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Aspiration-Level Adaptation in an American Financial Services Organization: A Field Study

Listed author(s):
  • Stephen J. Mezias


    (Department of Management and Organizational Behavior, New York University, New York, New York 10003)

  • Ya-Ru Chen


    (Departments of Management and Organizational Behavior and International Business, New York University, New York, New York 10003)

  • Patrice R. Murphy


    (Robert H. Schaffer and Associates, Stamford, Connecticut 06905)

Registered author(s):

    Using field data from an American financial services organization, we examined the effects of three important variables in Cyert and March's (1963) initial conceptualization of the aspiration-level adaptation process: The previous aspiration level, performance feedback, and social comparison. Past findings obtained in controlled contexts (Glynn et al. 1991; Lant 1992) have provided empirical support for the attainment discrepancy model (Lewin et al. 1944), which includes variables of the previous aspiration level and attainment discrepancy (i.e., performance feedback). We replicated these findings in the field: The effects of the previous aspiration level and attainment discrepancy on the current aspiration levels were significant and positive. In addition, we investigated the effect of social comparison using a variable based on the difference between the performance of the focal unit and the performance of comparable others (Greve 1998). Based on the assumption that decision makers in organizations will expect to observe similar performance levels among those in the same comparison group (Wood 1989), we posited that the effect of social comparison would be negative, refiecting managerial efforts to reduce performance discrepancies among similar units. The empirical results supported the prediction from this reasoning. We conclude by discussing implications of our findings for theory and research in organizational learning and the behavioral theory of the firm.

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    Article provided by INFORMS in its journal Management Science.

    Volume (Year): 48 (2002)
    Issue (Month): 10 (October)
    Pages: 1285-1300

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    Handle: RePEc:inm:ormnsc:v:48:y:2002:i:10:p:1285-1300
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    1. Mezias, Stephen J., 1988. "Aspiration level effects: An empirical investigation," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 10(4), pages 389-400, December.
    2. repec:cup:apsrev:v:74:y:1980:i:02:p:354-372_16 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Fuller, Wayne A. & Battese, George E., 1974. "Estimation of linear models with crossed-error structure," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 2(1), pages 67-78, May.
    4. Lant, Theresa K. & Montgomery, David B., 1987. "Learning from strategic success and failure," Journal of Business Research, Elsevier, vol. 15(6), pages 503-517, December.
    5. John D. Sterman, 1989. "Modeling Managerial Behavior: Misperceptions of Feedback in a Dynamic Decision Making Experiment," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 35(3), pages 321-339, March.
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