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A dual-mode framework of organizational categorization and momentary perception


We examine how both automatic and motivated modes of categorization are integral to understanding momentary perceptions of organizations, including perceptions of organizational identity and legitimacy. We begin by discussing how extant organizational research has relied, primarily, on single modes of categorization to describe how we form momentary perceptions of organizations. These ‘single-mode’ frameworks have explained momentary organizational perceptions as the result of either automatic categorization (i.e. driven by unconscious cognitive processes) or motivated categorization (i.e. driven by individual needs and desires). While these frameworks explain much about momentary organizational perceptions, we provide some notable examples that do not follow the paths they predict. To more fully explain momentary organizational perceptions, we present a framework grounded in psychological research that considers how both motivated and automatic modes of categorization influence these perceptions. In doing so, we illustrate how such a ‘dual-mode’ framework might better account for organizational perceptions that seem counter-intuitive when viewed through a single-mode lens. We conclude by outlining some theoretical and practical implications of our framework, and presenting an agenda for future research on organizational categorization and perception that may capitalize on our dual-mode framework.

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