Pragmatic Identity Matching PrIM

On this research website you will find the scientific summary of Pragmatic Identity Matching PrIM in the drop-down boxes below. Supplementary information on consulting and the application of PrIM can be found at The article by Dr. Markus Erbach on PrIM as applied to the Belt and Road Initiative, currently published in the renowned Springer Nature Journal of Innovation and Entrepreneurship, is freely accessible: Managing the economic sustainability of the Belt and Road Initiative by applying Pragmatic Identity Matching PrIM


Pragmatic Identity Matching (PrIM) is an innovative structural scientific research approach for the planned description, comparison and matching of different participants or subjects of a communication. The application model was developed in the dissertation of Dr. Markus Erbach (2004-2011) and combines two theories in its name: 1) an information model of pragmatism from the founder of semiotics Charles Peirce, the semiotic triad; and 2) the understanding of identity development according to social psychology as an intra- and inter-individual identity matching process. The development of an individual’s identity is a lifelong integration process of internal developmental steps and external developmental impulses. The goal is the matching of identity with oneself and with the environment in order to establish coherence and stability in the intra- and inter-individual context. Individual identity strives for social recognition, personal development and self-realisation.

The Pragmatic Identity Matching approach transfers this principle of individual identity development to organisations and coordinates the intra- and inter-organisational contexts of a company for comparison and matching with different target groups and other reference objects. For the model development to conduct the planned identity matching, Erbach first developed an identity triad with three subtriads, the PrIM Identity Triad „Subject – Profiling – Presentation“, each corner point with the subtriad „Substance – Localisation – Expression“. The main and subtriads translate the semiotic triadic relation „Object – Interpretant – Representamen“ according to Peirce into „Subject- Profling – Presentation“ and thus correspond with the the social-psychological intra- and inter-individual developmental steps of identity. By combining the three subtriads into a 9-field matrix structure, the PrIM Identity Matrix is created. Answering standardised questions in each module of an identity matrix opens up the specific description of a participant or object of communication as an „identity“ (individual, organisation, company, group, culture, nation, etc.), which is open to any content, scalable in breadth and depth and thus theoretically „complete“. Each PrIM Identity Matrix can be combined with other PrIM Identity Matrices of different communication participants to form an arbitrarily comprehensive PrIM Integration Matrix. A PrIM Matching Matrix can be used to match the same structure with regard to their prerequisites, cultures and interests in a planned manner.

The exemplary application of the PrIM Integration Matrix to the management of the economic sustainability of the Belt and Road Initiative (the New Chinese Silk Road) through the planned integration of cultural, social and environmental aspects was published in September 2021 in a detailed article in the renowned Springer Nature Journal of Innovation and Entrepreneurship. The 11 illustrations in the article describe the formation of the PrIM Identity Triad, the PrIM Identity Matrix and the PrIM Integration Matrix in exemplary application to the global Chinese integration project of cultures and economies (free online access and download of the PDF of 26 pages):

Pragmatic Identity Matching enables the systematic comparison and planned matching of the most diverse prerequisites and interests. Internal development and external influences of the communication participants involved combine in an application model for integrative thinking and cooperative action. The goal is the holistic development of enterprises, organisations and projects for themselves and in cooperations as consciously designed relationships. As a philosophy, application model and software, PrIM provides an identity-oriented, transparent information structure for the value-neutral integration of similar or divergent contents and topics between the most diverse participants or objects of communication. Barriers are diminished, potentials for action are increased and solutions are generated. The Pragmatic Identity Matching concept is almost universally applicable, PrIM is both a structural scientific approach and an cognitive theory (heuristic) and is based on interdisciplinary research work.

The universality of Pragmatic Identity Matching PrIM results from the idea of planned alignment of identities (identity matching), based on a universal semiotic information structure. The basic assumption is that every living being, object, organisation or event has an „identity“ that forms a defined unique context of meaning. PrIM applies its standardised scheme of the PrIM Identity Matrix to both sides of a communication (to participants such as target groups, partners, opponents, etc.; or to other objects such as topics, events, contents, etc.), compares them in this transparent structure in a value-neutral way, and allows their detailed comparison and alignment with each other in a planned manner according to the same scheme. Since the PrIM model derives from Peirce’s universally valid semiotic triad, according to which all real or virtually existing things are understood as „signs“ (semion), Erbach’s definition of „identity“ as a semiotic „sign“ in the PrIM Identity Triad embeds a hidden semiotic information structure that, like Peirce’s triad, allows any content of identity to be implemented. The PrIM Identity Matrix derived from this is technically a dynamic „data file“ that can be transferred or copied into other information contexts, also integrated into other relationship fields, and further developed for each task.

The identity triad is an „intelligent“ information structure, it meets the human cognition principle of recognising (the subject), evaluating (through profiling) and acting (with the presentation). In a digital knowledge archive, Pragmatic Identity Matching PrIM connects all internal and external development stages and associated processes of an identity (i.e. content, theme, product, organisation, etc.) in relation to a counterpart in communication (i.e. market, target groups, competitors, etc.). The cross-linked information structure of a PrIM Integration Matrix connects every type of information, from expert knowledge to crowd thinking. In each identity module of a PrIM Identity Matrix, the integration of artificial intelligence (AI) can significantly support the cognition processes within a matching project. The PrIM Identity Matrix can become a literal „learning organisation“ that follows typical human cognitive structures and is supported by AI.

The Identity Matching concept leads to a sustainable improvement in the relationships of the actors involved by expanding their own and each other’s boundaries, by making optimal use of existing resources and by expanding joint creative scope. This is achieved by
> Elimination of unilateral viewpoints, because the individual or the group can now consider other perspectives transparently,
> Symmetry of communication, because one can adequately perceive the other as a counterpart in his or her world and the concerns associated with it,
> Individual depth and authenticity, because all communication offers are mutually presented and perceived in any depth.

Pragmatic Identity Matching closes the research gap „planned content integration“. While in business administration and marketing instruments and measures (formal integration) as well as process operations in time horizons (temporal integration) are easy to plan, planning the integration and matching of content (content integration) is a challenge for companies due to the non „calculable“ effect of topics and messages. The planned development of comprehensible thematic connections between different communication participants is a great challenge because it has to describe and meet divergent individual preconditions („identities“) and mediate between them. This is because the different „meaning“ of messages in the perception of different communication participants can hardly be captured and planned as an effect. This challenge is also relevant for all other sciences and disciplines in which content is to be communicated and coordinated in a planned way.

Pragmatic Identity Matching can be understood as an embodiment of different approaches:
> As a semiotic approach to communication: Erbach’s identity scheme consists of the PrIM identity triad, from which the PrIM identity matrix is constructed for the structured description and systematic matching of several identities or communication objects. The identity triad follows the triadic sign relation of semiotics (Peirce: doctrine of the sign, Greek „semion“).
> As epistemology and philosophy: Erbach’s semiotic identity triad corresponds with the action-psychological phase sequence „recognising, evaluating, acting“. As a system for gaining knowledge from the relationship to a counterpart, PrIM opens up new potentials and possibilities for action.
> As a structural scientific approach (structural science) that is available as an auxiliary science to other scientific disciplines and subject areas for the planned integration and targeted communication of their contents (such as mathematics).
> As an information-structural approach (IT), the triad system allows for an interest-driven deepening of information at any point via system-related fractalisation processes. A web-based multi-user software simplifies multi-stakeholder integration and the implementation and handling of multilateral matching processes.

The success of the linking of knowledge resources is substantiated
> By the reduction of barriers, the gaining of new insights and the development of common solutions and synergies,
> Through the systematically planned connection and structured comparison of completely different topics, events, objects, living beings, cultures, communication participants, prerequisites, interests, ideas, concepts, visions, etc., which is possible via identity triads.
> Through the basically unlimited degree of participation of the actors and the use of existing knowledge stocks via the web-based multi-user interface.

Prerequisite limitation: Working with Pragmatic Identity Matching PrIM requires the willingness of the actors involved to cooperate and to implement insights and solutions gained.

Outstanding advantages: In contrast to one-sided A-Z approaches, the integrative information-structural PrIM approach offers the advantage of bringing together the most diverse needs in a value-neutral way and thus making them conscious, transparent and negotiable in the first place. In the identity matching process, every gain of new perspectives aims at the systematically planned change or improvement of existing complex conditions and situations. Proven instruments and methods are available for this purpose. Accordingly, the PrIM Identity Matrix can also be used to describe participants or objects of communication with their preconditions, needs and also rights who are not able to use language: For example nature, indigenous minorities, endangered species, elderly or disabled people, children, etc. The descriptions made by third parties (e.g. experts) by applying PrIM for all groups that are not themselves able to express themselves thus enables the comprehensive appropriate consideration of all relevant topics and stakeholder groups in sustainable projects.

The systematically conducted alignment of different preconditions or conflicting positions is based on the structural properties of the transparent PrIM Identity Matrix (or the PrIM Integration Matrix with several PrIM Identity Matrices). PrIM is

> identity-oriented, because very different participants or objects can be uniformly described as „identities“;
> value-neutral, because different preconditions, attitudes, or even conflicting interests can be compared transparently;
> scalable, because every project dimension can be described, from a temporary individual project to an unlimited global cooperation;
> symmetrical, because different needs are compared on an equal footing (e.g. protection claims of animals vs. economic interests).

Pragmatic Identity Matching is used wherever the planned integration of content is promising or necessary – from holistic integration and communication processes to individual relationships between groups, organisations and members. The application of PrIM is almost universal: in scientific, social, economic, ecological, political and intercultural contexts.

  1. Scientific potential for using identity matching (examples)
    > Structuring of research areas/cooperations
    > Integration of research and application practice
    > Science management, intra- and interdisciplinary
    > Quality management for research and teaching
    > Marketing of research results
  2. Socio-economic potential for using identity matching (examples)
    > Market- and target group-oriented development of commercial identities (corporate and brand identity; product and brand development; innovations, etc.)
    > Planned matching of companies, organisations etc. with a counterpart (market, competition, society, stakeholders, target groups etc.)
    > Target group-oriented communication (campaigns for projects, programmes, offers of parties, companies, organisations, etc.)
    > Target group-oriented development, control and optimisation of organisational and process structures (integrated production, optimisation of internal processes, etc.)
    > Target group-oriented development of learning systems and knowledge databases (conception of study programmes, interest-led knowledge networking, etc.)
  3. Political-intercultural potential for using identity matching (examples)
    > Development of citizen-oriented administrative services and communication
    > Participation programmes for dealing with politically relevant issues
    > Mediation between different convictions and interests
    > (Inter-)national integration programmes for multicultural (marginal) groups
    > Moderation and conflict resolution (national and international relations)
    > Alignment of different preconditions (legal systems, infrastructures)

This summary is based on various sources, including the dissertation „Identity Matching – content integration in strategic communication“ (2011) and the research and application of Pragmatic Identity Matching that has continued since then.

Pragmatic Identity Matching PrIM is a registered brand in the European Union
Copyright: Dr. Markus Erbach 2004-2022