19 Pages Posted: 14 Sep 2011
Date Written: May 31, 2010
The global financial crisis that began in 2007 was not predicted by standard economic theory which assumes rational actors, efficient markets and equilibrium. Alternative explanations of economic behavior that are based on psychological regularities which are observed in human behavior were until recently relegated to the fringes of the discourse regarding economic phenomena. It will be argued that this has proven to have been a mistake. Psychology has a long history in economic thought, but its influence on economic theory has ebbed and flowed over the years. Keynes had important psychological insights, but they have not been focused upon sufficiently in the last decades. Since the late 1970´s, though, new theories have emerged that are behavioral in nature. That is, they attempt to explain economic phenomena by being based on empirically observed psychological regularities of human behavior. This paper will show that psychology needs to be taken into consideration when reasoning about economic phenomena. The assumption of rationality that is prevalent in much of economic theory is based on a series of axioms and assumptions that are unrealistic. It will be argued that when reasoning about economic phenomena, that theory should be adopted which has more empirical support. The findings are that adopting a behavioral perspective of decision making has more explanatory and predictive power.
Keywords: economics, behavioral economics, behavioral finance, behavioral corporate finance, rationality, efficient markets, psychology
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