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Unfamiliar Psychologies: Applications of Behavioral Science Not Commonly Used in Economics Option Awareness: The Psychology of What We Consider

NCJ Number
American Economic Review Volume: 106 Issue: 5 Dated: May 2016 Pages: 425-429
Date Published
May 2016
5 pages
Since the standard economic view of behavior, i.e., that people will commit an action if the expected benefits outweigh the costs, overlooks how actions come to mind before people weigh the costs, this paper develops the argument that "actions are more likely to enter into consideration when they are cognitively accessible."
People develop interpretations of their current context, drawing on beliefs about which behaviors are common and adaptive in the context. These beliefs are shaped by past experiences and expectations. This in turn influences which courses of action come to mind, i.e., are cognitively accessible. The main body of this paper describes how cognitive accessibility depends on three psychological parameters: "automaticity," "identity," and "privacy." "Automaticity" refers to behavioral priorities that have developed over time as habits for getting what one wants. A person's sense of "identity" (how people view themselves) also determines the parameters for the behaviors that keep that identity intact. "Privacy" refers to the sense that an option for behavior can remain hidden from others such that adverse responses to the behavior will be avoided.

Date Published: May 1, 2016