Image Theory: Theoretical and Empirical Foundations

Image Theory: Theoretical and Empirical Foundations

Image Theory: Theoretical and Empirical Foundations

Image Theory: Theoretical and Empirical Foundations

Excerpt

We begin our examination of the empirical work on image theory by focusing on the first of the theory's two decision mechanisms, the compatibility test. Recall that the compatibility test involves "fit" with decision standards, rather than maximization of outcomes, as the criterion for decision making. It is a theoretical attempt to describe the assessment of the acceptability of candidates for adoption and the assessment of progress toward goal attainment. In adoption decisions, assessment turns on the differences between the features of the candidate and standards derived from the constituents of the three images. The point is to avoid adopting candidates that do not conform to one's principles (value image) or that might interfere with implementation of previously adopted plans (strategic image) for attaining previously adopted goals (trajectory image). In progress decisions, the assessment is seen as turning on the differences between the future that the plan is forecasted to promote and the goal that the plan is supposed to attain. That is, does the forecasted future include the goal?

Not all differences between features and standards seem to matter. Image theory posits that for the compatibility test only the failures to meet the standards or failures of the forecast to include the goal (violations) contribute to the assessment of compatibility (fit); meeting or surpassing the standards (nonviolations) cannot compensate for failures and has little if any impact on assessed compatibility. For adoption decisions, this emphasis on violations is in contrast to the profitability test, which permits both compensatory and noncompensatory strategies for selecting the best from among the candidates that have survived the compatibility test--the profitability test plays no role in progress decisions.

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