Human Nature and Economic Institutions Instinct Psychology, Behaviorism and the Development of American Institutionalism
University of Siena Economics Working Paper No. 373
42 Pages Posted: 30 Aug 2003
Date Written: December 2002
This paper explores the evolution of the psychological foundation of institutional economics between the early XXc and the 1940s. The first part deals with the rise and fall of instinct psychology. Inspired by Veblen's taxonomy of instinctive behavior, several American economists attempted to build a viable alternative to psychological hedonism of neoclassical economics then only at its infancy. In this debate we show how instinct theory came to be applied to the field now as industrial psychology. The second part discusses some of the reasons why this methodological approach began to lose momentum among leading American institutionalists. In this section we also present the emergence of behaviorism in 1930s American economics and the different impact which it gained also within neoclassical economists. This paper particularly dwells upon the contributions of C. Parker, L. Edie, M. Copeland and F. Knight.
Keywords: American institutionalism, Behaviorism, Economics and psychology, Instincts, Veblen
JEL Classification: B25, B31, B41, B52
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation