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Rost, Katja; Osterloh, Margit (2010). Opening the black box of upper echelons: expertise and gender as drivers of poor information processing. Corporate Governance. An International Review, 18(3):212-233.

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Research Question/Issue: Why did the majority of directors prior to the financial crisis not have the foresight to predict the problems of taking on too much risk? We analyze whether executives' characteristics affect strategic choices due to bounded rationality, as proposed by the theory of upper echelons. The literature has thus far not empirically opened this black box. Relying on psychological economics, we develop hypotheses under which conditions expertise and gender can lead to biased information-processing.

Research Findings/Insights: To test the hypotheses, we propose a two-study methodology and take the financial crisis as a natural experimental setting. In Study 1, we analyze individual phenomena and show that under conditions of uncertainty, the processing of information by financial experts and men is worse than by non-financial experts and women. In Study 2, we test these findings for organizational phenomena. We show that banks with a higher percentage of financial experts within TMTs perform better in stable environments, but are more negatively affected by the financial crisis.

Theoretical/Academic Implications: An important moderator within the theory of upper echelons is financial market discipline during turbulent periods, explaining why the performance of homogenous TMTs is volatile and why the performance of diverse TMTs is sustainable. The theory can be strengthened by including the insights of psychological economics as a micro-foundation.

Practitioner/Policy Implications: For a sustainable performance, greater TMT diversity in public companies should be instituted by the board of directors.

Manuscript Type: Empirical


15 citations in Web of Science®
20 citations in Scopus®
Google Scholar™


Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:03 Faculty of Economics > Department of Business Administration
Dewey Decimal Classification:330 Economics
Deposited On:25 Feb 2011 14:56
Last Modified:05 Apr 2016 14:43
Additional Information:The attached file is a preprint (accepted version) of an article published in [Zitierung]
Publisher DOI:10.1111/j.1467-8683.2010.00796.x
Official URL:http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/journal/10.1111/(ISSN)1467-8683

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