Coaching, information processing, mental models, social identity


Coaching (professional, business, executive, leadership) has been shown to be effective generally speaking, but questions remain regarding the explanatory mechanisms underlying coaching. I first propose a context-general model that unpacks the sociocognitive dynamics within coaching. The model explains the emergence of different types of coaching relationships, and how the nature of these relationships differentially determine coaching outcomes. Research and theory on social identity construction and information processing in dyads provides the foundation upon which I outline a model describing the process and dynamics of coaching identity emergence. Beyond this emergence, my proposed model states that the coachee's understanding of appropriate interpersonal relations and division of labor between coach and coachee (i.e., his/her situated coaching identity or coaching structure schema) should partially dictate the focus and depth of the coachee's information processing during a coaching engagement. Past research has shown information processing to be a key determinant of decision-making and goal commitment, both of which are desirable outcomes within the coaching domain. To explore these issues, I developed a coaching exercise which simulated some of the early aspects of business, leadership, or executive coaching. During this simulation, participants were guided through a process which enabled them to think and talk about their strengths and weaknesses when using different conflict management behaviors. In discussing these aspects of conflict management, participants and coaches (i.e., trained research associates) walked through a supplementary process to facilitate the development of a series of goals (an "action plan") that would enable the participant to improve his or her conflict management behaviors. At the end of the coaching session, participants were asked to what extent they felt committed to the goals they had developed and whether or not they expected them to be efficacious. Throughout the coaching session, participants were also asked at designated break points to report their levels of information processing and their understanding of the coaching structure schema for that particular coaching relationship. The experimental manipulation was presented at the beginning of the session, wherein the coach would explain to the coachee what the ideal nature of coaching should be. These explanations varied in terms of ascribing responsibility and division of labor - either to a generic coaching process, to the skill and ability of the coach, to the creativity of the participant, or to the joint interaction between coach and participant. Among other things, I hypothesized that coaching structure schemas that emphasized the participant's role in the coaching process would encourage more information processing, and consequently higher levels of goal commitment. Hypotheses were largely confirmed, showing that information processing and coaching structure schemas are important predictors of goal commitment at the end of one coaching session. The effects of the manipulation were mixed. Claiming behaviors - that is, the coach ascribing responsibility for coaching effectiveness to him/herself - were only marginally effective in shaping participants' coaching structure schemas. Granting behaviors - communicating to the participant that they are responsible for coaching effectiveness - were much more effective in facilitating helpful information processing and driving higher levels of goal commitment. One possible explanation for the relative effectiveness of granting over claiming may be that claiming requires a degree of credibility which the coach (again, a trained research associate) had not attained with the participants. Other findings pertain to: (1) the unique variance that independent measures of coach- and coachee-relevant structure schemas contribute to models predicting information processing and goal commitment, (2) the importance of identifying the type or focus of coachee information processing, and (3) the role that psychological mindedness may play in characterizing a more "coachable" coachee. Implications include: (1) measuring coachees' coaching structure schemas, (2) intentionally encouraging a more appropriate schema, (3) measuring coachees' psychological mindedness prior to coaching, and (4) dynamically monitoring coachees' schema and their information processing in order to assure better coaching effectiveness. Future researchers should explore ways to enact these implications and also to further explore the theoretical components of these practical implications, such as: (1) measurement methods for better assessing coaching schemas and information processing, (2) what the ideal timings are for different kinds of coaching schemas, and (3) different ways to encourage maximally adaptive and appropriate coaching structure schemas.


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Graduation Date





Salas, Eduardo


Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


College of Sciences



Degree Program

Psychology; Industrial & Organization Track








Release Date

August 2014

Length of Campus-only Access


Access Status

Doctoral Dissertation (Open Access)


Dissertations, Academic -- Sciences; Sciences -- Dissertations, Academic