Vicarious Learning and Institutional Economics

Almeida, Felipe
December 2011
Journal of Economic Issues (Taylor & Francis Ltd);Dec2011, Vol. 45 Issue 4, p839
Academic Journal
Psychological insights have been present in institutional economics since its beginning. Recently, cognitive aspects of institutional economics have been highlighted. The proposal of this paper is to offer other psychological insights related to institutional economics, which are complementary to a cognitive approach. The goal is to emphasize elements of Psychological Social Learning Theory as a possible foundation of Institutional Economics. This paper argues that people vicariously learn by the observation and interpretation of exemplary behaviors. Vicarious learning relies on the comprehension of people about who/what models are. Vicariously, people are motivated to behave as a model; when they succeed, models are reinforced. As something socially and cumulatively acceptable and/or desirable, exemplary behaviors can take place repetitively and become a habit. Institutions arise as outgrowths of those habits. In this logic, a working definition of institution is a cognitive inertia about the typifications of foreseeable regularities in behaviors of people in a society.


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