Research in Cognition and Strategy: Reflections on Two Decades of Progress and a Look to the Future

Journal of Management Studies, Forthcoming

53 Pages Posted: 24 Sep 2010 Last revised: 25 Sep 2010

See all articles by Sarah Kaplan

Sarah Kaplan

University of Toronto - Rotman School of Management

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: September 24, 2010


This review of cognition in strategic management research takes as its starting point the appreciation of the seminal paper – “Competitive Groups as Cognitive Communities: The Case of Scottish Knitwear Manufacturers” – by Porac, Thomas and Baden-Fuller on cognitive categorization of competition published in the Journal of Management Studies only 20 years ago. In this paper, I reflect on the context in which their paper emerged, the impact it has had, and the future paths that research on cognition in strategy might take. In doing so, I highlight the challenges associated with establishing cognition as a legitimate factor in strategic management (alongside the traditional explanations of capabilities and incentives) and of showing the causal relationship between cognition and strategic outcomes. Subsequent work in cognition explored the dynamic relationship between cognition, capabilities and incentives and, in process models of framing, linked cognition with political action. Rather than managerial cognition becoming its own independent field, cognitive concepts have diffused throughout work in many different managerial fields, leading to a proliferation of terms, concepts and approaches. I conclude by exploring some of the paths that research in cognition and strategy is taking in the present day – particularly those involving studies of the construction of markets and categories, each of which are themes that the work by Porac, Thomas and Baden-Fuller brought to our attention.

Keywords: cognition, strategy, framing, categories, rivalry, emergence

JEL Classification: M10, O30

Suggested Citation

Kaplan, Sarah, Research in Cognition and Strategy: Reflections on Two Decades of Progress and a Look to the Future (September 24, 2010). Journal of Management Studies, Forthcoming, Available at SSRN:

Sarah Kaplan (Contact Author)

University of Toronto - Rotman School of Management ( email )

105 St. George Street
Toronto, Ontario M5S 3E6 M5S1S4

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