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Testing macro organizational theories in laboratory experiments

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Laboratory experiments provide the most rigorous method of testing scientific theories. However, their current use in organizational research is primarily limited to testing micro organizational theories where actors are individuals. I suggest the conditions under which one can test macro organizational theories in laboratory experiments, using human subjects in the role of organizations. I discuss two sequential stages of behavior (decision making and execution) and two different types of groups (democratic and dictatorial). I argue that the process of decision making in democratic groups is the only place where a logical justification is necessary for the use of human subjects in testing macro organizational theories. Using the Condorcet Jury Theorem, I demonstrate that, when four conditions are met, laboratory experiments with human subjects representstatistically conservativetests of macro theories. The four conditions are: (1) two alternative choices; (2) mean individual competence greater than .5; (3) individual decisions not too highly positively correlated; and (4) simple majority decision rule. I illustrate my argument with Hannan and Carroll's (1992) density dependence theory of organizational foundings and delineate one potential experimental design for testing the theory.

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