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Vain Or Able? Strong Inference And The Efficacy Debate

Shelby John Solomon, John Harrison Batcherlor

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Purpose This study aims to address the efficacy debate by exploring the nature of how prior team level performance affects future performance. That is, the purpose of this study is to understand whether or not the boost of efficacy associated with success leads to overconfidence that harms performance or to motivation that enhances performance. Design/methodology/approach This study used a quantitative approach to test competing hypotheses derived from both social cognitive theory and control theory. Specifically, the study made use of archival National Football League data, containing 5,120 longitudinal team level observations. This paper uses multi-level modeling to analyze how prior team level performance affected future performance episodes. Findings The findings of this study suggest that prior success leads to overconfidence which ultimately harms future team performance. Therefore, the findings support control theory in favor of the social cognitive theory. However, this study finds that the detrimental effects of overconfidence could be offset by monitoring and work breaks. Research limitations/implications Due to the nature of the archival data source, it was not possible to directly measure efficacy. Thus, efficacy is inferred based on past performance outcomes. Practical implications This study suggests that it is important for managers and team leaders to pay careful attention to their team after successful performances. Specifically, team leaders may want to monitor their members or give them a break after successful performance episodes to avoid the negative effects of overconfidence. Originality/value This paper provides a direct test of the efficacy debate at the team level.