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Human foibles or systemic failure--Lay perceptions of the 2008-2009 financial crisis


  • Leiser, David
  • Bourgeois-Gironde, Sacha
  • Benita, Rinat


We examined lay perceptions of the recent financial and economic crisis through 1707 questionnaires, administered via internet, to a varied group of volunteers in a range of countries: France, the US, Russia, Germany, Israel, and sub-Saharan Africa. Respondents graded the contribution of a large number of possible factors to the crisis, and answered several complementary questions. We were able to identify two major conceptions, one seeing the economy as comprised of individuals, with failings of moral or cognitive character, and the other seeing the economy as a complex system, endowed with some resilience, functioning in cycles. Support for the former view was stronger than for the latter. Several demographic variables were found to affect these perspectives significantly, including SES, economic training, religious beliefs, and the extent to which the respondent was personally affected by the crisis.

Suggested Citation

  • Leiser, David & Bourgeois-Gironde, Sacha & Benita, Rinat, 2010. "Human foibles or systemic failure--Lay perceptions of the 2008-2009 financial crisis," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 39(2), pages 132-141, April.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:soceco:v:39:y:2010:i:2:p:132-141

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. George A. Akerlof, 2009. "How Human Psychology Drives the Economy and Why It Matters," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 91(5), pages 1175-1175.
    2. Moore, Don A. & Kurtzberg, Terri R. & Fox, Craig R. & Bazerman, Max H., 1999. "Positive Illusions and Forecasting Errors in Mutual Fund Investment Decisions, , , ," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 79(2), pages 95-114, August.
    3. Werner F. M. De Bondt & William P. Forbes*, 1999. "Herding in analyst earnings forecasts: evidence from the United Kingdom," European Financial Management, European Financial Management Association, vol. 5(2), pages 143-163.
    4. Jones, Philip R & Cullis, John G & Lewis, Alan, 1998. "Public versus Private Provision of Altruism: Can Fiscal Policy Make Individuals 'Better' People?," Kyklos, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 51(1), pages 3-24.
    5. H. Leibenstein, 1950. "Bandwagon, Snob, and Veblen Effects in the Theory of Consumers' Demand," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 64(2), pages 183-207.
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    Cited by:

    1. Gangl, Katharina & Kastlunger, Barbara & Kirchler, Erich & Voracek, Martin, 2012. "Confidence in the economy in times of crisis: Social representations of experts and laypeople," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 41(5), pages 603-614.
    2. Leiser, David & Benita, Rinat & Bourgeois-Gironde, Sacha, 2016. "Differing conceptions of the causes of the economic crisis: Effects of culture, economic training, and personal impact," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 53(C), pages 154-163.
    3. Söderberg, Inga-Lill & Wester, Misse, 2012. "Lay actions in the face of crisis—Swedish citizens’ actions in response to the global financial crisis of 2008," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 41(6), pages 796-805.
    4. Sabine Frerichs, 2011. "False Promises? A Sociological Critique of the Behavioural Turn in Law and Economics," Journal of Consumer Policy, Springer, vol. 34(3), pages 289-314, September.
    5. Elisa Darriet & Sacha Bourgeois-Gironde, 2015. "Why lay social representations of the economy should count in economics," Mind & Society: Cognitive Studies in Economics and Social Sciences, Springer;Fondazione Rosselli, vol. 14(2), pages 245-258, November.
    6. Rötheli, Tobias F., 2012. "Boundedly rational banks’ contribution to the credit cycle," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 41(5), pages 730-737.


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