Letters of recommendation: An evolutionary psychological perspective
- Title: Letters of recommendation: An evolutionary psychological perspective
Author(s): Stephen M. Colarelli ; Ma. Regina H. Alampay ; Kristopher G.
Source: Human Relations Volume: 55 Number: 3 Page: 315 -- 344
Publisher: Sage Publications
Abstract: This article develops a theoretical framework for understanding
the appeal and tone of letters of recommendation using an evolutionary
psychological perspective. Several hypotheses derived from this framework are
developed and tested. The authors' theoretical argument makes two major points.
First, over the course of human evolution, people developed a preference for
narrative information about people, and the format of letters of recommendation
is compatible with that preference. Second, because recommenders are
acquaintances of applicants, the tone of letters should reflect the degree to
which the relationship with the applicant favors the recommender's interests.
We hypothesized that, over and above an applicant's objective qualifications,
letters of recommendation will reflect cooperative, status and mating interests
of recommenders. We used 532 letters of recommendation written for 169
applicants for faculty positions to test our hypotheses. The results indicated
that the strength of the cooperative relationship between recommenders and
applicants influenced the favorability and length of letters. In addition, male
recommenders wrote more favorable letters for female than male applicants,
suggesting that male mating interests may influence letter favorability. We
conclude with implications for practice and future research.
Keywords: evolutionary psychology; human resource management; letters of
Reference Links: 38