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Academy of Management Review 41, 1 (2016) 130-150
The authors integrate a rhetorical perspective with neoinstitutional theory to develop a rhetorical model of institutional decision making. They use this model to describe how the communicative practices of decision makers both enable and constrain how actors manage the risk and uncertainty of their judgments and decisions within an institutional context. The authors first develop a dual conception of reason as both communication (public argument) and cognition (private argument).
With this dual conception of reason, actors are conceptualized as active and passive speakers and listeners who interpret, produce, and present public and private arguments to persuade themselves and others to adopt, maintain, or reject practices. Speakers and listeners have cognitive limits and thus create presumptions or shared decision-making rules to help them efficiently produce and process the arguments needed to debate, evaluate, and adjudicate recurring institutional decisions.
The authors suggest that arguments shape actors’ reasoning and judgment because they reflect appeals to pathos (emotion), logos (logic), and ethos (values) that support or criticize decisions to act. These appeals also shape the nature and construction of presumptions that bind rationality. The study describes how these binds on rationality affect the formation of judgments and decisions, as well as the performance evaluation of institutional practices.