Means-end relations are generally assumed to be hierarchical, and, by implication, asymmetrical. That is, if A is a means to achieve B, B is not at the same time also a means to achieve A. Literature casting doubt on this directedness of means-end relations is reviewed, and the hypothesis of means-end relations having direction is tested in two empirical studies. In these studies the means-end relations turn out to be symmetrical rather than asymmetrical. Means-end structures may therefore better be conceptualized as semantic networks rather than as straight hierarchies. Consequently, for the presentation and interpretation of the results from means-end studies, the emphasis should be on elements that derive from the network nature of the cognitive structure and not from the (possibly misleading) notions of hierarchy.

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Erasmus Research Institute of Management
ERIM Report Series Research in Management
Erasmus Research Institute of Management

van Rekom, J., & Wierenga, B. (2002). Means-End Relations (No. ERS-2002-36-MKT). ERIM Report Series Research in Management. Retrieved from