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The Performance Information Processing Framework: Four Cognitive Models of Performance Information Use

EasyChair Preprint no. 1154

52 pagesDate: June 10, 2019


The question of how public managers use public sector performance information received significant scholarly attention in recent years. The promise of performance management systems was to rationalize the decision making process by creating objective performance metrics that citizens, political officials, and public managers could use to assess the performance of public organizations. Some theoretical work suggests, however, that there is a certain subjectivity to these data, which arises from an individual’s role in their organization or broader political environment. Furthermore, a recent spate of experimental work in this area suggests subjectivity might also arise, at the individual level, through cognitive bias. I bridge these two bodies of scholarship with a framework of performance information processing, which incorporates four models of political information use into the story of how public managers use performance information. I suggest that cognitive bias can contribute to the subjectivity of performance information when public managers process performance information. In other words, a model of meaning avoidance suggests that managers accurately receive performance information from management systems, but that cognitive biases influence the ways in which they interpret or act upon that information. In this essay, I provide empirical evidence for this model. I show that despite different presentations, public managers can accurately recount the objective information they saw when asked to recall it. I also provide evidence that despite being equally aware of objective raw performance metrics, public managers exhibit evidence of cognitive bias when asked to interpret the meaning of that information. This study contributes to the broader discussion of how individuals use performance information.

Keyphrases: behavioral public administration, cognition, information processing, Performance Information, performance management

BibTeX entry
BibTeX does not have the right entry for preprints. This is a hack for producing the correct reference:
  author = {Sean Webeck},
  title = {The Performance Information Processing Framework: Four Cognitive Models of Performance Information Use},
  howpublished = {EasyChair Preprint no. 1154},

  year = {EasyChair, 2019}}
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