Date of Award

Spring 5-11-2013

Degree Type


Degree Name

Executive Doctorate in Business (EDB)



First Advisor

Dr. Karen Diane Loch

Second Advisor

Dr. David Robert Beard

Third Advisor

Dr. Steven Scott Dionne

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Pam Scholder Ellen


Individuals utilize heuristics in order to simplify problems, which may lead to biases in decision-making. The research question of this study is: “How does the affect heuristic impact the investment process of private equity decision-makers reviewing proposals?” Through an exploratory multi-case analysis, insight is provided into complex private equity decisions by studying biases in the investment process. This is a study of private equity groups’ (PEG) decision-making process when they consider businesses for investment. Qualitative data was generated from semi-structured interviews with twenty private equity decision-makers. The deliberative heuristics applied in the teaser review are learned from process experience and guide the deliberation on whether to proceed. Simplifying heuristics are applied in the more informal review process. Organizational learning was exhibited as the PEGs have modified their investment structures based on previous experiences. The study indicates that experience and learning lead to the construction of an affect heuristic that subsequently impacts investments. It also confirms the need for strategic decision-makers to recognize their own biases and adjust their processes accordingly.

A significant practical implication of this study is the insight provided into the views of the PEG decision-makers as they anticipate the need to supplement the management team is helpful to business owners and their advisors. The study highlights the opportunities for biases in PEG decision-making processes. Accessing decision-makers at larger PEGs and approaching more middle market firms would broaden the results.

A paper based on this dissertation is available from Wiley at