Research | Undergraduate Research Assistant Program

Awarded Spring 2013

Negativity Dominance: The Paradoxical Co-existence of Spontaneous Negative Mental Chatter with the Self-Positivity Bias
Raj Raghunathan, Associate Professor, Department of Marketing, University of Texas at Austin
Robin Soster, Professor, University of Arkansas Undergraduate Research Assistant
Sean (Hyunkyu) Jang, PhD Student, University of Texas at Austin

One of the most well-established findings in social psychology is the self-positivity bias. This refers to the finding that people tend to hold themselves in higher regard than they do their peers, and tend to be more optimistic about their own future. The present research examines whether the self-positivity bias reported in earlier studies has been over-stated. We posit that a person's true feelings about themselves relative to their peers, and about their own futures, are less positive than past research suggests. We believe one reason why the positivity bias seems so pronounced in past studies is that these studies have elicited potentially superficial reports from participants.

We obtained preliminary evidence consistent with our thesis in a quasi-study. Students enrolled in a course taught by Professor Raj Raghunathan were instructed, for a class assignment, to maintain a journal for a period of two weeks. A review of the student reports suggested the occurrence of “negativity dominance,” a term we introduce to refer to the notion that self-introspection yields a greater proportion of spontaneously-occurring negative (versus positive) thoughts. This suggests that people who are asked to monitor their spontaneously occurring thoughts will likely exhibit the self-positivity bias to a lesser extent. We predict that if people’s evaluations about themselves are obtained via an “indirect” route (i.e., after they have recorded both the content and the emotional tenor of the thoughts that naturally occur to them), the evaluations will be more negative than if they are elicited more “directly” (i.e., without having them record their spontaneously occurring thoughts).

Job Choice and Performance Evaluation and Reward System Design
Michael Williamson, Associate Professor, Department of Accounting 

We are planning a series of laboratory experiments to examine how individuals’ job choice influences the efficacy of various types of performance evaluation and reward systems. We argue that individuals of particular personalities are drawn to certain type of jobs, and respond more productively to certain types of incentive systems. We can better understand why certain reward systems are more prevalent in certain environments by looking at how job choice influences the efficacy of performance evaluation and reward systems. Luyao was instrumental in this project by providing us a very thoughtful and thorough review of the literature.


The Origin and Evolution of Strategy in Entrepreneurial Firms
Violina Rindova, Professor, Department of Management
Melissa Graebner, Associate Professor, Department of Management
Christina Kyprianou, Doctoral Student, Department of Management
Monica Thomas, Undergraduate Research Assistant

Entrepreneurial ventures are crucial engines of innovation, job creation and economic growth. Entrepreneurial firms often face strategic challenges very different from those of well-established organizations. These challenges include limited access to financial and other resources, perceived low levels of legitimacy by potential customers, and a high degree of ambiguity regarding how these firms should define their products, customers, and competitive positions. In order to succeed, early-stage ventures must move from a state of fluidity in which multiple alternatives are considered to one in which they focus on specific markets, revenue models and value propositions.

Entrepreneurship research studied how entrepreneurs acquire resources and legitimacy before, but we have little information about how new firms crystallize their strategies. To understand this process, we observe entrepreneurial decision-making in real time by attending and participating in strategy meetings and other pivotal events for member-firms of a technology incubator. Our goal is generating new knowledge about how entrepreneurs identify, and address, strategic problems and opportunities, and how these choices shape entrepreneurial firm strategies over time. The findings from this research provide guidance to entrepreneurs about how to formulate effective strategies in highly ambiguous environments.


A New Measure of Disclosure Quality: The Level of Disaggregation of Accounting Data in Annual Reports
Shuping Chen, Associate Professor, Department of Accounting
Bin Miao, Assistant Professor, National University of Singapore
Terry Shevlin, Professor, UC Irvine
Nikhita Khanderia, Undergraduate Assistant

We constructed a new, more efficient, measure of disclosure quality (DQ), and offer validation tests. Disclosure Quality is based on the level of disaggregation of financial data based on all Compustat line items, and captures the extent of details in firms’ annual reports. DQ differs from all existing disclosure measures because it's based on a comprehensive set of accounting data in annual reports, and can be generated for the universe of Compustat industrial firms. These features provide advantages over existing disclosure measures which are usually based on a selected set of accounting data, or are restricted to small selected samples. We need to purge the impact of Compustat’s data gathering template on the count of missing items because we base our measure on the counting of missing items using Compustat’s data. Our undergraduate research assistant Nikhita Khanderia helped us gather data to cross-check Compustat’s missing items against firms’ actual annual reports for one of our tests. This test is integral to the validity of our measure.


Page last updated: 5/21/2013