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Field Dependency of Argumentation Rationality in Decision-Making Debates

Journal of Management Inquiry

Published online on


This study argues that the rationality behind strategic decisions, which is characterized as expressive, social, or instrumental rational, has to be aligned with the argumentation field of the decision, which is characterized as subjective, intersubjective, or objective. A multiple case study illustrates this proposition while exploring rationality in the mainly instrumental rational debate on the expansion of Heathrow, the social rational debate on extension of Gurkha rights and the expressive rational debate on the hijab in Britain. Stakeholder arguments that realize good alignment with the related argumentation field have a substantial influence on strategic decisions. Managers and policy makers who do not realize this field fit well have to adapt their decisions, or cannot execute them. The cases illustrate the effects of this alignment strategy, in argumentation that mirrors the rationality of opponents, and in a strategy that reframes the assumed fit between the rationality and the related argumentation field.