Psycho-emotional features of economic thinking and their impact on economic behavior

Economic sociology, interacting with economic psychology, considers a person who is economic not only as an individual thinking, weighing, calculating, but also feeling, experiencing, expressing his attitude to facts, phenomena, events, other people in the form of emotions. What are emotions and how do they affect economic (i.e., rational by definition) human behavior? Emotions are a complex of psychophysiological processes, a holistic reaction of the individual, reflecting the subject’s attitude to the object of perception, which arises, as a rule, in a situation of uncertainty (Deyneka O.S., 2000). The latter circumstance is extremely important for understanding the nature and mechanism of the functioning of emotions in the process of human thinking. Rigid conditions of competition and the ever-increasing flow of information emanating from objects of the external world “forced” a person’s thinking to develop internal auxiliary mechanisms for improving the efficiency of the use of limited thinking resources.

The mechanism of stereotyping consciousness developed in the course of human evolution made it possible to somewhat reduce the sharpness of the contradiction between the need to assimilate an increasing amount of knowledge and the limited mental abilities of the individual, but, at the same time, gave rise to another problem – the adequacy of using standardized programs of thinking and behavior in an ever-changing external world in the absence of comprehensive information about the situations in which decisions need to be made. Under these conditions, the emotional memory of a person orients thinking to the choice of those programs with the use of which positive experiences are associated and the displacement of those behavioral models with which unpleasant memories are associated. Thus, the positive experience of economic (in the context of our analysis) activity is emotionally fixed.

In addition to the modality (sign) of emotions, the level of emotional arousal has a significant impact on the effectiveness of human behavior. Economic psychologists have discovered and substantiated the Yerkes-Dodson law, which reveals the dependence of the success of activity on the level of mental activation of the individual (Fig. 13.1). As can be seen, the described dependence is nonlinear in nature and allows you to determine the optimal level of emotional arousal, depending on the characteristics of the tasks being solved. Well-known, habitual actions are successfully performed with a sufficiently high mental activation. It is better to solve new or complex tasks by being calm and balanced. Otherwise, there is a high danger that all the energy will be spent on anticipating the result (or the fear of not getting it) and in the end the activity will not be successful. This pattern must be taken into account in the practice of socio-economic management. Managers often make a managerial mistake when they “pump up” their subordinates before a difficult and responsible job, hoping that they will better perform their duties, while everything turns out just the opposite. Performers, being in a state of increased excitement, think not about solving the problem, but about the consequences of not completing the task and ways to avoid punishment.

In the practice of martial arts (for example, in aikido), one of the main principles is the principle of bringing the opponent out of balance. Such an imbalance in the work of the mechanism of economic thinking can occur as a result of external psycho-emotional impact on the individual. As a result, a person becomes less organized in his thoughts and actions and, accordingly, more manageable. I. Ilf and E. Petrov put into the mouth of the “great combinator” Ostap Bender a brilliant description of this regularity.

“The most important thing,” Ostap said, “is to bring confusion to the enemy’s camp. The enemy must lose his peace of mind. It’s not that hard to do. After all, people are most frightened by the incomprehensible… Yes, yes. More incomprehensible. I am convinced that my last telegram “mentally together” made an amazing impression on our counterparty. All this is superphosphate, fertilizer. Let him worry. The client must be accustomed to the idea that he will have to give money. It must be morally disarmed, its reactionary possessive instincts suppressed. A little more, the most nonsense, the last blow of the brush – and it will finally ripen. Crying, he climbs into the buffet and takes out a plate with a blue border… ( I. Ilf, E. Petrov. Zolotoy telenok. M., 1976. P. 123 – 124.)

This example illustrates the process of purposeful influence on the individual, which resulted in a change in his behavior pattern. More or less significant changes in the economic behavior of people occur both under the influence of local and global causes. Among the significant factors of the macro level that affect the psycho-emotional state of individuals is the phenomenon of social mood. The specifics of the way of thinking of the members of this society and, accordingly, the prevalence of certain models of social (including economic) behavior depend on how society “feels” itself, what moods prevail in it. For example, the terrorist attacks in the United States on September 11, 2001, which plunged American society into a state of shock, provoked, among other things, the implementation, first of all, by the inhabitants of New York, of an atypical for a developed market economy – a cumulative model of consumer behavior that gave rise to a shortage of drinking water and basic foodstuffs.

In addition to the general patterns of the course of mental reactions, as well as situational factors, the economic behavior of the individual is significantly influenced by his personal psycho-emotional characteristics. They have a deep nature and are quite stable. For example, there are, as you know, four main types of nervous activity – sanguine, phlegmatic, choleric and melancholic – which determine the mode and speed of mental processes. These types are rarely found “in their pure form”, however, in each case it is possible to determine the dominant type and trace its influence on the individual’s choice of a particular model of behavior. Obviously, in a similar situation, carriers of different types of nervous activity will behave differently. A phlegmatic is likely to spend more time on a similar problem than a choleric. Performance evaluations will also be different, even if the results are objectively similar.

Despite the similarity of the biological nature of people, the individual psychological differences between them are quite large. These differences are manifested in a certain complex of emotions that make up the “profile of desired experiences” of a person (See: Dodonov B. I. Emotions as values. M., 1978.). Among the emotions that color economic behavior, and thereby affect it, there are aquisitive emotions (from the French acquisition – acquisition). They accompany the process of earning, acquiring, collecting, blanking, etc. These emotions are closely related to the spheres of consumption and accumulation. The deep nature of such experiences is associated with the desire of a person to satisfy his needs, to achieve material security, to feel economic freedom, etc. However, when this complex of emotions completely possesses a person, he is overcome by greed, thereby opening up wide opportunities for controlling the economic behavior of this person. “You don’t need a knife on a greedy man – you show him a copper penny and do what you want with it!” (Cat Basilio and Fox Alice). The principle of controlling people based on their greed has been applied since time immemorial.

Caliph al-Mansur, who lived in the eighth century, was appointed governor of the Iraqi city of Kufa to collect taxes. However, the number of inhabitants was unknown, they themselves did not seek to take part in the census and in every possible way evaded attempts to count them. Then the caliph announced that in connection with taking office, he decided to give each inhabitant of Kufa five silver dirhams. Moreover, in order for no one to receive a generous gift twice, each resident had to be marked in a special list when receiving it. So the cunning al-Mansur counted all his subjects, after which he taxed them with a tax in the amount of forty dirhams each (Shcherbatykh Yu.V. The Art of Avoiding Deception. M., 1999. p. 202).

The moral of this historical plot is simple: free cheese only comes in a mousetrap.

The regularities of the influence of the psycho-emotional state of a person on the economic choice made by him are widely used in the practice of management and marketing. Advertising of goods and services orients consumers to emotional rather than rational choices. For example, “Tide” is not just a bleaching washing powder, but a symbol of purity, and in order to move from everyday life to the exotic world of the tropics or the exciting coolness of a protected forest with cute mermaids, it is enough to chew on the pad of chewing gum “Orbit”, etc. The main thing is to provoke the consumer to an emotional, internally integral and undivided choice on the principle of “this is mine”, “I like it”, “I deserve it” or even “I simply cannot live without it”.

The principles of the impact of the psycho-emotional component of economic thinking on the choice of a model of economic behavior are originally used in such a rapidly developing service market sector around the world as the leisure and tourism industry. Rest is a process of restoring the psychological and physical potential of a person. One of the effective ways to relax is to immerse a person in an environment with a significantly higher level of degrees of freedom than in his usual environment. Freedom in this context refers to the possibility of making an independent choice from a wide range of attractive alternatives at any given time. In other words, effective rest implies the availability of a wide range of attractive alternatives for a person to spend time and the possibility of continuous, within the framework of absolute rest time, free choice among them. At the same time, the instrumental goal of the provider of these services is to make sure that a person for an absolute rest time is physically unable to cover all possible alternatives. Achieving an instrumental goal contributes to the achievement of a psychological goal – to build the illusion of infinite, unlimited freedom. At the same time, the consumer is provoked to expansive behavior in relation to the “uncovered” region of the spectrum. On the one hand, he feels satisfaction from the realized opportunities, there is an accumulation of positive experiences. In addition, a person as a “free application” gets an enviable opportunity to mentally return to the past and relive a positive experience. On the other hand, in parallel, a desire to implement yet untested alternatives or to relive already tried ones is formed (including subconscious). A person remembers how good it was for him last year to relax in such and such a hotel (on the voucher of such and such a company), and he did not have time to try, see, survive everything offered, therefore, it is necessary to repeat everything. As a result, there is an economic and organizational reproduction of the entire system. In this regard, increasing the competitiveness of economic entities of the recreation and tourism industry will obviously develop in the direction of expanding the range of alternatives offered. For example, Hotel **** first offers vacationers ping pong, billiards, sauna; next season opens a fitness center + tennis court; a year later – offers to use the closed ice rink; then builds its own aqua park, etc.

Thus, the psycho-emotional component of the individual’s economic thinking, on the one hand, contributes to the accumulation of positive experience of economic activity, with which a person’s positive experiences are associated, and thereby focuses on the choice of emotionally acceptable, comfortable models of economic behavior, on the other hand, it can inhibit or even block the work of the rational components of this mechanism. Prevention of irrational choices of economic thinking in the latter case is associated, in particular, with the conscious formation of a stereotype of thinking, which would prevent the adoption of important economic decisions in a state of increased emotional and psychological activation. Fear and anger are bad advice in business. If circumstances force you to make a responsible decision, and you feel that you are overwhelmed with negative emotions, try first to calm down and restore mental balance, and only then act (Shcherbatykh Yu.V., 1998).