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Keywords:

  • Illusory correlations;
  • Organization theory;
  • Organizational traits;
  • Systematic distortion hypothesis

Abstract

People often believe in ‘illusory’ correlations between variables that are similar, but not actually correlated. This study suggests that judgments of organizational traits reflect illusory correlations, because subjects' perceptions of correlations between traits, and the predictions of Hage's (1965) ‘axiomatic’ theory, were more highly correlated with independent similarity ratings than with actual correlations between traits. Some methodological reasons why organizational-trait theories might unwittingly produce illusory correlation predictions are discussed, along with possible remedies.