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Abstract

Although theories of information technology (IT) use have been widely researched, organizations continue to struggle with insufficiently utilizing their IT assets. Those interested in understanding and managing IT use need both novel theoretical development and new directions for future research. In this paper, we address both of these needs. Regarding the first need, we develop novel theory by explaining two types of cognitive processes—one fast and one slow—that underlie theories of IT use. The impetus for our explanation of underlying processes (EUP) comes from studies of IT use that have found moderating effects of previous interaction with IT. With these results, researchers have concluded that cognitions are less important in determining IT use as the use of that IT increases. Consistent with that conclusion, our EUP posits that, as learning from prior use occurs, the influence of fast, automatic, unconscious (type 1) cognitive processes increases while the influence decreases for slow, controlled, conscious (type 2) cognitive processes. Type 1 processes automatically generate a default type 1 response; type 2 processes have the potential to generate an intervening type 2 response. The intervention potential is highest for initial use of the target IT and lowest when learning is high such that use of the IT has become automatic. From our EUP, we develop three insights: 1) that the cognitions that lead to a default response are not necessarily the cognitions found in extant theories of IT use, 2) that both type 1 and type 2 processes are subject to bounded rationality, and 3) that the relationship between learning and the intervention potential for a type 2 response, although negative, may not be linear. To address the second need that we note above, we suggest new directions for future research, which includes investigating the cognitive control problem (i.e., when type 2 processes intervene) and exploring the effects of heuristics, nudges, and bounded rationality on decisions to use IT. Beyond the hope that the suggested directions for research will yield solutions for addressing the underutilization of IT assets, the fundamental advances in theoretical understanding that we present here suggest notable implications for practice, including developing brief, simple, cognitively unconscious messages directed at nudging decision makers toward a default response to use the target IT.

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