five false beliefs

What beliefs did you have that were falsified through your research? If you aren’t a researcher, what beliefs did you have that were falsified by reading up on some topic? Here’s five of my falsified beliefs:

  1. An organization’s ideology affects the technology it uses. I had this idea that being more democratic or radical would make movement orgs more likely adopt facebook and the like. Wrong. It’s mainly path dependence and org vintage, at least according to my data on antiwar groups.
  2. Philanthropists can coopt social movements because of resource dependency. After doing my research on the black studies movement, I believe movements can shape the agenda, which attracts philanthropists. But they tend to support who they like rather than coopt radicals.
  3. Ethnic studies is widely institutionalized. I used to believe, like many people, that the movements of the 60s totally flooded the academy. Wrong. The academy did take a leftward shift, but much of it was in political attitudes, not academic programs. Depending on the definition, 10-20% of universities have ethnic studies, most of them concentrated in research universities. These are also small programs. Actually, the big change in the post-1960s era is the spread of vocational and interdisciplinary programs, not identity politics programs. At most, the politics of the 60s affected courses and research topics, but that’s also widely exaggerated.*
  4. Litigation does not prevent medical misbehavior. Many don’t know they’ve been harmed, many are afraid to sue, which is risky, and sensational pay outs are rare. This one isn’t from my own research.
  5. Protest is common. In my studies of college protest, I found that the rate of protest was fairly low among colleges in the 60s. I bet the rate is even lower today. I now think protest is just one occasionally used tactic and it’s not terribly important in many cases.

It’d be cool if other bloggers did this – Jenn Lena, Jeremy, Andrew? Care to offer your falsified beliefs?

* Yes, people do cultural studies, but all English programs still teach Shakespeare and most dissertations and journals still deal with highly conventional topics.

Written by fabiorojas

April 12, 2010 at 6:35 am

Posted in fabio, mere empirics

9 Responses

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  1. 1. I learned that my seventh and eigth grade civics teachers were much closer to the truth about how “democracy works” than orthdox public choice.

    2. I learned that employing professional social workers is no more likely to engender better outcomes in child or social welfare. The problems (e.g., children in placement too long or not long enough, hostility between caseworkers and clients, etc.) that social and child welfare agencies are fraught with are a result of quite nebulous policies – or regime uncertainty.

    Liked by 1 person

    Brian Pitt

    April 12, 2010 at 1:24 pm

  2. Stemming off your litigation one: that juries are less likely to find in favor of a plaintiff than judges are.

    Then, of course, there is the Robert Putnam stuff…



    April 12, 2010 at 4:33 pm

  3. I’m confused by how you’ve stated number four…. Does research indicate litigation doesn’t prevent medical misbehavior for the reasons you state or is that the thesis that was disproved and litigation is effective?


    Fred H Schlegel

    April 12, 2010 at 5:47 pm

  4. Fred: Let me clarify. I believed that the threat of litigation prevents malpractice. My colleagues tell me that this is not plausible since many people who might have suffered from malpractice don’t know it, and they are often afraid to sue.



    April 12, 2010 at 5:51 pm

  5. In regard to your first hypothesis, I would expect the most radical of the bunch to not use facebook and the like. Many of the techie oriented activists I know are highly mistrustful of these technologies due to potential privacy issues.



    April 12, 2010 at 10:09 pm

  6. It’s not exactly the same, but The Edge used to ask scientists what they had changed their minds about. Since the respondents are scientists (cognitive, social, physical, plus a few non-scientists like Brian Eno and Alan Alda), their changes of mind are usually data-based. Here, for example is Kahneman reporting on some happiness research: “Social scientists rarely change their minds, although they often adjust their position to accommodate inconvenient facts. But it is rare for a hypothesis to be so thoroughly falsified. Merely adjusting my position would not do.”


    Jay Livingston

    April 12, 2010 at 10:48 pm

  7. Fabio,
    My data would suggest that your false belief #1 is itself false.

    You might want to distinguish between organizations that already ‘existed’ with heavily inscribed codes of action, vs. organizations that co-emerge with the technology, rather than relying on a continuous variable like vintage/age.

    My data (from consulting practice, not research) suggests that technological choices, made at the time of the organization’s emergence, set a foundation for the expansion of ideology into practice, not the collapse of ideology in the face of MS Outlook.

    Perhaps this is partly what you’re suggesting with the idea of ‘vintage’?


    CV Harquail

    April 13, 2010 at 12:29 am

  8. CV: I think we are on the same track, but check out Research in the Soc of ORgs, vol 26, for the full story.



    April 13, 2010 at 4:17 am

  9. […] Five false beliefs – Org theory. What are some of the things you used to believe? […]


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