Zentrum für Graduiertenstudien

Herr Tobias Heller




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Titel und Abstract des Dissertationsprojektes

Learning effects in path dependent processes: A behavioral perspective on self-reinforcing mechanisms
Betreuer:Prof. Dr. Michael Fallgatter (Wuppertal)

My research integrates the predictions of psychology in human contingency learning (rational and intuitive reasoning), affect, cognition and behavior at the individual level and theory of human information processing which is linked to the evolutionary human propensity to build cognitive maps to suggest how the process theory of organizational path dependence can be expanded by a cognitive perspective on self-reinforcing mechanisms.

At the core of path dependence are small events and the dynamics of self-reinforcing mechanisms, which are likely to lead an organization into a lock-in. Thus, path theory helps understanding how small, contingent events become self-reinforced by e.g. learning effects. Especially, the sensitivity of small events at the beginning of process formation deserves a closer look. We already know that cognition determines interaction. Moreover, cognitive processes are constrained by ambiguity and certain environmental contingencies and deeply influence the further path formation. Current research contends that individual path research still wants elaboration as well as the behavioral foundation in path building processes is needful (Sydow et al, 2009; Garud et al., 2010). This is mainly due to the fact that path theory, neither systematically focuses on the understanding of human learning (e.g. rational, statistical versus intuitive, associative reasoning accounts), nor does it provide a framework of human decision-making.

The focus on individual decision-making in path theory is in line with learning literature. The organizational learning literature suggests learning as a multilevel phenomenon, which rest upon microprocesses (Crossan et al., 1999, 2011).

I argue for two essential research perspectives: First, understanding the learning function at the individual level, which is tied to human psychology, is the very prerequisite to understand organizational path dependence as a whole. Second, organizational path dependence theory needs to be based on a behavioral, cognitive perspective, which takes into account cognition and affect to explain selection criteria, self-reinforcing mechanism, and lock-in.



  • Academy of Management Annual Meeting 2012, Boston, 03.08.2012
  • IFSAM World Congress, Limerick, 28.06.2012
  • Workshop der WK Organisation, Berlin, 29.03.2012 (Korreferat)
  • EGOS Colloquium 2011 (Mit H. Breitsohl), Göteborg, 06.07.2011
  • International Conference on Path Dependence, Berlin, 03.03.2011

Sonstige wissenschaftliche Aktivitäten/Mitgliedschaften

  • Academy of Management (AoM)
  • European Group for Organizational Studies (EGOS)


M. Sc.

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