Ways and means of managing economic behavior through the impact on economic thinking

In order for a person to change the program of his actions, he must, except in cases of direct physical coercion, first of all, change the way of his thoughts. Such changes to the programme of action may:

purposefully organized by the individual himself (for example, in the process of education); be a natural consequence of the accumulation of life experience; arise as a result of external purposeful influence (for example, when using various forms of manipulation of individual consciousness).

The latter case requires special consideration, since it is directly related to the practice of using technologies to influence the way of thinking of people. The study of these technologies allows, at a minimum, to protect oneself when trying various manipulations. As the ancient Romans said, praemonitus praemunitus (who is warned, he is armed). The mechanism of economic thinking needs special protection and self-control, since it is he who is “responsible” for the production and “support” in the process of implementing individual models of economic behavior. Since economic behavior is a way of obtaining and redistributing goods (primarily material), it is it that other subjects of economic relations are most often trying to influence it in the conditions of fierce competition for the possession of most of the limited resources.

Based on the model presented in the previous paragraph (see Fig. 14.1), we will describe the main strategies for managing the economic behavior of an individual by purposefully influencing certain components of the mechanism of his economic thinking. Here are examples from economic practice illustrating the ways of forming and using such management strategies.

An example of purposeful stereotyping.

In one of the issues of the newspaper “Arguments and Facts” in the column “Ostap Bender’s Corner” an article was placed about how one businesswoman managed to deceive several trade and intermediary firms. A beautiful respectable woman with attributes corresponding to her image (an expensive car, cell phone, etc.) expressed a clear interest in regularly purchasing small quantities of goods from a supplier company. After agreeing on the terms of supply, she really bought the products several times, and each time she paid the bills in full and on time. The supplier, usually a man, was more than satisfied with the appearance of such an honest, accurate and also sympathetic client. Then, on one of the days that do not portend anything bad for the supplier, the woman very nicely and friendly asked him, as a personal favor, to supply her with a large batch of goods that she desperately needed today, but she would be able to pay for it, unfortunately, only tomorrow morning, they say, the formalities of the bank … it does not have time to prepare the necessary documents in time, etc. with variations depending on the specific situation. In short, the option “in the evening – chairs, in the morning – money” was played out. Well, how can you refuse a nice woman, moreover, who has repeatedly confirmed her decency, in her request?.. As a rule, the supplier went to meet her halfway, and the next day he discovered that the “honest” businesswoman, as they say, had already caught a cold …

In this case, the manipulator first purposefully created in the individual consciousness of his victim a positive stereotype of perceiving his person as quite trustworthy and as soon as he felt that this mechanism was formed, he used it to his advantage. However, as practice shows, in the management of economic behavior, not only newly created, but also existing stereotypes that are common in the mass consciousness, and therefore with a high degree of probability inherent in the thinking of a controlled individual, can be used.

An example of taking advantage of the common social stereotype “by clothes meet”.

In Odessa, on Privoz at the entrance, in the most fetid place, a rural citizen stood confused. In unthinkable striped pants with a motte at the knees, in a speckled jacket on the outgrowth, shining from the garden dirt, in a cap corresponding to the costume ensemble. Confused, I rummaged through my pockets, looking for something. Turning out, he extracted into the light of God’s contents: dirty ribbons, market receipts, bagel splinters, a handkerchief, with which, perhaps, he wiped his boots. And suddenly – a greasy shaggy deck of cards and a stack, a thick stack of various dirty bills. He naively and trustingly held the extracted things in his hand for the time being.

What, Father, did he sow? – sweetly sympathized with the one of the owners of this not the most cozy place under the sun who arose near the citizen. Sho? Father replied without interrupting his search. Oh, the maps, what? – Seemed sympathetic. Well. Do you play cards? – Clearly sycophantically strayed into the rural dialect approached. That one, I play, the citizen confirmed trustingly, like a neighbor through a wattle.

What to pull. Lured this imported sycophant man into the game. The man loaded it on eighteen pieces. And I had to pay. Because the man’s nickname was Maestro” (Shcherbatykh Yu.V. The Art of Avoiding Deception. M., 1999. pp. 89 – 90.).

These examples show how much influence social stereotypes can have, being actualized, on the choice of the type of economic behavior. In fact, any strategy for managing the economic behavior of an individual is based on shifting the equilibrium of the components of economic thinking that exists at a given time by purposefully increasing the significance and relevance of one or more of them. At the same time, the components move to another state of equilibrium, where those of them that were the objects of regulatory influence dominate. An example of the active inclusion of economic interest, which determined the mode of operation of economic thinking and, accordingly, the choice of a model of behavior, can serve as an episode from the book by Alexandre Dumas “The Count of Monte Cristo”, in which the protagonist, seeking to obtain the necessary information from an uninterested and, even moreover, frightened witness, subtly uses the greed of the latter and, as a result, achieves his goal.

“So you say,” Kadrouss asked, whose eyes lit up, “that it was a diamond of great value?”

“Everything in the world is relative,” the abbot replied. – For Edmond, it was wealth; it was estimated at fifty thousand francs.

– Fifty thousand francs! Kadruss shouted. – So it was with a walnut, or what?

“No, less,” the abbot replied, “but you can judge for yourself, because he is with me.

Kadrouss’s eyes seemed to float under the abbot’s dress, looking for the stone.

The abbot took out a box covered with black shagreen skin from his pocket, opened it and showed the amazed Kadruss a sparkling diamond, tucked into the ring of miraculous work.

– And it’s worth fifty thousand francs?

“Without a rim, which is quite expensive in itself,” the abbot replied.

He closed the case and put in his pocket a diamond that continued to sparkle in Kadrouss’s imagination (Dumas A. The Count of Monte Cristo. Vol. 1. M., 1989. p. 271).

The possibility of taking possession of a magnificent diamond in exchange for information was so attractive that, ultimately, it overshadowed all kadrouss fears associated with the consequences of divulging a terrible secret, and determined exactly the model of his behavior that the abbot sought. This example illustrates the dominance of economic interest over the emotional state of a person, when a skillfully constructed and appropriately presented opportunity (stimulus) overcame fear. The reverse situation is associated with the use of strong emotions to activate, awaken economic interest, in order to provoke a person to change the model of his behavior.

An example of “emotional provocation”.

The story tells the story of a young man who lived under the guardianship of his uncle. The uncle wanted to have an heir, but due to the advanced age of his wife, he could not hope for this. According to the Chinese customs of that time, the uncle had the right to take a concubine into the house and have a child from her, but this option was opposed by the aunt of the young man, who did not want to see a young woman in the house. Seeing the sadness of his beloved uncle, the young man undertook to help him.

The next day, in the morning, the young man took a tailor’s ruler and began to measure its land, starting from the doors of his uncle’s house, and did it so hard that his aunt looked out of the house.

What are you doing here? She asked. I measure the area, the young man answered calmly and continued his occupation. Why did you decide to measure our site? Aunt asked. Auntie, I’m getting ready for the future,” the guy confidently explained. – You and your uncle are not young, you have no sons and, apparently, will not. So, the house will go to me, so I want to measure it, because I am going to rebuild it later.

The angry aunt couldn’t  say a word of such arrogance. She ran into the house, woke up her husband and began to beg him to take a concubine as soon as possible (Acquisition of a concubine by measuring the land // H. von Zenger. Stratagems / Quoted from: Shcherbatykh Yu.V. The Art of Avoiding Deception. M., 1999. p. 196).

In this case, the “emotional provocation” undertaken changed the aunt’s way of thinking. The prospect of passing on an inheritance to her nephew seemed less attractive to her than the preservation of property in the family, even in the possession of a son born to a concubine. Here the economic interest worked, as a result of which the aunt took exactly the actions that her nephew sought from her. The parable is silent about what drove the nephew himself – “male solidarity”, a selfless desire to help his beloved uncle or something else – but one way or another the goal was achieved.

Another component of the mechanism of economic thinking is economic culture. The essence of its influence on the way of thinking of the individual is that in a certain socio-cultural environment, over time, established ideas about what is “good” and what is “bad”, what is “possible” and what is “impossible” in economic practice are formed. These ideas, becoming widespread, transformed into the norms and values of a given society, determine the corresponding models of economic behavior, which to a greater or lesser extent a person consciously follows in his activities.

An example of the use of cultural features of economic thinking, so to speak “in its pure form”, is brilliantly demonstrated in the film “Crazy”, dedicated to the history of the construction of the first railway in Russia. The heroes of the film – enthusiasts, construction organizers – went to England to buy a steam locomotive, but they did not have enough money to purchase the model they liked. Then one of the heroes, who was wonderfully played by Nikolai Karachentsev, undertook to get the missing amount. He took all the cash and disappeared for a few hours. When his companions lost all patience, he finally returned, with enough money to buy two steam locomotives and told his astonished friends an amazing story.

– I’m going, I’m looking – a decent building, called “club”. Go. I see gentlemen playing cards. I wonder what kind of game? They say a point. I sit down to play with one gentleman. Bets were made. We handed over the cards. Look, I have 19. Not bad. And I have 20,” he says, without showing the map. I tell him, show me!.. Well, show me! And he’s all puffed up and says to me edifyingly – In our club, gentlemen are taken at their word!…

– And then I was “lucky” !!! … A map goes and goes. And all the “point” and “point”. Moreover, neither 19 nor 20, namely 21. Our hero ended his story to the friendly laughter of his friends…

In this case, the norms of culture had such a strong influence on the behavior of the Englishman that it was impossible to change it, but it was possible to use these norms by adapting your own model of behavior to the situation, which was masterfully done.

The above examples give an idea of the main directions of regulatory influence on the economic thinking of the individual in order to manage his economic behavior: 1) through the use (formation) of social stereotypes; 2) through the activation of economic interest; 3) through psycho-emotional influence; 4) using the norms of economic culture. The choice of specific management strategies depends on the object of management (individual, collective, mass), the goals pursued by the subject of management (strategic – tactical, long-term – short-term), as well as on the capabilities of the subject. Effective management of economic behavior is associated, as a rule, with a comprehensive regulation of the mechanism of economic thinking, when not one, but several components of this mechanism are subjected to targeted influence. This is especially true when it comes to managing mass economic behavior. After all, each person is a carrier of a unique individual consciousness and demonstrates his own, unique way of thinking. How, in this case, to orient many different people to the implementation of the same model of economic behavior? In this case, a universal management strategy should be developed that can sufficiently influence the economic thinking of the representatives of the relevant group. An example of such a strategy is advertising aimed at the mass consumer.

Advertising is the promotion of consumer qualities of goods and services in order to stimulate their sales. It is a mechanism common in a market economy to influence the economic behavior of consumers in order to form (maintain, increase) their demand for the proposed type of goods. The main components of the advertising mechanism are: an information formula containing selective information about a product or service, expressed in an accessible, easily digestible form (verbal, graphic, sound, etc.) and designed to create a bright, holistic, easily memorable image of the good and its distinctive properties in the consumer; a method of transmitting (reproducing) an information formula that ensures the inclusion of advertising in the sphere of consumer perception and sets the mode of this perception. The effectiveness of the functioning of the advertising mechanism is determined by the quality of its components and the harmony of their compliance.

The quality of the information formula reflects the strength of its impact, first of all, on the rational side of the thinking of a person who is convinced that the consumption of this good is reasonable, useful, far-sighted. The quality of the method of transmission (reproduction) of the information formula is determined by the degree of impact, mainly, on the emotional side of the consumer’s thinking, falling into a situation of choice: on the one hand, the consumption of the advertised product or service and the “guaranteed” associated mood increase, improvement of performance, solution of other (not directly arising from the consumer qualities of the product) everyday problems; on the other hand, the rejection of the proposed consumption model and the “naturally” problems associated with this refusal, which will “inevitably” fall on a person’s head. The bilateral, organically related influence of the two components of the advertising mechanism on the economic thinking of the individual is designed to form a consumer stereotype that orients a person to the implementation of the appropriate model of economic behavior.

An empirical indicator of the effectiveness of advertising is the actual increase in demand for advertised goods and services, and accordingly – the increased volumes of their sales. In this sense, advertising is the most important mechanism for the competitive struggle of manufacturers for spheres of influence in the sales market, so it is an integral component of the theory and practice of marketing. The more saturated the market with goods, the more difficult it is for producers to resolve the contradiction associated with the need to realize a wide range of goods produced and the lack of consumers of equally large-scale opportunities (financial, organizational, psychological, etc.) for their acquisition and consumption. Therefore, advertising at the present stage of production development to a lesser extent performs the function of informing consumers about the ways to meet the actual demand and, to an increasing extent, the function of purposefully forming the models of consumer behavior necessary for manufacturers and embedding them in the socio-cultural context.