Dual cognitive pathways to voice quality: Frequent voicers improvise, infrequent voicers elaborate
We investigate the involvement of Working Memory Capacity (WMC, the cognitive resource necessary for controlled elaborate thinking) in voice behavior (speaking up with suggestions, problems, and opinions to change the organization). While scholars assume voice requires elaborate thinking, some empirical evidence suggests voice might be more automatic. To explain this discrepancy, we distinguish between voice quantity (frequency of voice) and voice quality (novelty and value of voiced information) and propose that WMC is important for voice quality, but less for voice quantity. Furthermore, we propose that frequent voicers rely less on WMC to reach high voice quality than people who voice rarely. To test our ideas, we conducted three studies: a between-participant lab-study, a within-participant experiment, and a multi-source field-study. All studies supported our expectation that voice quantity is unrelated to WMC, and that voice quality is positively related to WMC, but only for those who rarely voice. This indicates that the decision to voice (quantity) might be more automatic and intuitive than often assumed, whereas its value to the organization (quality), relies more on the degree of cognitive elaboration of the voicer. It also suggests that frequent and infrequent voicers use distinct cognitive pathways to voice high-quality information: frequent voicers improvise, while infrequent voicers elaborate.
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