When Do Theories Become Self-Fulfilling? Exploring the Boundary Conditions of Performativity

Published on Jul 13, 2017in Academy of Management Review
· DOI :10.5465/AMR.2016.0071
Emilio Marti4
Estimated H-index: 4
(University of Oxford),
Jean-Pascal Gond35
Estimated H-index: 35
(City University London)
Management researchers increasingly realize that some theories do not merely describe, but also shape social reality; a phenomenon known as "performativity." However, when theories become performative or even self-fulfilling is still poorly understood. Taking this gap in the research as our starting point, we develop a process model to show that new theories will only become self-fulfilling (1) if they motivate experimentation, (2) if experimentation produces anomalies, and (3) if these anomalies lead to a practice shift. On that basis, we identify six boundary conditions that determine whether theories will shape social reality. To illustrate our argument, we explore the conditions under which theories that postulate a positive link between corporate social performance and corporate financial performance may become self-fulfilling.
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