As a sociologist situated in a business school I have had the great fortune of being exposed to many different varieties of theoretical and empirical research. I often find that the intersection of multiple methods is optimal for addressing the kinds of questions that I explore in my own empirical work. In my research I use formal mathematical modeling, simulation and agent based modeling, all varieties of regression analysis, controlled laboratory experiments with human subjects, field experiments, and qualitative methods including field observation and interviews. The papers below have all introduced methodological innovations of one kind or another, ranging from new measurement strategies for network position and organizational design, to formalized modeling of existing theoretical constructs. Most recently I am also exploring the idea of using agent based modeling as an extension of laboratory experimentation. Note: Links to papers may be inactive for papers currently under review or being revised.
Simulating macro-level effects from micro-level observations (with Bill Rand)
Invited submission; Organizational Research Methods
In this proposal memo we argue, mostly by way of an example, that social science researchers who conduct their research with human subjects in controlled laboratory settings should consider using computer-based simulations to analyze the "macro" implications of their "micro" findings. While bringing these two modes of research together involves overcoming both social and technological barriers, we propose that the barriers represent minor impediments in comparison to the value that integration could create. The value of bringing together empirical lab research with computational and simulation modeling is likely to come in three forms, at least. First, simulation research will benefit from exposure to a larger set of mechanisms and observed behaviors that can add significant nuance and refinement to existing simulated models of human behavior and collective outcomes. Second, simulation offers empirical researchers a way to assess the feasibility and potential importance, as opposed to merely the statistical significance, of findings. For researchers in social psychology in particular, simulation offers an opportunity to address questions about the external validity of both research methods (e.g., priming) and findings. Finally, simulation provides a method for identifying long-run implications of what are typically single period observations of human behavior in a lab.
Redundant Heterogeneity and Group Performance (with Yuan Hou)
Forthcoming. Organization Science.
[Best Paper Proceedings, 2014 Academy of Management]
This paper identifies three performance issues that naturally result from diversity and suggests a potential solution for each of them. First, the positive effects associated with diversity often decay over time, in part because heterogeneous people may homogenize with repeated exposure. Second, diverse groups are fragile and experience higher turnover than nondiverse groups. Recruiting similar (redundant) pairs within a heterogeneous group can solve these two problems but also gives rise to a third: fault-line fragmentation. We propose a structural solution: redundant heterogeneity (RH), in which not only are team members heterogeneous within a hierarchical level of a group or organization but their diversity is matched by similar critical team member characteristics at other hierarchical levels. Analyses of 23 years of panel data from the National Basketball Association provided a first test of the effectiveness of this solution. We focused on professional players’ experience with a particular style of play in their college careers as the critical dimension of diversity within these teams. Our findings indicate that RH led to better performance, for three reasons. First, the positive effect of heterogeneity among teams’ core players on team performance decays more slowly for teams with RH; second, teams with RH are less negatively affected by turnover among core players; and third, teams with RH exhibited more coordination and cooperation
A Model of Robust Positions in Social Networks (with Matthew Bothner & Harrison White)
2010. American Journal of Sociology, 116(3), 943-92.
This article introduces a network model that pictures occupants of robust positions as recipients of diversified support from durably located others and portrays occupants of fragile positions as dependents on tenuously situated others. The model extends Herfindahl’s index of concentration by bringing in the recursiveness of Bonacich’s method. Using Newcomb’s study of a college fraternity, we find empirical support for the contention that fragility reduces future growth in status. Applications of the model to input-output networks among industries in the U.S. economy and to hiring networks among academic departments are also presented. Implications for future research are discussed.
When do Matthew Effects Occur? (with Matthew Bothner, Richard Haynes, Wonjae Lee)
2010. The Journal of Mathematical Sociology, 33(2), 80-114.
What are the boundary conditions of the Matthew Effect? In other words, under what circumstances do initial status differences result in highly skewed reward distributions over the long run, and when, conversely, is the accumulation of status-based advantages constrained? Using a formal model, we investigate the fates of actors in a contest who start off as status-equivalents, produce at different levels of quality, and thus come to occupy distinct locations in a status ordering. We build from a set of equations in which failing to observe cumulative advantage seems implausible and then demonstrate that, despite initial conditions designed to lead inevitably to status monopolization, circumstances still exist that rein in the Matthew Effect. Our results highlight the importance of a single factor governing whether the Matthew Effect operates freely or is circumscribed. This factor is the degree to which status diffuses through social relations. When actors’ status levels are strongly influenced by the status levels of those dispensing recognition to them, then eventually the top-ranked actor is nearly matched in status by the lower-ranked actor she endorses. In contrast, when actors’ status levels are unaffected by the status levels of those giving them recognition, the top- ranked actor amasses virtually all status available in the system. Our primary contribution is the intuition that elites may unwittingly and paradoxically destroy their cumulative advantage beneath the weight of their endorsements of others. Consequently, we find that the Matthew Effect is curtailed by a process that, at least in some social settings, is a property of status itself—its propensity to diffuse through social relations. Implications for future research are discussed.