Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Weilei Shi

Committee Members

Naomi A. Gardberg

Loren J. Naidoo

Subject Categories

Business | Business Administration, Management, and Operations | Strategic Management Policy


Strategic decision-making, heuristics, superstition, behavioral strategy, scale development, China


This dissertation focuses on an important but largely ignored phenomenon in the strategic decision literature which I refer to as the use of superstitious heuristics in strategic decision-making. I define the superstitious heuristic as a decision shortcut based on one’s beliefs in the existence of forces or essences that transcend the boundary between the mental/symbolic and physical/material realities in a way that is unsupported by contemporary science. The use ofsuperstitious heuristics in strategic decision-making is prevalent in major economies and influences firms’ strategic behaviors and performance. In this dissertation, I first explored the concept of the superstitious heuristic and developed scale instruments to measure it. Then I investigated the antecedents and consequences of the use of superstitious heuristics in the strategic decision context. With a global sample of respondents from over sixty national cultures, I developed a positive and a negative Superstitious Heuristics Scale (SHS). Both scales demonstrated psychometric soundness and measurement equivalence across culture and language. To investigate the causes and effects of the use of superstitious heuristics in strategic decision-making, I administered an experiment and a survey study to a sample of Chinese middle managers and top executives, respectively. The results 1) provide insights in the role of decision uncertainty, decision importance, and superstitious thinking as positive antecedents of the use of superstitious heuristics in strategic decision-making, and 2) shed light on the positive indirect effects (through decision speed and collective efficacy) and mixed direct effects of the use of superstitious heuristics on both decision performance and firm performance.

This dissertation offers theoretical, empirical, and practical contributions. In the theoretical respect, it first contributes to behavioral strategy by advancing research on the behavioral aspect of strategic decision-making and, in particular, research on heuristics in strategic management. Through investigating a prevalent but understudied phenomenon in strategic decision practice, this research expands our understanding of heuristics and strategic decision-making and offers a new angle to explain firms’ strategic behavior and performance. This dissertation further contributes to behavioral decision literature by adding a new family of decision heuristic and opening up new avenues for behavior decision theory to facilitate the inquiry of decision-making in various research disciplines. The dissertation also contributes to superstition literature by extending superstitious research to the strategic decision setting. In the empirical aspect, this dissertation contributes to behavioral strategy by enabling the study of the phenomenon of interest through providing a validated construct and measurements of the superstitious heuristic for the strategic decision context. The multidimensional nature of the superstitious heuristic opens up research opportunities to derive the superstitious heuristic profile of the firm and explore its performance consequences under diverse contingencies. The dissertation also contributes to behavioral decision literature and superstition research by offering measurements of the superstitious heuristic that are applicable to different cultures and decision settings. In the practical regard, the dissertation provides managerial implications regarding strategic decision-making and interfirm competition and cooperation.

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