Working Papers

The Origins of Reputation

Behavior, Visibility, and Personality


Functional theories of reputation imply that individuals’ reputations are tied to their history of behavior. However, indirect evidence suggests that the link between reputation and behavior may be tenuous at best. In three studies we tracked the development of reputations over time among MBA students in negotiation classes. We found that individuals’ reputations were linked to their history of behavior, but not strongly. However, the relation between reputation and behavior was more robust for some individuals than others. Specifically, for individuals who were well-known and received more social attention in the cohort, their reputation was strongly related to their behavior. In contrast, for less visible individuals who were more ignored by others, their behavior had little impact on their reputation. Finally, individuals’ behavior history in the negotiations was related to their trait agreeableness. This latter finding suggests that personality does shape behavior in negotiations, in contrast to some previous assertions; however, individuals’ behavior must be measured in aggregate, across negotiations, rather than in single interactions. The findings have implications for our understanding of reputation, the costs and benefits of social visibility, and personality effects in negotiations.