导读:人们喜欢排行榜。这就是为什么英国《金融时报》的商学院排名会被仔细研究、讨论和剖析的原因所在。

      人们喜欢排行榜。这就是为什么英国《金融时报》的商学院排名会被仔细研究、讨论和剖析的原因所在。我们对此心知肚明,因为每次我们发布一组排名之后,网站的访问量就会大幅增加。People love lists. That’s why the Financial Times’s business education rankings are pored over, debated and dissected. We know this because every time we publish a set of rankings, our website traffic jumps.

对于任何关心商学院教育的人来说,追踪从一所学校获得的文凭与从另一所学校获得的文凭之间在价值上有何差异很有吸引力和娱乐性,更不用说是明智之举了。英国《金融时报》的研究显示,一个MBA毕业生的平均成本——包括收入损失——超过20万美元。For anyone who cares about business education, tracking how valuable a qualification from one school might be relative to another is absorbing and entertaining, not to mention sensible. The average cost — including lost earnings — of an MBA is more than $200,000, according to FT research.

我在英国《金融时报》的团队负责这些庞大的数据项目。但是,最近对这类排名所产生的心理影响进行的研究,让我对即使计算能力超群的人解读我们排名的方法感到担忧。当我们看到一个排行榜时,似乎忘记了我们知道的所有数学基础知识。My team at the FT is responsible for these massive data projects. But recent studies into the psychological effects of such lists has caused me to worry about how even highly numerate people interpret our rankings. The minute we see a list, it seems, we forget everything we know about basic maths.

根据《市场研究杂志》(Journal of Marketing Research) 2014年发表的一份美国研究报告,当我们拿到一个排行榜时,我们会将其划分为几个等级。因此,以英国《金融时报》MBA课程前100排名为例,为了更好地解读这份榜单,我们可能会简单地将它们划分为前10、前20、前50等等级来进行考虑,并以此类推做出判断。The FT will publish its Executive Education programme rankings early next month, so this seems like a good time to think about it.According to a 2014 US study published in the Journal of Consumer Research, when we are presented with a list, we look for boundaries. So in order to make sense of, say, the FT’s ranked list of the top 100 MBA programmes, we probably simplify by thinking in terms of — and passing judgment on — the first 10 programmes, the first 20, the first 50 and so on.

通过对照实验,研究人员发现,人们会认为第9名和第10名之间没什么差别。但是,当我们将第11名——处于心理边界的不利一边——与第10名进行比较时,尽管名次也仅差一名,我们却认为两者的差别很大。换句话说,我们的判断非常不公平:我们认为,处于我们划分的第一个等级内的排名价值非常高,且我们喜欢以0结尾的数字。大多数商学院不愿意排到第11位。Using controlled experiments, researchers found people perceive little difference between ninth and 10th place in a ranking. But when we weigh 11th — the wrong side of that mental boundary — against 10th, we perceive the difference as much greater, though the increment is the same. In other words, our judgment is highly unfair: we regard a placement within our first boundary as very valuable, and we like numbers ending in 0. Most business schools would prefer not to be number 11.

研究人员证实,这些观念对商学院的申请产生了连锁反应。他们对3年里为申请商学院而参加管理专业研究生入学考试 (GMAT)的近50万考生的偏好进行了调查,并将考生倾向申请的学校数据与相关学校在一个流行的排行榜中的排名变化进行了比较。果然,预测学校收到申请的数量的一个最好指标是排名是否跨越了一个等级——例如,从第12名上升至第10名,或者从第18名下降到第20名。The researchers established that these perceptions have a knock-on effect on business school applications. They looked at the preferences of almost 500,000 candidates taking the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) exam for business schools over three years, mapping data for preferred schools against movements in a popular school’s ranking. Sure enough, the best predictor of numbers of applications a school received was if it passed a round-number boundary — from 12th to 10th, say, or from 18th to 20th.

这表明我们假定每个名次之间存在相同的质量差距。但这毫无道理:英国《金融时报》根据20多个不同的标准对MBA课程进行排名。有些名次之间的差距可能要比其他名次之间的差距大得多。This suggests we assume an even gap in quality between each numerical placement. But that makes no sense: the FT ranks MBA programmes on more than 20 separate criteria. Some increments are likely to be much bigger than others.

参加第一项研究的两名研究人员将工作深入了一步,他们发现当大学登广告宣传其排名时(许多大学都会这么做),似乎出现了同样的不理性行为。《市场营销杂志》(Journal of Marketing)一篇处于高级审阅阶段的最新研究报告想要弄清楚,一个学校在宣传材料中使用百分数排名,是否比使用数字排名更有利呢?该研究发现,如果一所学校在前50排行榜上位列前20,那么最好将自己描述为“前20”,而不是“前40%”。报告作者预计将在今年晚些时候发表报告。Two of the researchers from that first study have taken the work further, and it seems that the same irrationality occurs when universities advertise their positions in rankings (as many do). A new study under advanced review in the Journal of Marketing sets out to establish whether a school would be better off using a percentage versus a numerical rank in its promotional material. It turns out that if a school is ranked in the top 20 in a list of 50, it would be well advised to describe itself as being ‘in the top 20’, rather than ‘in the top 40 per cent’. The authors are expecting the study to be published later this year.

这同样是因为,即使是商学院未来的学生也会忘记数学知识。研究人员认为,这些人认为“前20”比“前40%”靠前——即使排名(前50中排名前20)其实是一样的。排名略次于前100的课程最好用百分数排名。That is because, once again, even prospective business school students forget about maths. The researchers believe they perceive 20 to be higher than 40 — even though the position (20 out of 50) is the same. Programmes ranked just outside a top 100 would be well advised to tout a percentage.

“即便计算能力很强的人也会有这样的偏见,”研究报告的合著者、西雅图大学(Seattle University)阿尔伯斯经济与工商管理学院(Albers School of Business and Economics)的教授马修•艾萨克(Mathew Isaac)说。“Even highly numerate people are guilty of these biases,” says Professor Mathew Isaac of Seattle University — Albers School of Business and Economics, who co-authored the studies.

商学院很清楚,声誉是情感化的东西,未来的学生会对此做出相应的反应,这可能解释了他们为什么会完全失去理性思维:“事实证明,可能出现确认偏误——你可能不会以同样的方式来评判同样的排名或排名提升,”艾萨克教授说。As business schools know, reputation is an emotional subject and prospective students respond accordingly, which could explain why logic flies out of the window: “Confirmation bias is proven to be likely — you may not judge the same rankings or jumps in the same way,” says Prof Isaac.

大多数人没有MBA或其他商学院文凭,但他们认识的某个人、面试的某个人、聘用的某个人、与之竞争的某个人,或他们的子女(他们为其支付学费)有商学院文凭。许多人都会参加某种形式的管理人员教育培训。这几乎涵盖了所有人,这意味着上述判断错误会产生很大的影响。Most people do not hold an MBA or any other business school qualification, but they are likely to know someone, interview someone, employ someone, compete with someone or be the parent of (and paying for) someone who does. Many will study some form of executive education. That covers pretty much everyone, which means these errors of judgment matter.

排名有助于帮助申请者选择课程,但是(正如批评者经常提醒我的那样),排名并未告诉我们很多关于策划、教授、营运和管理一个高品质课程背后所投入的人力、技能和专业知识方面的信息。如果我们忘记了这一点,那么我们就真的忘记了最基础的东西。Rankings are useful to help applicants choose a course, but (as their critics often remind me) they do not tell us much about the human effort, skill and expertise that goes into planning, teaching, running and administering high-quality courses. If we forget about that, then we really have forgotten the basics.