InstEAD Lecture

The Primate Cognitive Toolbox and Economics Understanding

12:00-12:50, Friday 22 February 2019

Professor David Leiser (Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Israel)

Lecture Theatre 2, Sir Henry Stephenson Building, University of Sheffield

No need to register just turn up

Professor Leiser recently published a book entitled How we misunderstand economics and why it matters.

Economists often lament that the public doesn’t understand them, and heed populist sirens instead, while the public resent the authorities’ refusal to enact what they view as self-evident solution to pressing societal problems.

We explain why people habitually misunderstand economics by analyzing and explaining lay economic thinking, pointing at the mismatch between the complexities of economics and the constraints on human cognition.

Cognitive psychology describes the mental makeup of ordinary people, the Primate Toolbox. While it served our ancestral forebears well, it does not afford untutored access to the economists’ way of thinking, one that took centuries to develop and relies on an array of concepts and reasoning schemes wholly unfamiliar to laypeople.

We will briefly describe several strategies deployed by laypeople who lack proper understanding as they grapple with economic issues. These account for the striking appeal of populist ideas in economics. We conclude with some initial recommendations for public policy, in view of the (glum) picture we present.

The lecture is based on our new book (see for details and purchase information)


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