Narrating Institutional Logics into Effect: Coherence Across Cognitive, Political, and Emotional Elements

Tammar B. Zilber*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Through an ethnographic study of decision making in a rape crisis center, I explore how institutional logics come to be through interactions. Zooming in on storytelling interactions and slowing down to follow their evolution, I find that collective cognitive, political, and emotional elements mediated the narration of logics into effect. While the interactions unfolded within a space of possibilities determined by logics, co-narrators still put much cognitive effort into negotiating which logic was relevant and how it implicated specific ways of understanding and responding to events. Narrators’ subject positions and their perceived interests and emotions also mediated the work of logics on the ground. Decisions were determined by degrees of coherence across these cognitive, political, and emotional elements. When there was high or moderate coherence, the decision followed the resolution implied by the narration. When coherence was low, decision makers rejected the decision implied by the narration. Coherence, then, constrained people’s agency to invoke institutional logic. These results offer compelling new theory about how institutional logics work: logics are neither deterministic nor freely manipulated but instantiated through collective and situated dynamics that set limits on their strategic use.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)172-221
Number of pages50
JournalAdministrative Science Quarterly
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2023.


  • cognition
  • coherence
  • decision making
  • emotions
  • ethnography
  • institutional logics
  • interaction
  • microfoundations of institutions
  • narrative analysis
  • politics
  • storytelling


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