Dr Cleo Silvestri, Research Associate at Imperial College London will discuss her paper.
Prior research shows that actors’ engagement in professionally impure activities is determined by their status, so that middle-status actors – as opposed to low- and high-status ones – are more likely to conform to purity standards. Such engagement is reflected in their image, simultaneously evaluated by a professional audience, who values actors’ professional purity, and by a non-professional audience, who instead values professional impurities. However, professionals often engage in activities that are not automatically observable by such audiences, giving them agency to decide whether to disclose or withhold information about their professionally impure activities. By relaxing this assumption, we study how status affects actors’ decision to construct an impure professional image, hence to reveal information of their engagement in (otherwise) unobservable impure activities. We posit that the combination of two opposite effects (membership anxiety and role-model pressures) leads to an inverted U-shape relationship between status and actors’ decision to disclose their impure activities. We argue that this is contingent on the audience addressed: the more actors target a non-professional audience, the more this curve will be attenuated. We conduct our study by comparing the impure activities that individuals disclose on their organization-based personal webpage with those actually pursued by them. We test and find support for our arguments using data on 437 faculty members employed at Imperial College London who have a university-based webpage and have been engaging in commercial activities while employed at Imperial. Our insights have implications for research on middle-status conformity, impression management, and professional image construction. (with Markus Perkman, Paola Criscuolo & Klaus Weber.)