Theory of action vs Theory in use
For weeks now I wondered about the terms 'theory of action' and 'theory in use'm what they mean and how they are different. They are two concepts introduced by Chris Argyris and are widely cited in organisational learning literature. Unfortunately, except in the earlier work by Argyris, he doesn't seem to define them clearly , rather it was used straight away. The same goes with the literature. No definition , somehow reader are expected to know them already
Today I finally know the difference
Theory of Action is a theory of deliberate human behaviour which is for the agent a theory of control but which, when attributed to the agenet, also serves to explain or predict his behavior (P.10)
On the other hand, he explains the difference with theory-in-use as
When someone is asked how he would behave under certain circumstances, the answer he usually gives is his espoused theory of action for that situation. This is the theory of action who which he gives allegiance and which, upon request, he communicates to others. However, the theory that actually governs his actions is his theory in use, which may or may not be compatible with his espoused theory (p.11).
In more straighforward terms, theory in action is the things you say you do. Theory in use iswhat you actually believe and not just what you say you believe. These two may not be the same e.g. attitude toward smoking, sexual orientation, exercise, healthy eating, and more generally, political correctness.
Chris Argyris- Organizational learning- A theory of action perspective