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Information in Organizations as Signal and Symbol

Martha S. Feldman and James G. March
Administrative Science Quarterly
Vol. 26, No. 2 (Jun., 1981), pp. 171-186
DOI: 10.2307/2392467
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2392467
Page Count: 16
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
Information in Organizations as Signal and Symbol
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Abstract

Formal theories of rational choice suggest that information about the possible consequences of alternative actions will be sought and used only if the precision, relevance, and reliability of the information are compatible with its cost. Empirical studies of information in organizations portray a pattern that is hard to rationalize in such terms. In particular, organizations systematically gather more information than they use, yet continue to ask for more. We suggest that this behavior is a consequence of some ways in which organizational settings for information use differ from those anticipated in a simple decision-theory vision. In particular, the use of information is embedded in social norms that make it highly symbolic. Some of the implications of such a pattern of information use are discussed.

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