Should economics study the psychological basis of agents’ choice behaviour? I show how this question is multifaceted and profoundly ambiguous. There is no sharp distinction between ‘mentalist’ answers to this question and rival ‘behavioural’ answers. What's more, clarifying this point raises problems for mentalists of the ‘functionalist’ variety [Dietrich, F., & List, C. (2016). Mentalism versus behaviourism in economics: A philosophy-of-science perspective. Economics and Philosophy, 32(2), 249–281.]. Firstly, functionalist hypotheses collapse into hypotheses about input–output dispositions, I show, unless one places some unwelcome restrictions on what counts as a cognitive variable. Secondly, functionalist hypotheses make some risky commitments about the plasticity of agents’ choice dispositions.

aims of economics, behaviourism, cognitive science, Mentalism, neuroeconomics, revealed preference,
Journal of Economic Methodology
Erasmus University Rotterdam

Clarke, C. (Christopher). (2020). Functionalism and the role of psychology in economics. Journal of Economic Methodology. doi:10.1080/1350178X.2020.1798016