To answer the question of how economic thinking functions, we will simulate the mental processes as a result of which an individual forms and puts into practice a particular type of economic behavior. Starting this work, it is necessary to emphasize that any model is an abstraction that cannot be absolutized and which cannot be replaced by a real object – a prototype model. Accordingly, the structural and logical scheme presented below (Fig. 14.1) with many of its constituent figures and arrows is not an “instruction manual” of economic thinking, in which a non-working block can simply be extracted and replaced by a serviceable one, but the result of an analysis of a holistic complex of processes that arise and develop in the mind of an individual included in the structure of economic ties and relations. This is a kind of “location” that helps to form an idea of the “depth, profile and main currents” of the individual’s economic thought. The task of sociological modeling of economic thinking is to know the patterns of the course of closely interrelated processes, as a result of which in a certain situation a particular type of individual economic behavior is “born”. The meaning of such a study is to assess the possibilities and search for ways to regulate the economic thinking of individual economic entities in order to manage their economic behavior.
In the “focus” of the model being built is the economic thinking of a person as a mechanism for developing certain types of his economic behavior. The mechanism, in this case, is understood as the method or system of principles by which this development is carried out. The main function of economic thinking is to evaluate and select economic alternatives related to the development of various material and intangible goods to meet individual needs. Economic thinking produces this work on the basis of its constituent cash content, formed as a result of the socio-economic socialization of the individual – a person’s knowledge and ideas about the economic relations that have developed in society and his own previous experience of economic activity.
The process of forming the “information filling” of economic thinking unfolds with the beginning of the conscious activity of a person and continues throughout his life. It consists of perceived in a more or less holistic form “big and small”, “scientific and ordinary”, “true and erroneous” theories of economic activity of people, which are “digested” in the context of a person’s own experience and form his individual and unique economic way of thinking.
Using the model (see Fig. 14.1), we will consider the basic regularities of the mechanism of economic thinking of the individual. The world around a person is a world of opportunities that he can realize or ignore. These opportunities are associated with the consumption or development of various goods that a person needs or would like to possess. The spectrum of these goods is as rich and variable as the structure of human needs is diverse, expanding in line with the objective law of their elevation. When a certain good becomes significant, desirable for a person, it turns into a stimulus – an object for satisfying an actualized need. However, in order for a person to begin to develop a certain program of action, he must realize the degree of his interest, that is, assess the weight of a particular stimulus. Comparative evaluation and selection of the most significant incentives is the first function of economic interest (I). As a result of his work, a motive arises as an internal motivation for action. Being motivated, a person forms a program of his actions: economic thinking (M) develops the appropriate type of economic behavior (P). The implementation of this type of economic behavior is aimed at mastering the object-stimulus. Thus, the first circuit of the constructed model is closed.
Let’s describe the relationships between the considered objects of the model. The first – the stimulation connection (1) is characterized by the formula “want or need”, the second – motivational connection (2) – the formula “I can or must”. The connection between M and P (3) – “I form, develop”; between P and O (4) – “I implement, I do”. Embodying in practice the formed type of economic behavior, the individual falls into one of two possible situations: either he achieves his goal and becomes the owner of the object, or not. In the first case, the need is satisfied, and economic thinking is enriched with positive experience. In the second case, the individual again assesses the degree of his interest in the object: after all, a certain energy has already been spent, and the result has not been achieved. Reassessment of the significance (necessity) of the object in the context of the costs incurred is the second function of economic interest (I). If the degree of interest continues to be high, the level of motivation remains high. The consequence of this is the work of economic thinking (M) to adjust economic behavior (P). It is possible that the individual will not be able to succeed with the second and third, etc. attempts. In this case, the mechanisms of psychological protection can be activated, as, for example, in the famous fable by I. A. Krylov “The Fox and the Grapes”. The fox really wanted to eat grapes, but the bunches were so high that the cheater, no matter how hard she tried, could not get to them. In the end, fruitless attempts tired the fox and she abandoned the idea of getting the grapes, reassuring herself that “in the face of it it is good, but it is green – the berries are not ripe: you will immediately stuff the berries” (Krylov I.A. Fables. Tales. – Mn.: BGU, 1980. p. 128).
The next block of the model, which is closely interrelated with economic thinking, is the social stereotype (C). It performs the function of programming the economic thinking of the individual by creating his own and reproducing the algorithms for perceiving social objects (individuals, their groups, facts, phenomena, events) and interacting with them, assimilated in the process of socialization. Due to the use of such models-templates, mental energy is saved and it becomes possible to redistribute it to solve other urgent problems for which programs have not yet been developed. The semantic load of the direct connection C–M (5) is determined by the formula “(not)possible, (not)capable, (not)it will work”. The purpose of M-C feedback is to transfer the algorithms of economic thinking, tested on the individual’s own experience, for their registration in holistic programs. As already noted, the influence of social stereotypes on economic thinking has its own negative side associated with the preservation of the developed models of perception and behavior, which may lose their relevance in the event of qualitative changes in the external environment. At the same time, the absence of a stereotyping mechanism would lead to the fact that economic thinking, being in a state of information overload, would be unable to organize human economic activity at all. Therefore, one of the tasks of managing the economic behavior of the individual is not the eradication of social stereotypes as such, but the formation of flexible programs of economic thinking that can adapt to changing environmental conditions.
Since the individual carries out his economic activity in a certain socio-cultural environment, an important regulator of his economic thinking and, accordingly, the factor of economic behavior is the economic culture (K). It plays the role of a means of refracting the content of the economic consciousness of society to the level of economic thinking of the individual. The fulfillment of this role is associated with the measure and quality of the implementation of the three main functions of economic culture – translational (transmission of generally accepted samples and principles of management), selection (selection from inherited samples of those that correspond to the conjuncture of existing economic relations and can be used in practice) and innovative (development or borrowing of new samples). Through economic culture, the experience of the development of the socio-economic system, embodied in the rules, norms and values of economic activity, is “given” to the individual, regulating, regulating his economic behavior. The semantic load of the K–M connection is characterized by the formula “(not)laid, (not)accepted”. The feedback M-K is due, firstly, to the influence of thinking on culture, which can be purposefully formed by the individual in the process of his integration into a new economic structure, and, secondly, by the fact that the economic consciousness of society is the result of the functioning of the economic thinking of many individual economic entities mediated by economic culture. Thus, the relationship between these components of the model reflects the deep and multi-level nature of the interaction of the economic consciousness of society and the economic thinking of the individual through his economic culture.
Block E reflects the influence of the psycho-emotional qualities of the individual on the work of his economic thinking. The components of this block are short-term (situational) factors – emotions, feelings, experiences and long-term factors (for example, the type of nervous activity of the individual). The semantic load of the E-M connection is characterized by the formula “I feel, I experience”. The specificity of the situational factors of block E is largely determined by the social mood of the group, class, society as a whole, in the structure of which the individual is included. For example, increased nervousness, instability of public mood provoke an expanded development of pragmatic, short-term, self-preservation-oriented individual types of economic behavior. In general, the group of factors of the E block can have both positive and negative impact on economic thinking and, accordingly, on the effectiveness of economic behavior. Positive influence is associated with the emotional coloring of the experience of economic activity of the individual. Thanks to emotional memory, useful behaviors are fixed, and unsuccessful ones are discarded. A negative impact can occur when the actual intensity of emotions does not correspond to the types of tasks facing the individual.
Another important component of the model is the block that reflects the position of the individual in the socio-economic stratification of society. Its influence on other components of the model is due to the fact that the economic interests of the individual, his social stereotypes and economic culture are largely due to the position that a particular subject occupies in the system of social division of labor and, accordingly, in the system of distribution of goods. It is the position that acts as the objective factor that sets the conditions for the development and context of the functioning of the individual’s economic thinking. In addition, this component largely determines the characteristics of the stimulation field of the individual. What, then, affects the situation itself? A real change in the position of the individual in the system of socio-economic coordinates is possible as a result of the purposeful implementation of the appropriate strategy of economic behavior. For example, the implementation of an entrepreneurial type of behavior can contribute to improving the economic situation of the individual; raising the level of education, qualifications is one of the significant factors in building a career and thereby contributes to the ascent of the employee in the system of social and professional stratification.
The results of the analysis, reflected in the presented model, allow us to determine economic thinking as a mechanism for developing individual types of economic behavior. The components of this mechanism are: economic interest, which ensures the selective transformation of incentives into motives for human actions; a social stereotype that programs the work of thinking and protects it from information overloads; economic culture, which determines the principles and methods of management on the basis of value-normative content; psycho-emotional qualities of the individual, which determine the mode of operation of economic thinking and the specifics of human reactions in the process of his economic activity. The described integrated approach to the analysis of the regularities of the work of economic thinking allows us to consider it as an object of regulatory influence in order to develop variable ways of managing the economic behavior of the individual.