Functional relations among constructs in the same content domain at different levels of analysis: A typology of composition models

David Chan
1998 Journal of Applied Psychology  
Composition models specify the functional relationships among phenomena or constructs at different levels of analysis (e.g., individual level, team level, organizational level) that reference essentially the same content but that are qualitatively different at different levels (M. T. Hannan, 1971; K. H. Roberts, C. L. Hulin, & D. M. Rousseau, 1978; D. M. Rousseau, 1985) . Specifying adequate composition models is a critical component of good multilevel research. A typology of composition models
more » ... is proposed to provide a framework for organizing, evaluating, and developing constructs and theories in multilevel research. Five basic forms of composition are described and illustrated. Implications of the typology are discussed. Organizational phenomena have the properties of dynamic systems, with critical antecedents, processes, and outcomes conceptualized and measured at multiple levels of organizational analysis (e.g., individual, group, organization). Because more researchers are beginning to realize that the organizational phenomenon under investigation often is inherently multilevel as opposed to occurring at a single level or in a level vacuum, organizational studies increasingly are adopting a multilevel approach. Several influential theoretical frameworks for multilevel research have been proposed (frameworks and methodological advances, the fundamental substantive issue of construct validation in multilevel research has not been addressed adequately. Accompanying the increased interest in multilevel research is an increased proliferation of new constructs at multiple levels. Unless we have explicit composition models to guide the development and validation of newly proposed constructs in multilevel research, there is a danger of violating the scientific principle of parsimony. Organizational researchers could easily end up with a multitude of labels, all of which purportedly refer to scientific constructs but in reality have no incremental explanatory value. Composition models specify the functional relationships among phenomena or constructs at different levels of analysis (e.g., individual level, team level, organizational level) that reference essentially the same content but that are qualitatively different at different levels (Hannan, 1971; Roberts, Hulin, & Rousseau, 1978; Rousseau, 1985) . Specifying functional relationships between constructs at different levels provides a systematic framework for mapping the transformation across levels. The explicit transformation relationships provide conceptual precision in the target construct, which in turn aids in the derivation of test implications for hypothesis testing. Unfortunately, the specification of functional relationships between constructs has not always been adequate or even explicit in multilevel research. This is partly because no systematic frameworks for specifying functional relationships exist. An adequate typology of composition models addresses the above problems and contributes to multilevel research in at least two important ways. First, it provides an organizing framework for existing focal constructs facilitating scientific communication in multilevel research. Researchers can be more confident that they are referring to 234 COMPOSITION MODELS 235 the same construct when it is explicated according to the same form of composition. Meaningful replications and extensions of current findings then are possible. Apparent contradictory findings may be reconciled, and debates may be clarified. For example, many so-called inconsistent findings simply could be a result of confusion of terminology (i.e., comparing apples and oranges), and the confusion may become apparent when each study locates its construct in the typology corresponding to the composition model. Organizing existing constructs also aids cumulation of research findings by providing a framework for performing meaningful meta-analytic studies in multilevel research. Second, a typology provides a conceptual framework for developing and validating new focal constructs and multilevel theories. As described later in this article, the typology of models could help compose new explanatory constructs from established ones. In addition, being cognizant of different models allows the researcher to consider alternative designs, measurements, and data analyses for testing competing hypotheses, modifying existing theories or developing new ones, or performing a more rigorous test of the original hypothesis. The purpose of this article is to propose a typology of composition models.
doi:10.1037/0021-9010.83.2.234 fatcat:me3p22kwlrfrnnzilg6x7zh7ja