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Search in Response to Negative Performance Feedback: Problem-Definition and Solution-Generation

In order to test theoretical expectations concerning individual decision-makers' search in response to negative performance, Joris van der Voet conceptually disentangles problem-defining and solution-generation as two distinct search objectives.

Joris van der Voet
01 January 2023
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Behavioral theory states that decision-makers engage in search in response to a performance shortfall. However, public administration research has remained remarkably inattentive of decision-makers’ attention. This article uses a survey experiment among 1562 political and managerial public sector decision-makers across 263 local government organizations. This Survey links factual performance feedback about budgetary performance and citizen satisfaction to a behavioral measure of both search objectives. In this way, the study finds increased solution-generation search in response to negative budgetary performance feedback, but not in response to low citizen satisfaction. Search of politicians and managers is found to be highly similar. These findings contribute to a behavioral understanding of how performance information influences search by politicians and managers, and reveal novel research avenues about information-processing that are of particular relevance to public administration research and theory.

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