Attention and control

William Ocasio, Franz Wohlgezogen

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Many an exasperated parent, trying to get a fidgety child to listen and follow instructions, has utilized the phrase “pay attention” with a big exclamation mark at the end. Coaches, teachers, and mentors, willing their hopefuls to realize their full potential and to forsake distractions and temptations (and to make their guardians proud), implore them to “focus, focus, focus&” Attempts to influence and control others' behavior work through attention. If individuals' attention is not directed at what needs to be done, chances are very low that it will ever get done. What is true for the interpersonal context holds true for the organizational context: The structuring and management of attention is central to control processes in organizations. An organization must succeed at directing members' minds or it never will manage to direct their actions. Many definitions of organizational control implicitly or explicitly stress the role of cognitive processes and especially attention. For example, control has been characterized as “measurement and control systems [which] focus attention and cause persons in the organization to orient their efforts to succeeding on the measured dimension” (Pfeffer,1982: 131); and have more recently been defined as “any mechanism that managers use to direct attention, motivate, and energize organizational members to act in desired ways to meet an organization's objectives” (Long et al., 2003). Although it appears that it is true by definition that controls affect attention, it is important to examine in detail how different types of control affect attention in different ways.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationOrganizational control
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages31
ISBN (Electronic)9780511777899
ISBN (Print)9780521517447
StatePublished - Jan 1 2010
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business, Management and Accounting(all)


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