- Motive Imagery and Corporate Success
Motive Imagery and Corporate Success is an Organizational Studies Honors research thesis conducted at the University of Michigan during the 2008-2009 academic year. Tyrone Schiff, a student concentrating in the interdisciplinary program of Organizational Studies, developed, designed, and implemented the research study under the faculty mentorship of Richard Price, director of the Organizational Studies program. The thesis seeks to explore the impact of motive imagery on corporate profitability by evaluating the language used in Letters to the Shareholders contained within publicly traded company's annual reports.
Motive Imagery and Corporate Success was inspired by the findings of David G. Winter, professor of Psychology at the University of Michigan. A class taken by Schiff in the fall semester of 2007, political psychology, revealed the causal linkage of motive imagery to political outcomes. The idea almost immediately triggered Schiff to explore other possibilities of motive imagery. He was extremely interested in finance and following the stock markets and was thus drawn to the possibility of determining outcomes of corporations and their stock prices using this psychological metric. In a term paper for political psychology, Schiff did an initial study of his newly formed hypothesis that motive imagery could lead to corporate outcomes. The paper was entitled, "Achievement Motive Imagery and Stock Price." [http://www.scribd.com/doc/935656/Achievement-Motive-Imagery-Stock-Price] The results of the study were extremely forthcoming. Schiff looked at five companies from different sectors of the US economy, including: General Electric, Caterpillar, Merck, Intel, and Disney. He coded the Letters to the Shareholders contained within the 1998 Annual Report for each company for a singular type of motive imagery called Achievement motive imagery. Following this coding, he tracked the companies stock price from the date the 1998 Annual Report was released. His findings are summarized in the table below:
The company highest in Achievement motive imagery, Caterpillar, had the greatest % stock increase, while the company with the lowest Achievement motive imagery, Disney, had the largest % stock decrease. The results revealed to Schiff that there may be some sort of correlation that could exist between motive imagery and the fluctuation in stock prices. Schiff received exemplary marks for this assignment.
Schiff also received motivation from his political psychology graduate student instructor, Sara Konrath. In an informal discussion held at Espresso Royale in Ann Arbor, Michigan, Konrath raised the prospect of writing a thesis on the topic of motive imagery and corporate outcomes. At the time, she was unaware of any prior research that had been done on this idea. Konrath's enthusiasm and input was integral to Schiff's commitment and eventual pursuit of this question.
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