How do we explain the discrepancies we observe in other people between what they say they believe, and how they act?

The theorists Chris Argyris and Donald Schön suggest that people have ‘mental maps’ of how to plan, implement and review their actions in given situations. It is these tacit, unexamined maps – a set of unconsciously held beliefs, assumptions and rules – which guide their actions, rather than the explanations that they give to themselves and others to make sense of what they do.

Argyris and Schön described the mental maps implicit in people’s actions as “theories in use”, and their consciously held beliefs and explanations about their actions as “espoused theories”.

Argyris suggests that bringing theory-in-use and espoused theory into line with each other will increase effectiveness. So how do we do this? “Double-Loop Learning” – which is discussed in my next entry.

Further reading: Theory in Practice: Increasing Professional Effectiveness
by Chris Argyris and Donald A. Schön

“Espoused Theory” and “Theory In Use”

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