Increasing awareness of behavioral research

Many years ago, a few individuals were all excited because they have read about the findings from a research study that finally, once and for all resolved the questions of what it takes to make it to the top in a large corporation. However it was doubtful if there was any simple answer to this question, but not wanting to dampen is enthusiasm, one expert asked them of what they had read. The answer was participation in college athletics. To say the expert was skeptical of their claim is a gross understatement, so they were asked to tell more about their reading.

The study encompassed 1,700 successful senior executives at the 500 largest US corporations. The researchers found that half of these executives had played varsity level college sports. A few individuals who happened to be good with statistics, informed the expert that since fewer than 2 percent of all college students participate in inter-college athletics, the probability of this finding occurring by mere chance is less than 1 in 10 million. It was concluded by the said group analysis that based on this research, students must be encouraged to get into shape and to make in to one of the varsity teams.

They were somewhat perturbed when the expert suggested that their conclusions were likely to be flawed. These executives were all males who attended college in the 1940s and 1950s. Would this advice be meaning full to females in the twenty first century? These executives also weren’t typical college students. For the most part, they had attended elite private colleges such as Prince town and Amberst where large proportion of the student body participates in intercollegiate sports. And these jocks had not necessarily played football or basketball; many had participated in golf, tennis, baseball cross country running, crew rugby, and similar minor sports. More over the researchers had confused the direction of causality. That is, many individuals with the motivation and ability it make it to top of a large corporation are draw to competitive activities like the college athletics.

The group was in one way guilty of misusing research data. Of course, they are not isolated case. They are all continually bombarded with reports of experiments that link certain substances to cancer in mice and surveys that show changing attitudes towards sex among college students for example, many of these studies are carefully designed, with great caution taken to note the implications and limitations of the findings. But some studies are poorly designed, making their conclusions at best suspect and at worst meaningless.

Rather than attempting to make you a researchers, the purpose of this is to increase your awareness as a consumer of behavioral research. Knowledge of research methods will allow you to appreciate more fully the care in data collection that underlies the information and conclusion. Moreover, an understanding of research methods will make you a more skilled evaluator of the OB studies you will encounter in business and professional journals. So an appreciation of behavioral research is important because (1) it’s the foundation on which the theories in this text are built, and (2) it will benefit you in future years when you read reports of research and attempt to assess their value.

Purposes of Research:

Research is concerned with the systematic gathering of information. Its purpose is to help us in our search for the truth. Although we will never find ultimate truth, that would be to know precisely how any person or group would behave in any organizational context ongoing research adds to our body of OB knowledge by supporting some theories contradicting others and suggesting new theories to replace those that fail to gain support.

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