Foundations Of Cognitive Science


Weick (1988) describes the term enactment as representing the notion that when people act they bring structures and events into existence and set them in action. The process of enactment involves two steps. First, preconceptions are used to set aside portions of the field of experience for further attention, that is, perception is focused on predetermined stimuli. Second, people act within the context of these portions of experience guided by preconceptions in such a way as to reinforce these preconceptions. Hence, attention to certain stimuli will guide subsequent action so that those stimuli are confirmed as important. The result of the process of enactment is the enacted environment (Weick, 1988). This enacted environment comprises "real" objects but the significance, meaning and content of these objects will vary. These objects are not significant unless they are acted upon and incorporated into events, situations and explanations. In this way the enacted environment is a direct result of the preconceptions held by the social actor. An enacted environment is internalised by social actors as the way in which actions have led to certain consequences; it is therefore analogous to the concept of schema and is the source of expectations for future action (Weick, 1988) . An enacted environment is "a map of if-then assertions in which actions are related outcomes" that in turn serve as expectations for future action and focus perception in such way that these preconceived relationships will be supported.

The importance of the notion of enactment is that it provides a direct link between individual cognitive processes and environments (see also Gibson 1979). By showing how preconceptions can shape the nature of the environment this concept allows one to argue the importance of schema in the sensemaking process. Schema guide both perception and inference (Fiske & Taylor, 1991) and so will 'enact' environment by assigning significance, meaning and content to objects perceived in the environment.


  1. Fiske, S.T., & Taylor, S.E. (1991). Social cognition (2nd ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill.
  2. Gibson, J. J. (1979). The Ecological Approach To Visual Perception. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin.
  3. Weick, K. E. (1988). Enacted sensemaking in crisis situations. Journal of Management Studies, 24(4).

(Revised April 2010)