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Interpreting Information

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Interpreting Information

How People Interpret Information
A classic article on information systems suggested in part that an information
system serves an individual with a certain cognitive style faced with a particular
decision problem in some organizational setting (Mason and Mitroff 1973).
In addition to these variables, we suggest the importance of personal and situational factors in the interpretation of information. We shall examine each of these factors to see how they influence the interpretation process.


Influences on the interpretation and use of information.
Fig 2-1 diagram goes here


How People Interpret Information
Clearly, the nature of the problem influences the way we interpret information.
How serious is the decision? What are the consequences of an incorrect decision,
and how do they compare with the benefits of a correct one?
An important decision may require more care in analysing data than would a minor decision.
For example, a bank's decision to merge with a stock brokerage firm is more important than its decision to lease additional office space. In such a strategic decision as whether to merge, the consequences and costs involved, plus the impact on the organization, require that information be scrutinized much more closely.


How People Interpret Information
The organization itself affects the interpretation of information. Studies have
shown that the individual becomes socialized by the organization. Over time we
are influenced by our organizations in the way we approach problems.
Thus, in most instances, the attitudes of a new employee will differ substantially from those of the chairman of the board. As the new employee associates over the years with other employees of the firm, he or she is influenced by their attitudes and by the environment of the workplace.
Gradually, new employees begin to change their attitudes to be more consistent with those of their associates.



How People Interpret Information
People who have different ideas interpret information differently. Again, many
of a person's ideas are influenced by peers and by the socialization process in the
particular organization where the individual works.
Several individuals trying to influence the government to regulate prices in an industry may use the same information.
However, the head of a corporation in the industry, the leader of a consumer
group, and a government decision maker in a regulatory agency will probably
interpret the same information differently.



How People Interpret Information
Personal and situational factors also influence the interpretation of information.
One study done many years ago showed that given comparable information, decision makers interpreted a problem differently depending on their position.
In this exercise, finance executives saw financial problems, sales executives recognized sales problems, and so forth. In all the given scenarios, the information was the same-it was just interpreted differently (Dearborn and Simon, 1 958).
A more recent study found managers are getting less parochial, though personal experience suggests that many managers are heavily influenced in problem diagnosis by their backgrounds and position.)


How People Interpret Information
Psychologists studying the thought patterns of individuals have developed the
concept of cognitive style.
Although there is no agreement on exactly how to describe or measure different cognitive styles , the concept is appealing since people do seem to have different ways of approaching problems.
One of the simplest distinctions is between analytic and heuristic decision makers.



Analytic v Heuristic Decision Makers
The analytic decision maker looks at quantitative information. Engineering is a profession attractive to an analytic decision maker.
The heuristic decision maker, on the other hand, is interested in broader concepts and is more intuitive.
Most researchers believe that we are not analytic or heuristic in every problem but that we do have preferences and tend to approach the same type of problem with a consistent cognitive style.
Click the button below to access a detailed resource explaining a model for interpreting information.