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Chris Argyris Chris Argyris

Chris Argyris

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  • Born: July 16, 1923 (age 89) Newark, New Jersey

    US psychologist and social scientist, who has defined and promoted management theories and strategies for workplace learning and performance. He was appointed the James Bryant Conant professor emeritus of education and organizational behavior at the Graduate School of Business, Harvard University.

    He advocated organizational change through ‘action research’ – a continual process of data gathering and diagnosis, planning, and evaluation with the involvement of employees. His later work developed the theory of ‘organizational learning’, which focused on the reasons for decision-making and not just behaviour as a basis for change. He believed breakthroughs occurred when theories were overturned, updated, and replaced.

    • BA degree in psychology from Clark University in 1947
    • MA degree in economics and psychology from Kansas University in 1949
    • PhD in organizational behavior from Cornell University in 1951

    Some Awards:

    1999 Lifetime Achievement Award in Workplace Learning and Performance by the American Society of Training and Development.

    Several Honorary doctorates from McGill University (1977), the University of Leuven, Belgium (1978), the Stockholm School of Economics (1979), DePaul University, IMCB, Buckingham, England (1987), University of Toronto (2006) and Yale University (2011).


    • Argyris, C. 1957. Personality and Organization: the Conflict between System and the Individual.
    • Argyris, C. 1964. Integrating the Individual and the Organization.
    • Argyris, C., Schön, D.A. 1978. Organizational Learning: a Theory of Action Perspective.
    • Argyris, C. 1982. Reasoning, Learning, and Action: Individual and Organizational.
    • Argyris, C. 1990. Overcoming Organizational Defenses: Facilitating Organizational Learning.
    • Argyris, C. 1993. On Organizational Learning.
    • Argyris, C. 1999. On Organizational Learning, 2nd ed.
    • Argyris, C. 2004. Reasons and Rationalizations: The Limits to Organizational Knowledge.

  • Occupations:

    • Director of the management consultancy at Monitor Company in Cambridge, Massachusetts
    • Fellow of the National Academy of Human Resources
    • Consultant to industry – notably for IBM, Shell, and Du Pont – as well as for government departments in the USA and Europe.
    • James Bryant Conant professor emeritus of education and organizational behavior at the Graduate School of Business at Harvard University
    • Chair of the Administrative Sciences Department at Yale University
    • Beach professor of administrative sciences at Yale University

Overview of Theory

  • Action Science
  • Single and Double Loop Learning
  • Ladder of Inference


Theories influenced

Action Research


Similar or related theories

Action Research


Theory or Research:

Organizational learning


Contribution to field of adult education:

Adults are active participants in the professional field. Argyris’s research on organizational learning and organizational dynamics has influenced management thus altering organizations to encourage fewer organizational norms that inhibit learning. His theories on organizational dynamics encourage better judgment by understanding the ladder of inference and behavior such as honesty and reflection.


Four relevant points of teaching/learning of adults:

  • Mental maps
  • Reflection
  • Ladder of inference
  • Consequences of face saving

 Video of Single Loop vs Double Loop Theory


Check out the forum

This overview was created by Ayoob Jan. Download a printable version: Argyris Overview

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