Herding, social influence and economic decision-making: socio-psychological and neuroscientific analyses

Michelle Baddeley

Abstract

Typically, modern economics has steered away from the analysis of sociological and psychological factors and has focused on narrow behavioural assumptions in which expectations are formed on the basis of mathematical algorithms. Blending together ideas from the social and behavioural sciences, this paper argues that the behavioural approach adopted in most economic analysis, in its neglect of sociological and psychological forces and its simplistically dichotomous categorization of behaviour as either rational or not rational, is too narrow and stark. Behaviour may reflect an interaction of cognitive and emotional factors and this can be captured more effectively using an approach that focuses on the interplay of different decision-making systems. In understanding the mechanisms affecting economic and financial decision-making, an interdisciplinary approach is needed which incorporates ideas from a range of disciplines including sociology, economic psychology, evolutionary biology and neuroeconomics.

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