Individual Differences, Entrepreneurship, & Assessment (IDEA) Laboratory

The mission of the Blackhawke IDEA Lab is to advance psychological and entrepreneurship theory and science by conducting basic and applied research studies in an objective, impartial manner. Under the direction of Dr. Maureen McCusker, the Lab’s research maintains the highest-quality standards expected of the scientific community. The research studies conducted within the IDEA Lab are designed with the chief intent to uniquely contribute to the broader scientific literature and to be published in peer-reviewed, scientific journals. Through the accumulation and synthesis of our scientifically sound studies, we ultimately translate science into practice. 

To achieve our mission of advancing science, we collaborate with academics from multiple universities as well as applied researchers across a variety of industries to conduct entrepreneur research. Our research focuses on three interconnected research domains: individual differences in entrepreneurs, psychological measurement and assessment, and judgment and decision-making.

Individual Differences in Entrepreneurs

For decades, social scientists have been studying the entrepreneur because individuals who enter entrepreneurial ventures have proven to be a unique and not well-understood subset of the population. Further, successful entrepreneurs contribute to societal growth and welfare in countless ways. If psychologists could determine the makeup of successful entrepreneurs, it would have vast scientific and practical implications. However, previous research on individual differences in entrepreneurs has not advanced as rapidly as the field had intended. Much is still unknown and findings often conflict. One primary objective of the Lab is to fill the gaps in understanding to explain and predict entrepreneurial behavior from a different perspective and approach than former research.

Blackhawke scientists have extensive training, experience, and expertise in industrial-organizational psychology. Industrial-organizational (I-O) psychology (also known as occupational or work psychology) is the scientific study of people in organizations. The field is focused on using psychological principles and theory to explain and predict human performance, motivation, and well-being in the workplace across a wide range of subdomains. Our scientists specialize in individual behavior in organizations in the areas of recruitment, employee selection, and person-organization fit. They integrate their expertise in I-O psychology to explain and predict entrepreneurial behavior. For example, in several studies we are examining how the relationship between personality and performance of entrepreneurs varies across the different stages of the entrepreneurial process.

Psychological Measurement and Assessment

Human-beings are complex individuals that are made up of a combination of individual differences including personality, cognitive abilities, interests, and conative (i.e., motivational tendencies) factors that systematically affect how they behave. However, these individual differences are not directly observable or tangible, making them incredibly difficult to measure. Regardless of the type of measurement used (e.g., self-reports, behavioral observations, intelligence tests) the individual’s score – intended to represent their standing on a particular factor – will also capture error. It is impossible for a psychologist to develop a test without error. What a psychologist can do, however, is used psychometric theories and prescribed procedures to minimize the error as much as possible and in turn accurately capture the trait. As such, the Lab has a strong emphasis and focus on psychometrics – the scientific study of psychological measurement.

Current projects include studies that are examining the extent to which current decision-making assessments are accurate and capturing what they intend to capture. Other projects purely focus on advancing the theory of measurement in psychology in order to improve the field’s current psychometric practices and understanding.

testing and measurement
decision making meeting

Judgment and Decision-Making

Judgment and decision-making are complex cognitive and emotional processes that impact almost every aspect of life (e.g., health) and business (e.g., investment choices). Unfortunately, numerous studies from decades of research have taught us that human beings make systematically flawed, biased decisions. Our research aims to dissect the cognitive and emotional underpinnings of decision-making and understand how to circumvent factors, specifically cognitive heuristics and biases, which negatively influence decision processes and outcomes.

Current studies are examining individual differences that predict the susceptibility to cognitive heuristics and biases. In other words, we are interested in understanding whether some people are more likely than others to make biased decisions. In other studies, we are examining how to statistically model System 1 (i.e. unconscious ) and System 2 (i.e., analytic/reflective) thinking processes. Understanding how to assess them in a quantitative nature will help to determine the best way to measure the thinking processes people use to make decisions in future research studies.

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