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

Author

Listed:
  • 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)

Abstract

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.

Suggested Citation

  • Stephen J. Mezias & Ya-Ru Chen & Patrice R. Murphy, 2002. "Aspiration-Level Adaptation in an American Financial Services Organization: A Field Study," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 48(10), pages 1285-1300, October.
  • Handle: RePEc:inm:ormnsc:v:48:y:2002:i:10:p:1285-1300
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    File URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1287/mnsc.48.10.1285.277
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    References listed on IDEAS

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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. 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.
    3. repec:cup:apsrev:v:74:y:1980:i:02:p:354-372_16 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. 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.
    5. 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.
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    Cited by:

    1. repec:spt:admaec:v:7:y:2017:i:6:f:7_6_1 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Michael Lounsbury & Christine M. Beckman, 2015. "Celebrating Organization Theory," Journal of Management Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 52(2), pages 288-308, March.
    3. Inseong Song & Jonghoon Bae, 2016. "Politics, strong institution and competitive advantage: an examination of organizational aspiration for competition," Computational and Mathematical Organization Theory, Springer, vol. 22(4), pages 412-443, December.
    4. repec:bla:stratm:v:38:y:2017:i:7:p:1435-1454 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. John W. Boudreau, 2004. "50th Anniversary Article: Organizational Behavior, Strategy, Performance, and Design in Management Science," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 50(11), pages 1463-1476, November.
    6. Steffen Huck & Kai A. Konrad & Wieland Müller & Hans-Theo Normann, 2007. "The Merger Paradox and why Aspiration Levels Let it Fail in the Laboratory," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 117(522), pages 1073-1095, July.
    7. Theresa Lant & Zur Shapira, 2009. "Managerial Reasoning about Aspirations and Expectations," Discussion Paper Series dp498, The Federmann Center for the Study of Rationality, the Hebrew University, Jerusalem.
    8. repec:bla:stratm:v:37:y:2016:i:13:p:2677-2694 is not listed on IDEAS
    9. Feng, Bo & Lai, Fujun, 2014. "Multi-attribute group decision making with aspirations: A case study," Omega, Elsevier, vol. 44(C), pages 136-147.
    10. Jaikumar, Saravana & Sahay, Arvind, 2016. "Effect of Overlapping Price Ranges on Price Perception: Revisiting the Range Theory of Price Perception," IIMA Working Papers WP2016-02-02, Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad, Research and Publication Department.
    11. repec:eee:ecomod:v:222:y:2011:i:19:p:3486-3499 is not listed on IDEAS
    12. repec:eee:jeborg:v:143:y:2017:i:c:p:116-132 is not listed on IDEAS
    13. Thorsten Grohsjean & Tobias Kretschmer & Nils Stieglitz, 2011. "Performance Feedback, Firm Resources, and Strategic Change," DRUID Working Papers 11-02, DRUID, Copenhagen Business School, Department of Industrial Economics and Strategy/Aalborg University, Department of Business Studies.
    14. Castellani, Marco & Di Giovinazzo, Viviana & Novarese, Marco, 2010. "Procedural rationality and happiness," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 39(3), pages 376-383, June.
    15. Lant, Theresa & Shapira, Zur, 2008. "Managerial reasoning about aspirations and expectations," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 66(1), pages 60-73, April.
    16. Massini, Silvia & Lewin, Arie Y. & Greve, Henrich R., 2005. "Innovators and imitators: Organizational reference groups and adoption of organizational routines," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 34(10), pages 1550-1569, December.
    17. Georgellis, Yannis & Gregoriou, Andros & Tsitsianis, Nikolaos, 2009. "Reference-dependent preferences in the public and private sectors: A nonlinear perspective," MPRA Paper 17021, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    18. Pino G. Audia & Henrich R. Greve, 2006. "Less Likely to Fail: Low Performance, Firm Size, and Factory Expansion in the Shipbuilding Industry," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 52(1), pages 83-94, January.
    19. Kim, Euisin & Rhee, Mooweon, 2017. "How airlines learn from airline accidents: An empirical study of how attributed errors and performance feedback affect learning from failure," Journal of Air Transport Management, Elsevier, vol. 58(C), pages 135-143.
    20. Chivers, David, 2017. "Success, survive or escape? Aspirations and poverty traps," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 143(C), pages 116-132.

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    Keywords

    organizations; decision making; goal setting;

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