Download PDF

Wendy’s wonderfully clear and intriguing introduction to Behavioural Economics. Well worth a view!

[video_lightbox_youtube video_id="7Ef74_mz2l4" width="640" height="480" auto_thumb="1"]

My own position is slightly different. While I am a huge supporter of any new theorising or practice that helps to understand motives and behaviour, for me there are two HUGE missing pieces in the Behavioural Economics approach.

First, you don’t meet any people in Behavioural Economics studies, there is no sense of persons, only of subjects being driven by heuristics or other schema. It is, therefore a rather mechanistic approach in which the value of persons does not figure.

Second, even though there may be a number of heuristics or short-cuts which form part of the behavioural economies of daily life, BE has nothing to say about how these heuristics are built – other than the presumption of learning theory (some stimuli are rewarding and therefore repeated, others may be punishing and thus avoided). In particular it has nothing to say about the role of early experience and the fact that many of our heuristics are born out of these experiences – and how the messages given to us by our caretakers influence us – so that your heuristics are uniquely yours, while mine are mine…

Take the Availability heuristic, the one that rightly suggests that the way someone perceives a situation and their choices & subsequent behaviour is highly contingent on the thoughts, feelings and schema they have available within combined with what others are doing and the meta-rules of their culture. Of course this makes sense, but is simply another way of saying that early experiences matter and that the way we integrate the influence of different domains of reality – our inner drives, other people’s opinions and behaviour and general cultural considerations – is crucial to understanding motivation and action.