A Former ISPS Fellow Applies Science to Business

Authored By 
Rick Harrison
June 6, 2023

Margaret Moor

As a Dahl Research Scholar with the Institution for Social and Policy Studies, Margaret Moor asked questions about questions.

Specifically, Moor and her mentor, ISPS faculty fellow Alexander Coppock, and Graeme Blair of the University of California, Los Angeles, studied the extent to which people may or may not withhold their true attitudes and beliefs when answering surveys.

They looked at 30 years of experiments, analyzed how questions on potentially sensitive topics were asked, and found that people often overreported their support of and underreported their opposition to authoritarian regimes. In addition, they found people underreported vote buying and possibly overreported their participation in elections.

However, the authors also found that these types of sensitivity biases are often small or near nonexistent. They expressed surprise that subjects seemed to accurately report their prejudices regarding race, religion, and sexual orientation. And they offered important considerations for researchers when designing surveys that might be vulnerable to bias.

Moor ’18 has applied lessons from her time at ISPS to her work as a consultant with the global management consulting firm Bain & Company, in which her team often deploys surveys as part of market research tools employed to help clients assess a new product’s potential or to make other business decisions.

“What I appreciated most from my work with ISPS was the ability to question methods with a healthy dose of skepticism,” Moor said. “I learned that the accepted way of doing something isn’t always the right way or the best way.”

The Dahl Scholars program, launched in 2015, provides fellowship support for Yale College students to engage in policy-driven social science research under the guidance of an ISPS faculty mentor. As a major in global affairs, Moor said the fellowship gave her valuable insight into the work of her classmates and faculty members in the social sciences.

“It was nice to interact with and learn from the other students in the program,” Moor said. “This project was the piece of work I was most excited about my senior year.”

Coppock said that Moor started out as an exceptionally deft and brilliant research assistant but quickly proved herself to be even more fundamentally instrumental.

“Her contribution eventually went so far beyond what I would have expected from an undergraduate that Graeme and I promoted her to a full co-author without a second’s hesitation,” Coppock said. “We were very lucky to be able to collaborate with her before she graduated to bigger and better things.”

At her job, Moor has worked with large companies to hone business strategies, often performing due diligence prior to an acquisition of a smaller company in a niche market with little data available.

“I learn something new every single day,” she said. “I can find myself working for a company exploring a market I didn’t even know existed a few weeks earlier. Taking the same methods and thought processes and applying them to new situations.”

Moor is halfway through a two-year MBA program at The University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business before returning to Bain in a larger management role. And she plans to continue asking questions designed to get the most reliable answers.

“I am so grateful for Professor Coppock and ISPS,” Moor said. “Alex made coming to work every day so much fun, and I have been fortunate to find a similar experience at my job. Everyone is really motivated to work toward a goal as a team.”