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Mentalism Versus Behaviourism in Economics: A Philosophy-of-Science Perspective

Author

Listed:
  • Franz Dietrich

    () (PSE - Paris School of Economics, CES - Centre d'économie de la Sorbonne - CNRS - Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique - UP1 - Université Panthéon-Sorbonne)

  • Christian List

    (LSE - London School of Economics and Political Science)

Abstract

Behaviourism is the view that preferences, beliefs, and other mental states in social-scientific theories are nothing but constructs re-describing people's behaviour. Mentalism is the view that they capture real phenomena, on a par with the unobservables in science, such as electrons and electromagnetic fields. While behaviourism has gone out of fashion in psychology, it remains influential in economics, especially in 'revealed preference' theory. We defend mentalism in economics, construed as a positive science, and show that it fits best scientific practice. We distinguish mentalism from, and reject, the radical neuroeconomic view that behaviour should be explained in terms of brain processes, as distinct from mental states.

Suggested Citation

  • Franz Dietrich & Christian List, 2016. "Mentalism Versus Behaviourism in Economics: A Philosophy-of-Science Perspective," PSE - Labex "OSE-Ouvrir la Science Economique" halshs-01249632, HAL.
  • Handle: RePEc:hal:pseose:halshs-01249632
    Note: View the original document on HAL open archive server: https://halshs.archives-ouvertes.fr/halshs-01249632
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
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    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Francesco GUALA, 2017. "Preferences: Neither Behavioural nor Mental," Departmental Working Papers 2017-05, Department of Economics, Management and Quantitative Methods at Università degli Studi di Milano.
    2. Dietrich, Franz & List, Christian, 2016. "Reason-Based Choice And Context-Dependence: An Explanatory Framework," Economics and Philosophy, Cambridge University Press, vol. 32(02), pages 175-229, July.
    3. Miles Kimball, 2015. "Cognitive Economics," The Japanese Economic Review, Japanese Economic Association, vol. 66(2), pages 167-181, June.
    4. repec:hal:journl:halshs-01249514 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. repec:eee:jetheo:v:176:y:2018:i:c:p:1-54 is not listed on IDEAS
    6. Lauren Larrouy & Guilhem Lecouteux, 2018. "Choosing in a Large World: The Role of Focal Points as a Mindshaping Device," Working Papers halshs-01923244, HAL.
    7. Dietrich, Franz & List, Christian, 2013. "Reason-Based Rationalization," MPRA Paper 51776, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    8. Dietrich, Franz, 2018. "Savage's theorem under changing awareness," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 176(C), pages 1-54.
    9. Dietrich, Franz & List, Christian, 2016. "Reason-Based Choice And Context-Dependence: An Explanatory Framework," Economics and Philosophy, Cambridge University Press, vol. 32(02), pages 175-229, July.
    10. Shintaro Tamate, 2015. "External Norms and Systematically Observed Norms," The Japanese Economic Review, Japanese Economic Association, vol. 66(2), pages 247-259, June.
    11. repec:spr:infosf:v:17:y:2015:i:4:d:10.1007_s10796-014-9520-7 is not listed on IDEAS

    More about this item

    Keywords

    scientific realism; decision theory; revealed preference; Mentalism; behaviourism;

    JEL classification:

    • J1 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics

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