Rules, Perception and Emotion: When Do Institutions Determine Behaviour?

15 Pages Posted: 13 Feb 2018

Date Written: February 7, 2018


This paper seeks to contribute to institutional theory by providing it with a stronger basis in cognitive and affective psychology. We organise this contribution around the central question of what psychological preconditions must exist for institutions to determine behaviour and order our societies. We defend the notion that institutional theory may gain from such a contribution relative to the major existing currents of institutional thought. We then introduce new theory of the mind as a network structure within which the psychological process operates as an integrative framework which we might use to integrate insights from cognitive and affective psychology into institutional theory. We discover that institutions must be expressed as rules in mental networks which guide thinking and behaviour, be embedded within a cognitive apparatus such that they are called to mind by perception to so guide thinking and behaviour, and be anchored to emotion such that they are endowed with urgency in order for them to have a hold on individual behaviour. From this theory we derive definite predictions, as well as policy insights.

Keywords: Institutions, behaviour, rules, perception, emotions, society

JEL Classification: D01, D02, D70, D90, D91

Suggested Citation

Markey‐Towler, Brendan, Rules, Perception and Emotion: When Do Institutions Determine Behaviour? (February 7, 2018). Available at SSRN: or

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