Cognitive Ability

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Journal of Applied Psychology 2010, Vol. 95, No. 5, 889 –901

© 2010 American Psychological Association 0021-9010/10/$12.00 DOI: 10.1037/a0019985

Get Smarty Pants: Cognitive Ability, Personality, and Victimization Eugene Kim and Theresa M. Glomb
University of Minnesota
Drawing on the victim precipitation model, this study provides an empirical investigation of the relationship between cognitive ability and victimization at work. We propose that people high in cognitive ability are more prone to victimization. In this study, we also examine the direct and moderating effects of victims’ personality traits, specifically the 2 interpersonally oriented personality dimensions of agency and communion. Results support the direct positive relationship of cognitive ability and victimization. The positive relationship between high cognitive ability and victimization is moderated by the victims’ personality traits; agency personality traits strengthen the relationship of cognitive ability and victimization, whereas communion personality traits weaken this relationship. Keywords: cognitive ability, victimization, personality, agency, communion

Recently, a Seattle Times article described the victimization of Suzuki Ichiro, a high-ability baseball player who achieved 200 hits for 8 consecutive years and was the 2007 All Star Game Most Valuable Player (see Baker, 2008). The article reported that his teammates from the Seattle Mariners stated they “really dislike him” and wanted to “knock him out” because this high-ability player cares more about individual records than team records. A popular press article (Bruzzese, 2002) reported that victims of workplace bullying are often employees who are “smart” and “talented,” and organizations that fail to prevent victimization against these talented employees will experience their turnover, decreases in productivity, and increases in health care costs (see also Murphy, 2006). Similarly, a survey of workplace victimization suggests that “bright” people are often targets of interpersonal aggression because of their high level of ability (Namie & Namie, 2000). In the school context, research by Peterson and Ray (2006a, 2006b) on gifted children suggests that many high-ability students experience bullying in school because of their intellectual capability. Although each of the above examples provides a mere glimpse into the phenomena of victimization, together they suggest that ability may be a critical precipitating factor in victimization. However, there is limited research attention to the possibility that ability, specifically cognitive ability, may be associated with being a target of victimization—the possibility of “smart victims.” Given that Brand (1987) posited “cognitive ability is to psychol-

This article was published Online First August 16, 2010. Eugene Kim and Theresa M. Glomb, Department of Human Resources and Industrial Relations, Carlson School of Management, University of Minnesota. An earlier version of this article was presented at the 2009 Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology Conference, New Orleans, Louisiana. We are grateful to Michelle Duffy, Paul Sackett, and the participants of the Center for Human Resources and Labor Studies Workshop for comments on earlier versions of this article. Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Eugene Kim, Carlson School of Management, University of Minnesota, 321 19th Avenue South, Room 3-300, Minneapolis, MN 55455. E-mail: kimx0897@ umn.edu 889

ogy as carbon is to chemistry” (p. 257), it is surprising that cognitive ability has not received attention in the workplace victimization literature. This study takes an important first step in establishing the relationship between cognitive ability and victimization in an organizational context; it builds the scholarly knowledge base of workplace victimization and suggests that smart victims may be important to consider in attempts to prevent...
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