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The generalist bias


  • Wang, Long
  • Keith Murnighan, J.


This research introduces the generalist bias – a tendency to reward and select people with general skills when complementary, specialized skills are needed. Five studies investigated its effects. Study 1 confirmed the existence of the bias in a context-free experiment. Study 2 showed that the compensation of players in NBA teams was related to their two- rather than their three-point scoring. Study 3 showed that basketball fans favored all-around players even when three-point shooters would better complement a team’s needs. Study 4 showed that the generalist bias occurred in HR recruiting, and Study 5 showed that companies often recruited specialists to handle multiple, unrelated jobs. In addition, studies 3 and 4 also showed that joint evaluations (comparing specialists and generalists side-by-side) strengthened the generalist bias, whereas separate evaluations weakened it.

Suggested Citation

  • Wang, Long & Keith Murnighan, J., 2013. "The generalist bias," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 120(1), pages 47-61.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:jobhdp:v:120:y:2013:i:1:p:47-61
    DOI: 10.1016/j.obhdp.2012.09.001

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    10. Ghemawat, Pankaj & Ricart, Joan E., 1993. "Organizational tension between static and dynamic efficiency, The," IESE Research Papers D/255, IESE Business School.
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    Cited by:

    1. Daniels, David P. & Neale, Margaret A. & Greer, Lindred L., 2017. "Spillover bias in diversity judgment," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 139(C), pages 92-105.
    2. Avery, Derek R. & McKay, Patrick F. & Volpone, Sabrina D. & Malka, Ari, 2015. "Are companies beholden to bias? The impact of leader race on consumer purchasing behavior," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 127(C), pages 85-102.
    3. Sezer, Ovul & Zhang, Ting & Gino, Francesca & Bazerman, Max H., 2016. "Overcoming the outcome bias: Making intentions matter," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 137(C), pages 13-26.


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