The term information pathology

the line between good and bad


By increasing self-awareness and teaching knowledge concepts, the perception of information pathologies can be sharpened.

Information pathology is a collective term in industrial psychology for various aspects that can fail in the generation, exchange and application of information, with the consequence that decisions are made on the basis of an inadequate information base.

Information pathologies are avoidable errors in knowledge production and communication. Individual phenomena such as groupthink, information overload or self serving bias are closely related to information pathologies and have been studied within the framework of general psychology and social psychology.

The concept of information pathologies basically states that information can be wrongly present, wrongly transmitted and/or wrongly encoded.

This term goes back to Harold L. Wilensky:
Organizational Intelligence: Knowledge and Policy in Government and Industry. By Harold L. Wilensky.
New York: Basic Books, 1967.

Information pathologies further limit bounded rationality.
The starting point of all considerations on the decision-making behaviour of individuals is the concept of bounded rationality (Simon, 1976). Cognitive limits to information intake and processing prevent the individual from making objectively rational decisions. People strive to act in an intentionally rational manner, as evidenced by the pursuit of the so-called ideal of rationality. The focus on facts and figures may push differently interpretable contexts of an issue into the background. Wilensky assumed that the main cause of information pathologies was rooted in the ideal of rationality.

An extensive empirical study was able to show that the use of power is a major cause of information pathologies (Scholl, 1999). The use of power has a negative effect on knowledge growth.

And people tend to be influenced by their unconscious desires, needs and conflicts in everyday life. But power precisely consists in controlling the acquisition, possession and application of information.

Scholl, W. (2004): "Innovation und Information. Wie in Unternehmen neues Wissen produziert wird.", Göttingen: Hogrefe.
Kieser, A. (2006, 6th edition): "Organisationstheorien", Stuttgart: Kohlhammer.

By increasing self-awareness and teaching knowledge concepts, the perception of information pathologies can be sharpened.

Several information pathologies can reinforce each other in their effect. Empirical evidence has shown that innovation success is almost impossible when information pathologies become entrenched. Therefore, it is important to address information pathologies at different levels...

The distinction between the four types:

Decision-relevant information that

  • can be produced and is not produced
  • is available, but is not transmitted correctly
  • can be procured, but is not procured
  • applicable, but not applied