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Can Brains Manage? The Brain, Emotion, and Cognition in Organizations

Individual, Relational, and Contextual Dynamics of Emotions

ISBN: 978-1-78754-845-9, eISBN: 978-1-78754-844-2

Publication date: 24 September 2018


In response to recent calls to better understand the brain’s role in organizational behavior, we propose a series of theoretical tests to examine the question “can brains manage?” Our tests ask whether brains can manage without bodies and without extracranial resources, whether they can manage in social isolation, and whether brains are the ultimate controllers of emotional and cognitive aspects of organizational behavior. Our analysis shows that, to accomplish work-related tasks in organizations, the brain relies on and closely interfaces with the body, interpersonal and social dynamics, and cognitive and emotional processes that are distributed across persons and artifacts. The results of this “thought experiment” suggest that the brain is more appropriately conceived as a regulatory organ that integrates top-down (i.e., social, artifactual and environmental) and bottom-up (i.e., neural) influences on organizational behavior, rather than the sole cause of that behavior. Drawing on a socially situated perspective, our analysis develops a framework that connects brain, body and mind to social, cultural, and environmental forces, as significant components of complex emotional and cognitive organizational systems. We discuss the implications for the emerging field of organizational cognitive neuroscience and for conceptualizing the interaction between the brain, cognition and emotion in organizations.



Healey, M.P., Hodgkinson, G.P. and Massaro, S. (2018), "Can Brains Manage? The Brain, Emotion, and Cognition in Organizations", Individual, Relational, and Contextual Dynamics of Emotions (Research on Emotion in Organizations, Vol. 14), Emerald Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 27-58.



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