The effect of organizational atypicality on reference group selection and performance evaluation

Edward Bishop Smith, Heewon Chae

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Recent research shows that audiences sometimes respond to organizational performance inways that seem anomalous according to prior theory. In this paperwe propose that variations in the extent to which an organization conforms to the norms and expectations of a known organizational category can affect the way evaluators construct reference groups, and subsequently shape their responses to organizational performance. In an experiment on investing in and evaluating the performance of a certain kind of financial organization, we show that organizational atypicality increases an evaluator's likelihood of choosing a nonconforming referent for the purpose of making (enhancing) evaluations of the organization's performance. Evaluators' ex ante feelings of commitment toward the organization further moderate this relationship. Our results have several implications for research related to organizational and categorical identity, performance evaluation, and judgment and decision making.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1134-1149
Number of pages16
JournalOrganization Science
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 1 2017


  • Categories
  • Economic sociology
  • Organizational identity
  • Performance feedback
  • Reference group selection

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Strategy and Management
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management
  • Management of Technology and Innovation


Dive into the research topics of 'The effect of organizational atypicality on reference group selection and performance evaluation'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this