Date of Original Version



Book Chapter

Abstract or Description

I examine the role of explaining variance in the construction of explanatory theory. Explaining variance can be an insufficient basis for evaluating a theory (Lieberson, 1985). Starting with this insight, I suggest that mod- els that provide explanations of variance do not necessarily provide good explanations of causal mechanisms. I then explore the utility of process models and theories (Mohr, 1982) relative to variance theories. I clarify the role of stochastic processes in such model building and discuss the implications of such processes for evaluating explanatory `adequacy'. Under some conditions, explaining variance may be neither a necessary nor a sufficient condition for good explanatory theory. I then identify some implications of this argument for developing and analyzing explanatory theory. These arguments are applied to two examples: (1) meta-analysis and (2) the disposition versus situation debate (a variant on the nature vs. nurture argument) to illustrate the implications of this process theory point of view.



Published In

Research in Organizational Behavior, 21.