Observing Attitudes, Intentions, and Expectations (1945–73)
Although involved in projects of influential institutions like the Cowles Commission, the NBER, and the Michigan Survey Research Center, George Katona, the “pioneer student and chief collector of consumer anticipations data” (Tobin 1959, 1), is virtually absent from accounts of the topics he worked on, including the study of aggregate consumption and the development of behavioral economics. This essay argues that such an absence is partly explained by the theoretical underpinnings of Katona’s project, which were incompatible with the economic views of consumer behavior that dominated from the mid-1940s to the mid-1970s. It proceeds by comparing alternative survey programs funded by the Federal Reserve during that period, and analyzing the ensuing controversy on the purposes of the observation of attitudes, intentions, and expectations. It claims that understanding Katona’s approach “required a real restructuring of thought—a genuine paradigm shift” (Simon 1979, 12). That such a shift was required gives interest to this historical episode.
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Volume (Year): 44 (2012)
Issue (Month): 5 (Supplement)
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