Why process matters: A social cognition perspective on economic behavior

Jan Crusius*, Femke van Horen, Thomas Mussweiler

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

24 Citations (Scopus)


Much research on economic behavior has been devoted to demonstrating deviations from standard economic theories. Such descriptive research has proven invaluable in showing that systematic violations of the norm occur frequently in human decision making. Here, we advocate a shift to a more process-focused research approach aimed at uncovering the why of economic behavior. We provide several examples highlighting that seemingly similar phenomena can be governed by very different psychological processes, that the same processes can have explanatory power in very different domains, and that the situational context is a crucial determinant of the mental processes governing behavior. In doing so, we advocate a social-cognitive perspective on economic behavior, aimed at revealing the psychological mechanisms that shape how people construe a particular situation. We hope that such a perspective can contribute to theoretical and empirical integration, novel predictions, and more precise strategies to change behavior.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)677-685
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Economic Psychology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Behavioral economics
  • Economic psychology
  • Psychological processes
  • Social cognition


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