Organizational Behavior: The State of the Science

By Jerald Greenberg | Go to book overview

CHAPTER
1 THE COGNITIVE REVOLUTION IN ORGANIZATIONAL BEHAVIOR

Daniel R. Ilgen Debra A. Major Spencer L. Tower Michigan State University

To say that there has been a cognitive revolution in organizational behavior (OB) is to misspeak; to date, it has been little more than a minor skirmish. But a cognitive revolution is occurring all around. The 1990s have been designated "the decade of the brain." What many of us knew as experimental psychology is now cognitive psychology. In some senses, this cognitive psychology includes many of the classic topics of sensation, perception, learning, and memory. In others, it has been dramatically transformed, both in the way that key constructs are viewed and in the way that research is done. A new discipline, cognitive science, has evolved that spans the boundaries of chemistry, biology, psychology, philosophy, mathematics, physics, computer science, and anatomy ( Simon, 1992). In 1991, the Academy of Management established a new cognitive interest area for those concerned with cognitive processes across the whole spectrum of organizational phenomena. The adoption of cognitive constructs into a wide variety of disciplines has been so pervasive that to ask what is not cognitive is a reasonable question. The field of OB has not escaped the influence of cognitive points of view nor has the field been transformed or absorbed by such views.

When cognitive constructs are addressed within OB, they tend to be treated in one of two ways. The first begins with the cognitive theory and translates its constructs into organizational ones. Klein's ( 1989) control theory of work motivation was a good example of this. Working from classical control theory models, Klein added variables and reinterpreted behavioral theory related to control mechanisms in ways that fit organizational phenomena. Few or no changes were suggested in basic control theory constructs; the modifications provided

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