, the better equipped we will be to make better use of the leadership abilities of women and men. Thus this new line of research will make important contributions to both management theory and practice, and society at large.”

This research profile originally appeared in Think, Act, Connect: Ted Rogers School of Management Research Report 2015. To read the full report, visit Research at the Ted Rogers School of Management.