Organizational initial categorization: Imprinting and the mitigation of imprinting

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


Despite continuous research on the imprinting effect of objective founding conditions, existing research pay little attention to how external audiences' first impression of an organization at founding has imprinting effect over its life time. This paper is premised on the observation that newly founded organizations face the challenge of premature categorization. When faced with a new organization whose quality and other attributes are uncertain, external audiences are likely to adopt the cognitive shortcut of quickly categorizing based on salient characteristics and then attributing category characteristics to the new organization. Self-fulfilling processes tend to perpetuate the initial categorization, which as a result tends to imprint the organization. The imprinting effect of initial categorization is likely stronger when the organization is founded in a field with higher uncertainty. Moreover, we hypothesize that the imprinting effect of initial categorization may be mitigated by subsequent organizational performance, name change, location change and external relationship change. Our empirical analysis in the field of American college football major bowls from 1902 to 2004 yields strong support for our theory. This study makes important contributions to several lines of research.

Original languageEnglish
StatePublished - 2006
Event66th Annual Meeting of the Academy of Management, AOM 2006 - Atlanta, GA, United States
Duration: Aug 11 2006Aug 16 2006


Conference66th Annual Meeting of the Academy of Management, AOM 2006
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CityAtlanta, GA


  • Identity
  • Imprinting
  • Initial categorization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Management Information Systems
  • Management of Technology and Innovation


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