List of Commonly Used Academic Theories in ATERA’s Publications & Conferences

Theory of Mind (ToM): Healthy individuals understand that each person has a different perspective and different interpretation of the world.

Actor Network theory: Human beings can be connected to inanimate objects. Network structures can be best understood when associations with  objects and humans are analysed together.(See also semiotics)

Rational choice theory: Individuals are free to make their decisions and they always choose the best available option. This theory presumes that people have access to all the necessary information to make a decision.

Prospect theory : When making a decision that involves losses and gains, people are  influenced more by potential losses than potential gains. People also overvalue events that are less likely to happen and undervalue events more likely to occur. (see loss aversion, expected utility theory).

Theory of reasoned action (TORA). One’s future behavior can be predicted by his/her attitude toward that behavior and subjective norms related to the behavior.

Game theory: When there is a conflict between two sides, past defection or past cooperation can predict future cooperation. If, it is a one-shot prisoners’ dilemma, both sides tend to defect.

Grounded theory: Establishing a new theory purely through various observations without following any existing theory.

Queer theory: Refers to studies on LGBT issues and presumes that gender is a socially constructed concept.

Theory Z: Companies should provide lifetime employment in order to increase employee morale, loyalty and efficiency.

Theory X and Theory Y: Theory X proposes that human beings do not like to work and would not want to work unless they are forced. Theory Y argues that work can be a rewarding and enjoyable activity.

Broken windows theory: Public monitoring and not allowing any visible crime prevents potential crimes that otherwise are likely to happen.

Terror management theory: Human beings know that they will die one day and this causes stress. To reduce the stress and have a meaningful life, people create/embrace culture.

Maslow’s Theory of Motivation / Hierarchy of needs : There are 5 levels of needs starting from the most basic needs (water, food, etc.). Higher level of needs are ignored if lower level needs are not satisfied.

Herzberg’s Two-Factor Theory / Motivation-Hygiene Theory : In any environment, there are two major forces that shape human motivation: satisfiers and dissatisfiers. Dissatisfiers produce satisfaction when avoided.

Chaos theory /Butterfly effect: Even a small deviation in the initial stages of large and complex systems causes significant and unpredictable deviations in the future.

Expectancy violations theory: Human relations and context change how people expect others to behave or communicate .When these expectancies are violated, the communication process changes dramatically.

Two-factor theory of emotion: When we feel an emotion , we experience arousal. When we are aroused, our brain looks for cues in the immediate environment. Sometimes we misinterpret the source of our emotions.

Cannon Bard theory of emotion: We experience and process our emotions simultaneously. Sensing emotions and processing emotions are independent from each other.

James Lange theory of emotion: Physiological arousal takes place first and we look at the environment to interpret the situation. As a result we experience emotions.

Thing theory: Objects are considered things when they no longer function or used for different purposes from what they usually are made for.

Self determination theory: People do things mostly because of intrinsic rewards (internal motives) without the effect of extrinsic motives (external factors).

Theory theory: People use existing theories to understand the inner state of others. Children construct new theories and generalisations based on their observations.

Labeling theory: See self fulfilling prophecy.

Systems Theory: Human beings are part of a system and each system consists of some sub-systems.

Social exchange theory: Human relationships develop through cost and benefit analysis. We invest more into relationships that provide us more benefits.

Feminist theory: Refers to all the studies on gender inequality.

Critical theory: Refers to the neo-Marxist critical approach to socially constructed values and the modern society.

Conflict theory: There is always some form of conflict in any society because power is always unequally shared among different groups. Societies make progress because of this ongoing conflict.

Symbolic interactionism theory: This theory somewhat is the same with environmental determinism: our behaviour is the result of our interaction with the environment and the role society expects us to play.

Contingency theory: This theory is the “group” version of environmental determinism. Groups act according to their environment. Group action and group structure change based on social mobility, oppression and etc.

Psycho-social development theory: There is a systematic difference between human life stages (early childhood, puberty, marriage, etc.) and people act differently in each life stage.

Transpersonal theory: This theory helps us understand religion in human life and how for some people meaning of life matters more than ego.

Social constructivism: Subjective meaning becomes a fact accepted by the whole society through interaction of the members of society. Human experience is subjective and knowledge is socially constructed.

Social Learning theory / Social cognitive theory : We learn things simply by imitating others. We are more likely to internalise and repeat a new behaviour if the role model is important or if we receive a reward.

Behaviourism theory: Learning takes place through positive reinforcement (reward) or negative reinforcement (punishment). Both classical conditioning and operant conditioning are accepted by behaviourists.

Psycho dynamic theory: Includes most of Freud’s propositions: human subconscious and early childhood experiences shape human behaviour, ego defence mechanisms are natural and help us deal with difficulties in life, etc..

Psycho-sexual development theory: Freud’s proposition that early childhood development involves pleasure seeking activities. Some behaviours like smoking may be traced back to the oral stage and obsessiveness may be related to the anal stage.

Piaget’s Development theory: Children development has four stages. This theory also involves information processing by children (e.g. assimilation is grouping new information according to existing schemas.).

Jung’s theory of Archetypes: There are universal archetypes that exist in all societies such as the self, the father, the mother, the hero, the wise old man, the moon, etc.

Great Man theory: This theory proposes that leaders are born; one cannot become a leader if he/she was born without necessary skills.

Humanistic Theory of Personality: this theory proposes that human nature is good (not evil).

Situational Leadership theory: If followers are able and willing, the leader would just monitor, if the followers are unable and unwilling, then the leader becomes directive.

Fiedler’s leadership theory: Relationship focus or task(production) focus of the leader will determine the efficiency of groups.

McClelland’s Theory of needs: There are three major types needs: need for achievement, need for affiliation and need for power. People can make better career choices if they know their strongest need.

Arousal – Activation theory: High arousal causes stress and low arousal causes boredom. The optimum level of activation generates the highest level of motivation .

Attachment theory: It is crucial for infants to develop a secure relationship with a caregiver. When an infant and a caregiver are detached separation anxiety is experienced.

Attribution theory: When we fail, we tend to blame external factors (weather, rules, etc.). When others fail, we tend to blame internal factors (character, personality, etc.).

Mercantilism theory: Nations should encourage exports by subsidises and discourage imports by tariffs. Trade surplus is the ultimate goal.

Theory of absolute advantage: Resources needed to produce the same amount of products are not equal in every country: each country has an advantage for producing certain products. Thus, foreign trade is good and should not be restricted.

Theory of comparative advantage: Importing goods is good even if they can be produced cheaply at home.

Third Person Effect theory: People have tendencies to overestimate media effects on others and consider themselves to be less susceptible.

Spiral of Silence theory: People tend to not express their opinions against perceived prevalent public opinion .

Agenda Setting theory: What people consider important is a reflection of the topics covered in the mainstream media.

Cultivation theory: People’s perception of social reality depends on their TV exposure.

Uses and Gratifications theory: People choose among the media alternatives according the social or psychological needs they want to satisfy at any given moment.

Attribution theory: The only way for human beings to successfully interpret events in their environments is to consistently attribute causes to internal or external factors. This attribution depends on personal factors such as self-esteem, locus of control etc.

Diffusion of Innovations theory: Diffusion of new ideas are influenced by four interacting factors: innovation, communication channel, social systems, and time.

The Unified Theory of Acceptance and Use of Technology : Intention of using new technology depends on 1) performance expectancy, 2) effort expectancy, 3) social influence, and 4) facilitating conditions.

Information processing theory: There are 6 major steps for persuasion: exposure, attention, comprehension, yielding, retention, behavior. See also hierarchy of effects.

Coordinated management of meaning theory: People attribute different meanings to conversation and respond according to social contexts.

Social capital theory: people have a natural tendency to interact with other members of society and build functioning networks that usually result in physical, informational, financial, or other forms of gains for all members.

Social presence theory / Media richness theory: Media channels that increase one’s social presence are more effective.

Impression management theory: our lives are not different than theatrical performances where we “act” to control, maintain, or create images based on the audiences we interact with.

Social movements theory: Social movements driven by collective action are heavily impacted by public framing of the movements and the mobilization of resources.

Self-affirmation theory: People in general strive to maintain their self-confidence by engaging in activities that affirm their self-identities and increase their perception of self-worth.

Theory of herding: Imitating others’ behaviour without any cognitive thought. When animals escape from predators, each member of the herd moves with the rest of the herd.

Theory of information cascade: When people have to make decisions sequentially, their decisions tend to be biased even if they already have contradictory information.

Two-step flow theory: New ideas are first adopted by opinion leaders, who then pass them on to their network members)

Flow theory: In certain occasions (particularly when playing games or participating in a creative activity) people experience exuberance and over-concentration that is called the “flow state.”

Stages of memory theory: Any stimulus we perceive is likely to be kept in our short term memory first and the more it stays in our short term memory the more it is likely to be registered in our long term memory.

Levels of processing theory:  Deeper cognitive processing while encoding a message will make that message more memorable for the encoder.

Social network theory: The theory that represent social network studies (see 6 degrees of separation, the strength of weak ties, homophilly, transitivity, reciprocity, Metcalfe’s law, the power of betweenness, Dunbar’s number, Bacon’s number, etc.)

Control theory: We have an inherent desire to control everything in our environment and everyone around us.

Alliance theory: Small groups force their members to marry out-group members to build alliances with other groups.

Self expansion theory: The primary human motivation is to grow and expand the self. Individuals seek to expand the self in many ways including establishing relationships with others.

Evolutionary theory/ Evolutionary psychology:  Humans have two major drives: survival and reproduction. This theory explains multiple phenomena including mutation, adaptation, mating, altruism, gender differences, conflict, cooperation, communication behaviour, attraction, aggression, etc.

Theory of constraints: Large organisations and institutions always face big risks as weak members have a high probability of making mistakes.

Social identity theory: In order to build positive self identity and positive self-esteem, people associate themselves with groups. In-group members get preferential treatment. Positive distinctiveness is sought between out-group members.

C K theory / concept knowledge theory : When designing new objects,  a draft of a concept should be put together. Then, designers should identify knowledge associated with the initial concept. Finally new concept associated with the nodes of association is born.

Uncertainty reduction theory: When we meet strangers, our primary goal is to get to know them quickly in order to increase predictability and reduce uncertainty. (See also Anxiety and Uncertainty Management theory).

The iceberg theory of culture: Just like an iceberg, only a small fraction of culture can be observed (language, architecture, clothes), the underlying values and beliefs that drive those observables are usually overlooked.

Hofstede’s theory of cultural dimensions: Hofstede gives each country an index score (ideally something between 0 and 100) on five distinct dimension so that any given two countries can be compared based on these scores. These dimensions are individualism, power distance, uncertainty avoidance, masculinity and long term orientation (recently added indulgence).

Face negotiation theory: “Communication in all cultures is based on maintaining and negotiating face. Face is problematic when identities are questioned.”

Relational mobility theory: In high social mobility societies, relationships develop rapidly and people self disclose more information during the early stages of friendships.

Cognitive dissonance theory: People experience mental discomfort if they have conflicting beliefs, attitudes or values (e.g. person A wants to do X but worries that X is bad for health).

Bell’s law of the birth and death of computers: Every decade a new group of cheaper version of computers emerge and die out in 10 years.

These concepts are also commonly referred in the research papers submitted (Taken from Philographics-Big-Ideas-Simple-Shapes).


True knowledge or certainty in a particular area is impossible. Skeptics have an attitude of doubt or a disposition of incredulity either in general or toward a particular object.


Points of view have no absolute truth or validity, having only relative, subjective value according to differences in perception and consideration. Principles and ethics are regarded as applicable in only limited context.


An absolute truth is always correct under any condition. An entity’s ability to discern these things is irrelevant to that state of truth. Universal facts can be discovered. It is opposed to relativism, which claims that there is not an unique truth.


The principle that emotional and physical self-control leads to inner peace and strength, allowing one to live a happier life.


The only authentic knowledge is that which is based on sense, experience and positive verification. Scientific method is the best process for uncovering the processes by which both physical and human events occur.


Knowledge arises from evidence gathered via sense experience. Empiricism emphasizes the role of experience and evidence, especially sensory perception, in the formation of ideas, over the notion of innate ideas or tradition.


Human beings can lead happy and functional lives, and are capable of being ethical and moral without religion or dogma. Life stance emphasized the unique responsibility facing humanity and the ethical consequences of human decisions.


The properties of a given system cannot be determined or explained by its parts alone. Instead, the system as a whole determines in an important way how the parts behave.


Submission to authority and opposed to individualism and democracy. An authoritarian government is one in which political power is concentrated in a leader who possesses exclusive, unaccountable, and arbitrary power.


Events within a given paradigm are bound by causality in such a way that any state of an object or event is determined by prior states. Every type of event, including human cognition (behavior, decision, and action) is causally determined by previous events.


Knowledge of anything outside one’s own specific mind is unjustified. The external world and other minds cannot be known and might not exist.

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