Technology and Innovation in Higher Education: Social Media in Admissions?

Selection research – research into how people are chosen for certain roles – has recently been looking at how social media impacts selection decisions for new employees. While social media is not an accepted nor respected means of choosing new employees, it is being used by organizations, and may eventually be commonplace. Similarly, social media might eventually be used to make higher ed admissions decisions, and admissions counselors might be using it already. Regarding the efficacy in doing so, I turn to the paper “Social Media in Employee-Selection-Related Decisions: A Research Agenda for Uncharted Territory”1 for guidance, which reviews research on social media in employee selection.

In short, the paper’s conclusion is that social media is a poor, ill-advised means of selection. It introduces massive potential for bias and variability into a process that should be objective and standardized. Social media gives an incomplete picture of a person, and people view missing information suspiciously. People also instinctively place much greater value on negatively perceived information, thus swaying their opinions of what information they do find. Social media-based judgements are open to relying on one’s “gut feelings” about a person, too. When people see something relatable in a social media page, they will likely have a stronger positive gut feeling about that person, and they probably won’t recognize its source. Consequently, basing selection decisions off of social media judgements opens up organizations using it to legal retribution, as unfair selection practices are against the law.

Furthermore, using social media was found to be ineffective. In empirical studies, there were correlations of about .3 between validated personality measures and people’s social media-based judgements of those personalities. Similarly, the correlation between job performance and social media-based judgements was about .3. That correlation value is quite a bit lower than other, accepted selection strategies.

Therefore, using social media to make admissions decisions seems like a very bad idea. It would likely hurt diversity, which is already a weak area in higher ed. It might hurt colleges, too, in that they unwittingly admit lower caliber students. I hope that admissions committees are aware of the detrimental potential of social media, seeing as 45% of a sample of 2600 US hiring managers admitted to having used it despite it not being an accepted selection strategy. So I fear that admissions people are already dabbling in it too.

[1] Roth, P.L., Bobko, P., van Iddekinge, C.H., & Thatcher, J.B. 2016. Social Media in Employee-Selection-Related Decisions: A Research Agenda for Uncharted Territory. Journal of Management, 42(1), 269-298. doi: 10.1177/0149206313503018


Open Access Journals in Psychology

Open Access journals are particularly useful to psychology because of psychology’s subject matter – people. Thus, the research covered in much of psychology is relevant to people and could be used by the general public more than in most fields. This idea is supported by the prevalence of psychology-related books that have entered and succeeded in the popular press, such as Malcolm Gladwell’s best-selling books that synthesize research findings in psychology with stories about the world and Eric Barker’s book Barking Up the Wrong Tree that similarly accumulates psychological findings with a special focus on the science of happiness and success to present tips for the everyday reader. Even psychologists themselves have become famous amongst the general public, like Dan Ariely, who published best sellers Predictably Irrational and The Honest Truth About Dishonesty, and Daniel Kahneman, who wrote the very successful Thinking, Fast and Slow.

In addition to the general public, psychology research is useful to many practitioners. Counselors, therapists, and social workers apply the research done by psychologists in their work to help people. Additionally, consultants and coaches could use psychological research to learn how people are motivated, work best together, and even be manipulated. Companies like Amazon and Apple, as well as agencies like the FBI and CIA, have also realized this potential.

Therefore, by making research literature available to anyone with an internet connection, Open Access journals allow for greater dissemination of research – and hopefully for a broader reach of benefits.

For example, the Open Access journal Frontiers in Psychology is the largest journal within the field of psychology. It covers a wide range of subjects – environmental psychology, clinical psychology, social psychology, animal behavior, perception science, human factors, and much more – which hold relevance to a wide range of people and industries. It is an international journal, publishing research, receiving funding, and recruiting editors from around the world. Its goal is to make the best of psychology research readily available to anyone who wants to access it. By allowing knowledge to have a longer reach, this journal hopes to accelerate innovation and improvement “for the benefit of humankind“.